The Commissary by Charles Jean-Pierre + Keanu Sai, “an art installation that critiques the commodification of Pacific Islander land, culture, and identity” (Smithsonian), Photo credit: DeanAnthony Ramos

Hope everyone had a good 4th of July week. I was enjoying BBQing with friends and catching up with thank you cards for my wedding. Anyway, this past weekend was action packed thanks to Hands In Helping Out (HIHO), an organization who’s mission is to create positive volunteer experience. Their approach is awesome. You guys should check them out.

As a member of HIHO, I volunteered with a group of my peers for ʻAe Kai: A Culture Lab on ConvergenceThis event was organized by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and “Explores the meeting points of humanity and nature in Hawaiʻi” (Smithsonian). By luck I was assigned to an installation (The Comimissary) that was of great interest to me. Here are the three elements that struck a chord:

  1. Comparing societal perceptions with reality
  2. Narrative of Americanization & statehood
  3. Interpreting African American history (particularly the enslaved experience) through the eyes of someone who grew up in Hawaii

The biggest part of the installation was the “shopping area”. Charles Jean-Pierre broke down the idea by pointing out a key detail. The entire Commissary is filled with products made anywhere but Hawaii except a small section found at the bottom of one of the shelves.

To further explore the idea, Keanu Sai gave a short lecture going over the historical narratives of Hawaiʻi along with the narrative of Americanization & statehood. What I got from it was there’s a way to trace the roots of organizations here in Hawaii. It was really interesting and I plan to read more about it.

Finally, I had a great conversation about culture, language and assumptions with Nicole Moore. She grew up in Hawaii but is now a public historian, consultant, and educator in Atlanta. Her life experience really tied the installation together, for me. We had a nice chat about blending in where we each reside but once we start talking or people question where you’re from, assumptions are created.

So why am I blogging about all this? Well, it’s not everyday elements of your life come together to inspire you. There’s also the reminder that as a consultant I should be sensitive of the culture, history, and language of folks who have decided they want to work with me.

Were you able to attend the exhibit? Are you part of a volunteer group? There’s so much we can talk about so let’s talk story. Holler @ me.

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