VOLUME 28 NO. 5 | JANUARY 24 - JANUARY 30, 2009

The 'Aloha Spirit' comes to Seattle

Last updated 1-22-09 at 7:41 p.m.

From left to right, top to bottom:
- Traditional hula gear worn by women
- Exhibit Developer Joshua Heim near the entry to the exhibit
- A sea turtle shell and a carving of Hawaiian royalty, which represents the migratory nature of Hawaiians.
Photos by Tony Kuo

By Yoon S. Park
Northwest Asian Weekly

Even after the snow and ice have melted in Seattle, we are still left with nearly two more months of winter.

What a diversion, then, to meander through the Wing Luke Asian Museum’s first temporary exhibit in the Special Exhibition Gallery showcasing the history and culture of the islands of Hawaii. The exhibit inhabits approximately 10,000 square feet of space at the museum and is called Ho’omau Ka Huaka’i, the Voyage Continues: Native Hawai’ians in the Pacific Northwest.

According to Joshua Heim, the exhibits developer at the Wing Luke Asian Museum, the exhibit, which runs through Aug. 16, was truly a collaborative effort. In keeping with the museum’s mission to share the history and art of the Asian American community, it had extensive input from a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to determine the goals and scope of this exhibit.

Heim proudly emphasizes the fact that the Wing Luke Asian Museum is a “community-based rather than curator driven” museum. That is, while museums traditionally put a curator in charge of what should be presented in an exhibit, the Wing Luke Asian Museum prefers to elicit feedback from the CAC.

Moving from the migration from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest in the early 17th century to present day, the exhibit attempts to capture the unique aspects of native Hawaiian culture and spirit. Linking the values of hospitality and generosity, the exhibit tries to convey the ‘aloha spirit’ of the Native Hawaiians.

As you first step foot into the Special Exhibition Gallery, you notice the intentional use of natural materials and colors, most notably stone. Heim explains that this highlights the relationship that Native Hawaiians have with their land and to show how much they value nature. Against the backdrop, the vivid colors of hula will immediately catch your eye.

Heim credits the giving nature of the Native Hawaiian community for lending and donating personal artifacts and heirlooms to this exhibit. Such personal pieces included altar stones (rocks from their birthplace), family kapas, and even a yearbook showing President Obama. While many members of the local native Hawaiian community donated pieces for the exhibit, Heim takes special note of the contributions of Iwalani Christian (who donated many older pieces), Stan Dahlin (who donated much of the paddling artifacts), and Daniel Ka’opuiki (who contributed much of the music and hula-related items).

The earliest migrants from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest comprised mainly contract laborers during the fur trade boom of the 17th century. Presently, the population of Native Hawaiians in Washington state has grown to about 16,000 (based on the 2000 U.S. Census figures). Migration is nothing new to this culture, which is metaphorically represented by the large turtle shells on the walls. In addition, the constellation is cleverly incorporated into the exhibit as a means of conveying the Native Hawaiians’ earlier use of the constellation for navigation.

Transitioning from the historical context, the exhibit flows into modern times with areas designated to show a typical kitchen and recreation area in present day Hawaii. A video of oral histories of the Native Hawaiians is played in one area, while Hawaiian music is played in another area to further enrich the glimpse into Native Hawaiian culture.

Connecting the past with the present is very much embodied in the part of the exhibit dedicated to the paddling culture. In fact, a historic voyage in the mid 1990s, traveled by double-hulled canoes made of fallen trees in Southern Alaska, is also a prominent part of the exhibit. Heim believes the publicity from this historic event fueled the interest in canoe clubs from British Columbia to California. (end)

For more information, visit www.wingluke.org.

Yoon Park can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.


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