Art is the wave that teaches the Island’s culture

By Karen A. Sanchez
Special to The Guardsman

From some of the first inhabited places on Earth to the walls of an art gallery, Pacific Islanders have shaped their history and culture into works of art shown at San Francisco State University’s (SFSU) Asian Art Gallery.  

The exhibition “Being Pacific” shares the works of 13 Pacific Islander artists, who created a representational showcase for their underrepresented culture.

Kerri Ann “Ifit” Naputi Borja, who is a Chamorro woman, photographer and creator of body ornamentation, read some excerpts from her chapter in the book “Matamai: Intersecting Knowledge across the Diaspora.”

SPULU performs in the Being Pacific Opening reception at San Francisco State University on Oct. 13, 2016. Photo by Gabriela Reni/ The Guardsman.
SPULU performs in the Being Pacific Opening reception at San Francisco State University on Oct. 13, 2016. (Photo by Gabriela Reni/ The Guardsman).

The book was compiled mainly by students from the Interdisciplinary Studies department of City College, SFSU and participants of the 2nd Annual National VASA Conference.

Drew Vai, a former student at City College, performed a poem that included  participation of the audience, urging them to experience being a part of one collective voice.

Vai asked the crowd to shout the words “love” and “peace” as a way of connecting everyone. The crowd responded positively, resulting in a sweeping sense of unity.

Student documents the event at the Being Pacific opening reception at San Francisco State University on Oct. 13, 2016. Photo by Gabriela Reni/ The Guardsman.
Student documents the event at the Being Pacific opening reception at San Francisco State University on Oct. 13, 2016. (Photo by Gabriela Reni/ The Guardsman).

Vai, like the other artists, represented minority groups that have felt left out and the need to fight against the difficulties of being labeled as a minority.

“Art is the fuel for resistance and rebellion,” Vai said.

The semicircle shape of the gallery was flocked with paintings, photographs and quotes that hung over the walls, surrounding guests and performers in the same way the ocean surrounds the islands featured in their works.

Some of the paintings were done by Ewart Arai Bungo Jr., a former City College student and California native. His goal was to represent the truth behind his Pacific Islander culture through painting.

Public looks art exhibited in the Being Pacific Opening reception at San Francisco State University on Oct. 13, 2016. Photo by Gabriela Reni/ The Guardsman.
A visitor looks art exhibited in the Being Pacific opening reception at San Francisco State University on Oct. 13, 2016. (Photo by Gabriela Reni/ The Guardsman).

“People forget the struggles. There was bloodshed, Hawaiian blood shed,” Arai said, in reference to one his paintings of a Hawaiian warrior.

The last performance was by Spulu, a dancer who represented the Pacific Islander’s voice through movements that struck a chord with the audience.

“More than expressing ‘us,’ it’s communicating ‘us,’” Spulu said. “These programs give more than information—they give understanding.”

Rex Halafihi, a member of City College’s Pacific Islander Club, sold magazines written by and for Pacific Islanders at the entrance of the exhibition. Guests could buy them and show their support for the culture while learning about it from those who have live it.

The night was wrapped up with an open microphone session.

“Education doesn’t endorse these images. This is something for us and by us,” said Richard Beigno Cantora, the coordinator for the Students Supporting Students at City College.

The exhibit will continue through the month of October and ends Nov. 10, 2016.

 

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