From February 18 to May 8, Honolulu quietly hosted a extraordinary art exhibit at seven venues across the city.
The multi-venue event, Hawaiʻi Triennial 2022 (HT22), was organized by Honolulu-based nonprofit Hawaiʻi Contemporary and featured the work of 43 artists and art collectives from Hawaiʻi, the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, bringing together more than 60 participants. HT22 included the work of both international and Hawaiʻi-based artists. Their artwork included a variety of mediums and interwove themes of history, place and identity within the context of Hawaiʻi’s unique location as the huina – intersection – of east, west and Oceania.
For those who missed the event, there is still an opportunity to experience HT22 on a smaller scale. Hosting venue and HT22 presenting sponsor Hawaiʻi State Art Museum (HiSAM) will keep its exhibit open (and free to the public) through December 3.
The HiSAM HT22 exhibit may be of particular interest to Native Hawaiian audiences. It includes the combined works of native/non-native collaborators – poets, writers, painters, filmmakers, photographers, publishers, printmakers, educators, weavers, organizers, activists and musicians.
HT22 Associate Curator Drew Kahuʻāina Broderick describes these as collaborations against the U.S. empire in Hawaiʻi – collaborations of artists who have said “No to settler-colonial desires in Hawaiʻi, no to legacies of U.S. imperialism and ongoing occupation in the Pacific.”
HT22 collaborator, Maile Meyer of ʻAi Pōhaku Press, notes that in Hawaiʻi collaboration models are critical. “Complex and creative thinking, along with meaningful relationships, offer unanticipated solutions and alliances.”
The featured collaborations include: Kapulani Landgraf and Mark Hamasaki (Piliāmoʻo – photography); Puhipau and Joan Lander (Nā Maka o ka ʻĀina – video); Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Richard Hamasaki and Paul L. Oliveira (Seaweeds and Constructions – poetry); Maile Meyer and Barbara Pope (ʻAi Pōhaku Press – publications); Haunani-Kay Trask and Ed Greevy (photography); as well as contributions by Keanahala Weaving Hui; The Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana with photographer Franco Salmoiraghi; musician Eddie Kamae; poet Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio; and artist Lawrence Seward.
Broderick acknowledges that some of the contributors might be unknown to many triennial goers but notes that, “the work of these friends and their extended networks has helped shape one of the most important recent stories of artistic resistance, collaboration, and difference in Hawaiʻi. Visiting the exhibition at HiSAM and communing with the artwork is a way for us to honor Native/non-Native artist collaborations in support of more just futures for us Hawaiians and for the lands, seas, and skies of Hawaiʻi Nei.”
Adds Meyer, “This free and open to the public exhibition features longstanding efforts to share our stories from our perspectives, through creative and powerful voices, across time. Hawaiian values and resistance are present, supported by settlers who have always been Hawaiian allies. The Native Hawaiian community can feel comfort, have faith and feel inspired that pono will prevail. We have and will hold steadfast, a mau a mau.”
HT22 is the third such event organized by Hawaiʻi Contemporary. The first two were biennials in 2017 and 2019. HT22 is the result of more than two years of planning. The HT22 curatorial team was assembled in November 2019 and had their first face-to-face meeting in Honolulu in February 2020 just prior to the global COVID-19 shutdown. The team collaborated remotely for the next two years. As part of their work, HT22 was preceded in 2021 by an international Art Summit of artists, curators and creative thinkers to help cultivate a robust arts ecosystem in Hawaiʻi.
Dr. Melissa Chu, a renowned international curator and current director of Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., served as curatorial director for HT22. Associate curators were Dr. Miwako Tezuka, the associate director of Reversible Destiny Foundation, a progressive artist foundation in New York, and Broderick who is the director at the Koa Gallery at Kapiʻolani Community College and a kupa of Kailua, Oʻahu. Assistant curator for HT22 was Josh Kulamanu Tengan, an independent contemporary art curator from Pauoa, Oʻahu.
Broderick hopes that everyone interested will come to see the exhibit at HiSAM before it closes on December 3. “Hawaiʻi Triennial is a meaningful international platform for us to reflect on and share our own local and native stories — past, present, and future — as part of an ever-growing global contemporary art world.”
The Hawaiʻi State Art Museum is located at 250 S. Hotel Street in Honolulu, just ʻewa of ʻIolani Palace and the Hawaiʻi State Capitol building in downtown Honolulu. Admission to the museum is always free.