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New Exhibit Celebrates Resiliency, Creativity of Micronesian Artists in Hawaii

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – There are a diversity of cultures in Honolulu, but few public spaces celebrate Hawaii’s vibrant Micronesian communities.

A new exhibit located in the historic Chinatown Arts District is changing that. A collection of traditional and contemporary arts and crafts of the Micronesia region are currently on display at the Downtown Art Center.

The exhibit, titled “7 Degrees North – The Arts of Micronesia,” is free and open for the public to attend.

The exhibit will run until July 27, and is co-curated by Floyd Takeuchi, a writer and photographer born and raised in the Marshall Islands, and Margo Vitarelli, a Palauan artist and photographer.

The collection is among the first ever to highlight the work of contemporary artists of Micronesian ancestry living in Hawaii. The exhibit features artists doing a bit of everything — from t-shirt designs to computer art to old-fashioned charcoal portraits — to give visitors a nuanced understanding of the Micronesian community.

Autoplay1 of 12A collection of traditional and contemporary arts and crafts of the Micronesia region currently on display at the Downtown Art Center in Chinatown.

Takeuchi also highlighted the confidence the exhibit would give to artists of Micronesian ancestry to be able to share their work with others outside of their community.

“Micronesia’s creative community can make a contribution just as well as anybody else,” said Takeuchi.

Micronesia is a cultural and geographic region in the northwestern Pacific.

The region’s countries include the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, which encompasses four states — Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae — and about 607 islands, Palau, Nauru, Kiribati, the U.S. territory of Guam and the U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

According to DAC Executive Director Sandra Pohl, the Micronesian community in Hawaii faces economic and social challenges, including prejudice and discrimination.

Pohl hopes this exhibit will help to change negative perceptions the community is currently facing.

“We believe by sharing their rich cultures and showcasing the work of local artists of Micronesian ancestry, Downtown Art Center can help to make this community feel welcomed and better appreciated,” Pohl said.

Takeuchi agrees, saying he sought to curate the exhibit in a way that will teach people who are unfamiliar with the region what Micronesia really is.

“When some people see Micronesia, they just don’t know where it is and so I tried to focus on things that universally, people would understand — Micronesia as an idea, a hope, expectations.”

The opening reception for “7 Degrees North – The Arts of Micronesia” happened Friday with many of the exhibit’s artists, gallery volunteers and visitors across the island in attendance.

Within the exhibit itself, jurors Margo Vitarelli and Lissette Yamase chose artists and artwork primarily from the Marshall Islands, the FSM and Palau.

Among the featured artists are:
  • Lissette Yamase (also a juror) of Pohnpei in the FSM
    • A portrait artist who uses charcoal
  • Anthony Watson of Palau
    • A carver of Palauan ancestry
  • Eric Cano of Chuuk in the FSM
    • A graphic artist who designs Micronesia and Pacific Island-inspired clothing
  • Carolann Carl of Pohnpei in the FSM
    • A poet and storyteller
  • Daniel A. Kelin II, spent many years in the Marshall Islands
    • Hawaii playwright who created the local play, “x Other: A Microstory,” which speaks about the challenges the Marshallese faced trying to fit into their new lives in Hawaii after moving from their homeland.
    • Video courtesy of Oahu community theater, Kumu Kahua Theatre
  • Kalany Omengkar of Palau and Saipan and now resides in Honolulu
    • An artist and designer who uses charcoal, oil paints and computer-generated art
  • Mona Mersai Lomongo Kom of Weno, Chuuk
    • A self-taught artist who creates lei, money crafts, wedding cakes, pastries and more
  • Olivier Koning of Honolulu
    • Honolulu-based photographer who took photos on Majuro Atoll

Growing up on Palau and then moving to Hawaii, Vitarelli shares a similar sentiment to the other exhibit artists whose art is influenced just as much by their genetic roots as it is by their experiences in Hawaii.

“They are adaptable people of two worlds, at home in their own islands and yet, gracefully adjusted to life in Hawaii,” said Vitarelli.

Aside from contemporary artwork by artists, the exhibit also showcases traditional older artifacts such as carvings and photographs from the islands of Micronesia, including navigation maps and lei.

These artifacts are part of a larger collection held by Hawaii Pacific University.

Several woven handbags and jewelry pieces are also displayed around the exhibit floor.

The pieces were created by women of Marshallese ancestry at the Waipahu Safe Haven, a resource center providing social, economic and educational services to individuals and families.

In addition to the exhibit, DAC will also be holding supplementary events at their main gallery in July to continue celebrating the resiliency of the people of Micronesia.

One of the events is a presentation on July 15 at 2 p.m. with art historian and professor emeritus at Hawaii Pacific University Jerome Feldman, who also contributed several artifacts to the exhibit.

The second event, on July 22 at 2 p.m., will be a fashion show that features traditional attire from the regions of Micronesia.

Both events and the exhibit will be held in DAC’s main gallery, located at 1041 Nuuanu Ave.

Source : HawaiiNewsNow