HAWAIIAN CONSCIENCISM with Linda Tuhiwai Smith on May 2, 2013 at UH Manoa. She spoke on activism, feminism, culture, difference,...
After 666 comments, a friend of mine was kicked off Metafilter. That was ten years ago. He told me his old screennames over drinks a...
From Maui Magazine
“I use photography as a weapon,” says Anne Kapulani Landgraf.
Honoring those places of power, where her ancestors’ mana yet lives, Landgraf offers her book as a soulful ode of loss and enduring faith. “Nā Wahi Kapu o Maui,” de Silva writes, “is a book of stones and carefully stacked, stone-like words over which she has labored.”
Landgraf confronts a sticky conundrum ingrained in her work. When she set out in 1996 to capture Maui’s most revered Hawaiian sites on film, the university-trained anthropologist did not intend her photographs to whet the appetite of would-be visitors.
“I cringe when people say they want to go to these places, because I don’t know what they will do when they get there,” Landgraf says. “I feel responsible because maybe I led them there.”
On one hand, the photographer feels compelled to witness, record and share with others these precious, fragile ecosystems, in which culture and nature intimately intertwine. On the other, Landgraf desires to keep them hidden, knowing well that sacredness, like beauty, resides within the beholder.
“Who can determine what is sacred and what is not? Landgraf asks. “To me, everything is sacred, and so much has been lost, so we must save what is left.”
I had looked up Kapulani Landgraf’s book Nā Wahi Kapu o Maui after seeing a few photos excerpted in the Artists of Hawai’i exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art. I forgot that I wanted to find a copy until I saw the restaging of Alani Apio’s play Kāmau A’e at Kumu Kahua Theatre last weekend. (p.s. please go see it if you live on Oahu)
Part of the dialogue is carried entirely in Hawaiian. Not pidgin, not the smattering of exotic romanized Asian phrases (aiyah! aigu!) that is used like red pepper in otherwise bland portrayals of immigrant enclaves. Even if you are tourist who knows nothing beyond aloha and lei, you pick up a few words, at least pohaku.
I think the refusal to translate communicates sometimes as much as the translation.
Landgraf’s poetry, while published alongside English translations, is described as “intensely personal conversations to which we – if we lack patience and reverence – are not privy.”
She refuses to translate, explain, or provide direction. Instead, hers is a vision characterized by the hold-fast ‘au‘a of Keaulumoku’s “‘Au‘a ‘ia e kama i kona moku - Hold fast, child, to your land, your heritage.” Some may find this off-putting, an expression of distrust and inhospitality. Others will take it as profoundly trusting and hospitable, as an offer to drink the bitter waters and caress the obdurate stones of aloha ‘āina.