We have taken a break from our normal postings this past week. Several members of our seminar have been involved in a struggle at our university over the censorship of a collectively-produced mural with an Indigenous political message. This past weekend, Kanaka Maoli artist, Haley Kailiehu--who is a member of our seminar--led close to 100 people in participating in the creation of a powerful representation of the genealogical connection that Kanaka Maoli have to our sacred Mauna a Wākea (also known as Mauna Kea).
The mural asserted two main things in its imagery and words:
1) the genealogical connection of Kanaka Maoli to Mauna a Wākea, the sacred, eldest mountain child of our ancestors, Papa and Wākea, and
2) a critique that the University of Hawaiʻi cannot be a "Hawaiian place of learning"--as stated in the UH Strategic Plan--while the institution leads the desecration of Mauna a Wākea. The University continues to push forward the development of the Thirty-Meter Telescope, an 18-story structure that would be the largest telescope in the world.
The mural was painted on a backdrop of black chalkboard paint so that people could write in their own responses to the painting and its message.
While painting, the student artists were approached by a settler UH staffer who told them that the UH administration might not like the message of their art piece. The image was accompanied by the statement, "UH cannot be a Hawaiian place of learning while leading the desecration of Mauna Kea." The staffer advised them to remove that section where there were words, and the artists refused. On Monday morning, when Haley returned to the mural site, she found that much of the wording had been covered over with green paint and a hastily painted advertisement for the art festival that the UH newspaper is sponsoring. The portion that was defaced included chalked statements of solidarity from other Indigenous Pacific Islanders students:
"Hita I Taotao Marianas stand in solidarity with kanaka maoli for the protection of our sacred lands"
"Pacific Islanders stand together"
"Marshall Islanders stand with kanaka maoli"
All of these words were covered over.
This issue is a perfect example of settler colonialism on at least two levels:
1) The mural: A settler painted over part of the mural that he contended was not "pre-approved," while he also told the artists that they needed to remove the messages written next to the image because it would be offensive to the UH administration. He literally destroyed part of the mural and replaced it with text promoting an arts festival.
2) The mountain: The settler state continues to support the destruction of sacred sites on Mauna Kea. Native Hawaiian ceremonial, spiritual and observational cycles and practices are replaced by massive telescopes controlled by a collection of powerful institutions from various countries, including the US, Japan and China.
Check out the protest and rally that the UH student group hauMANA organized this week.
For more about the Mauna Kea struggle, check out the trailer for Na Maka o ka Aina's film, "Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege"
And listen to the powerful and beautiful voices of some of the fiercest women warriors for the protection of Mauna Kea and the deities who reside there.
Song: Make Strong
Song composed by: Hawane
Chant composed by: Hawane, Keali'i Bertelmann, Kaleinohea Cleghorn, and Pua Case
Explanation by Pua Case:
A Kupuna, an elder once told me that whenever you undertake a journey or a voyage you have to first "Make Strong your body, your mind and your spirit or you better stay home." My daughter Hawane wrote this mele, this song to remind us all that as we stand tall from the mountains to the deep seas that we "make strong" because we stand on behalf of the earth, our cultural practices, our language, and our traditions. We stand firm with roots deep in the ground and with hands stretched to the heavens, to the ancestors. This song was filmed on Mauna a Wakea at the site selected for the building of a 30 Meter Telescope which if built will be 18 stories high, the entire project to cover 8 acres of our mountain. The chant Kukiaʻimauna was created by Hawane, Kealiʻi Bertelmann, Kaleinohea Cleghorn and myself for all Justice Warriors who are standing strong and steadfast for their mountains. Let our voices resound as one... Our mountains are still sacred!
Mauna a Wakea has always been and will forever be sacred!
I ka piko o ke aloha, in the love and the light, I ka pono, as it should be!
Idle No More!