Abstract: Since the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893 and the subsequent fraudulent annexation of the Islands by the United States in 1898, Native Hawaiians (Kānaka Maoli) have vigilantly contested US colonialism in Hawai‘i and have resolutely sought to defend and affirm their existence as the still-sovereign people of their homeland through political, legal, cultural, and artistic means. While the first three kinds of indigenous resistance have been well documented in numerous books, journal articles, and theses, there remains a largely unexplored field of academic enquiry concerning the role of contemporary Kanaka Maoli art within this milieu. This article seeks to redress this shortfall by critically analyzing how Hawaiian artists use the discrete discursive space of public walls as semiotic slates to both affirm Native sovereignty and contest US colonialism. I explore sovereign artistic intervention as it is manifested in two wall projects: Ola Ka Wai, Ola Ka Honua by graffiti writers John “Prime” Hina and Estria Miyashiro and the Aloha ‘Āina mural by students, faculty, and community members at the University of Hawai‘i–Mānoa. As I show, these projects illuminate the power of public art to galvanize not only indigenous communities but also the broader public around contemporary and ongoing indigenous political concerns in Hawai‘i.
The Contemporary Pacific – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Jan 21, 2017