In July 2019 we visited Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland to attend a week-long curatorial intensive, a collaboration between Artspace Aotearoa and Independent Curators International (ICI). Artists, writers and curators from throughout Moananuiākea the Pacific and elsewhere gathered. Arriving amidst a growing occupation, following an eviction notice being served to, and the subsequent arrests of, Ihumātao land protectors near the Auckland International Airport in Māngere, we were reminded that resistance efforts by Indigenous peoples – against capitalism, globalism, and cultural imperialism – are ongoing and commonplace throughout the Great Ocean. The energy was palpable, inescapably influencing our experiences and focus over the week.
As a concluding act, intensive participants were invited to give a short public presentation on a project in development. Our intention was to share thoughts and feelings on a process-driven, community-oriented endeavour. We had recently begun a curatorial project rooted in the land, sea, and sky of Kahoʻolawe, the smallest of the eight principle Hawaiian Islands, a piko o Ka Paeʻāina o Hawaiʻi, a navel of the archipelago. Formerly used as a US military testing and training site, the island is most significantly a kino lau, one of the many physical manifestations of the god Kanaloa or Tangaroa, Taʻaroa, Tagaloa, as he is known in other parts of the Moana.
Now it’s January 2020, Year of the Rat. Kanaloa Kahoʻolawe has set us on new courses: to Mauna a Wākea, Hawaiʻi moku, Mākua, Oʻahu, and back again. What follows here is an incomplete story with multiple timelines, an ensemble of fragments—notes, correspondences, documents, personal reflections – picked up along the way. It is our hope that this heterogeneous mixture of materials will provide a sense of our ongoing efforts. Our efforts to hold space and time, to encourage alternative and unanticipated modes of production, circulation, and reception to take place. If nothing else, this collaboration represents our attempt to acknowledge the communities that have supported and continue to support us while we grapple with unsettling futures and defer fixed outcomes. All the while, we stand ready for what is to come.
Situating ourselves: Who you? No hea mai ʻoe?
Josh Tengan Aloha mai kākou. As visitors, we begin by acknowledging the people of this place, ngā mana whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau. We attended this curatorial intensive to deepen connections to curators working in the Great Ocean, especially our cousins in Aotearoa. We are grateful to Artspace, ICI, and all of our peers and mentors who have helped shape our time and thinking over the past week.
My name is Josh Tengan. My family comes from Honolulu, Oʻahu; Kīhei on Maui; and Hāwī on Hawaiʻi moku. I am of Kanaka Maoli, Ryukyuan, and Portuguese descent. Through my knowledge succession as a curator, I’ve had the privilege of learning from Ngahiraka Mason who I first came to Aotearoa with in 2016 and Nina Tonga who I worked under on the Honolulu Biennial 2019, TO MAKE WRONG / RIGHT / NOW.
Drew Kahuʻāina Broderick A warm welcome to us all. My name is Drew Kahuʻāina Broderick. I am of Kanaka ʻŌiwi, Cantonese, Sicilian, and German descent. In Hawaiʻi nei, my ‘ohana extended family holds space on Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Maui, Kahoʻolawe, and Hawaiʻi island. I was also fortunate to be able to work with and learn from Aunty Ngahiraka as an artist, curator, and community member. Along with Artspace Aotearoa and ICI, she is one of the currents that carried us both here today.
The project we will be discussing, initiated by Josh and I with the support of Oʻahu-based non-profit Puʻuhonua Society, emerged from the particularities of place. Specifically, it centres on Kanaloa Kahoʻolawe and is shaped through a series of three huakaʻi, journeys or cultural field service trips, to the Island.
Josh Tengan The first huakaʻi, happening in September 2019, includes Kānaka organisers, artists, writers, educators, and documentarians. The two subsequent accesses to occur in 2020 and 2021 include participants from across Moananuiākea and abroad, as a means of building a transnational network of relationships and strategic creative alliances. Together, the huakaʻi support meaningful dialogue and exchange between oceanic and archipelagic communities in order to reinforce our ties to one another, Kanaloa, Hawaiʻi, and Moananuiākea at large.
Kahoʻolawe: An incomplete history
Josh Following Japan’s attack on the U.S. at Puʻuloa Wai Momi, Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Federal government declared martial law in Hawaiʻi and seized the island of Kahoʻolawe for extensive use as a weapons range for live-fire testing and training operations. For the next five decades the US Navy maintained control. Kahoʻolawe, desecrated, an open wound, became known as “Target Island.” One of the deepest visible scars that still remains is a crater left at the former site of Operation Sailor Hat. Named for a series of three tests conducted in 1965 meant to simulate nuclear blasts, “Sailor Hat” is evidence of irreversible impact—the explosions were so violent that they cracked the Island’s water table.
Drew In January of 1976, members of a community-based, islands-wide grassroots organisation, now known as the Protect Kahoʻolawe ʻOhana, slipped past U.S. Coast Guard patrols and “illegally occupied” Target Island. The ʻOhana filed a civil suit in US Federal District Court later that same year—Aluli et al. v. Brown (Civ. No. 76-0380)—to protect Kanaloa from further violence. These unprecedented actions galvanised a cultural reawakening across the archipelago, reshaping life in the years to come.
Josh In response to the ʻOhana’s direct action, and a partial summary judgment in favour of Aluli et al., the U.S. Navy signed an out of court settlement Consent Decree and Order which recognised the ʻOhana’s desire to be ke kahu o ka ʻāina and caretakers devoted to protecting Kanaloa. Furthermore, the US Navy was required to survey and preserve the Island’s remaining historic sites; clear surface ordnance from 10,000 acres; implement soil conservation and revegetation programs; and allow the ʻOhana monthly access to the Island.
Drew In May 1994, nearly four years after US President George Bush’s Memorandum to discontinue use of Kahoʻolawe as a weapons range, the title to the island was transferred from the US Navy to the State of Hawaiʻi. In the decade following, the US military continued to control access to the island while they cleared the land and waters of unexploded ordinances and hazardous materials and conducted environmental restoration activities in an attempt to return the island to a habitable base level. Four-hundred million dollars was secured for clean-up and remediation.
Josh In November 2003, control over access to the island was transferred from the US Navy to the State of Hawaiʻi. Today, the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) is responsible for managing Kahoʻolawe until the island is transferred to a sovereign Native Hawaiian entity. The KIRC recognises the ʻOhana as the organisation which provides stewardship for the island and its cultural and natural resources. The two custodians of the island, one governmental (KIRC) and the other grassroots (the ʻOhana), share the responsibility of bringing life back to Kanaloa.
Drew It has been nearly three decades since live-fire testing and training operations were halted on Kanaloa Kahoʻolawe. Given that many of the injustices committed on Hawaiʻi and its peoples during the 20th century continue to be experienced today, it is crucial to understand our role within this larger history of resistance. We continue a process of healing today, knowing that there is always more work to do and more aloha to give to one another and our beloved ʻāina.
Josh The current title of this project, I OLA KANALOA (Life to Kanaloa), is sourced from the ʻOhana’s strategic plan for Kahoʻolawe through 2026, which marks half a century of unwavering aloha ʻāina. Following the ʻOhana’s direction, we invite participants to listen to nā leo o Kanaloa and to imagine rooted speculative futures for Kahoʻolawe. How do we engage a place responsibly as curators working in/with/and through communities?
Pre-Arrival: Mauna Alert, in solidarity
Sep 7, 2019, 6:20 PM
Momi Wheeler < ... >
PKO Huakaʻi Sept 12–15, 2019
As we all know, a Mauna Alert has gone out regarding the potential unjustified invasion by the State. In discussion with our PKO kua and Puʻuhonua Society on whether or not this huakaʻi should continue .... we all agreed on the importance of this upcoming huakaʻi ʻo Kanaloa moku, ʻonipaʻa kākou. As ʻanake Maile expressed, “We hold steady, in solidarity, and continue our efforts to translate what’s happening [on the Mauna and across the paeʻāina] through our Maoli perspective.”
If for some reason, you are unable to attend at the last minute, please contact me ASAP email: < ... > / cell: (808) xxx–xxx. As we continue to prepare for this huaka’i, we trust everyone is mākaukau spiritually, mentally and physically.
Sep 7, 2019, 8:45 PM
Drew Broderick < ... >
Re: PKO Huakaʻi Sept 12–15, 2019
Aloha mai kākou,
We are following up with everyone, as representatives of Puʻuhonua Society, to affirm what Aunty Momi of the ʻOhana sent out earlier. The upcoming huakaʻi to Kahoʻolawe will proceed as planned. We are grateful for the opportunity to be with Kanaloa in solidarity with Mauna a Wākea. In our collective [efforts] for greater self-determination it is vital to connect our past struggles to those taking place today. We know that several of you are on the Mauna already. Please keep us updated if there are any changes on your end. [Call or] Text anytime: Drew (808) xxx–xxxx or Josh (808) xxx–xxxx.
Me ka pono,
DKB + JT
Going to Kahoʻolawe
By boat the island appeared
pale and purple under a milky sky.
Whale known blue ocean
quilted with waves,
we swim ashore in the morning rain.
Olivine crystals jewel the beach.
We are not the first.
Dusty-backed scorpions in the garden,
rats and feral cats stare
out of their night
at what we have brought with us.
Goats keep out of the way
up the red ravines.
Wasps multiply in the bamboo poles
of the cook house.
Standing inside the wall of the heiau
one of the men talks
about the life of the stones.
He holds one up for us to see
black black stone pōhaku
the mixing of the waters
the planting of the fields
I am squatting in my own right of way,
he says, and night comes on.
We sleep in the sound of the creaking trees.
A low yellow light wakes me
far from the traffic of the island
we have come from where
the headlights of an orange truck
look out to sea.
Dana Naone Hall
Kanaloa: Arrival […]
How does one access Kanaloa Kahoʻolawe? For this huakaʻi we were led by members of the Kua, the backbone of the ʻOhana—Uncle Noa Emmett Aluli, Aunty Noa Davianna Pōmaikaʻi McGregor, Momi Wheeler, Kelvin Ho, Tom Brennon, Tita Kūhaulua, and Wendell Figueroa—and guided by protocol.
The night prior our boat assignments were made. Three groups for the three vessels that carried us across the ʻAlalākeiki Channel. Under moonlight we departed the Hawaiian Canoe Club in Kahului, Maui, a half hour by bus to Māʻalaea and Kīhei respectively. From there, an hour by sea to Hakioawa, Kahoʻolawe, where we offered an Oli Kāhea:
He haki nu‘anu‘a nei kai
ʻO ‘awa ana i uka
Pehea e hiki aku ai
ʻO ka leo
Mai pa‘a i ka leo
Indeed a rough and crashing sea
Echoing into the uplands
How is it that one lands?
It is the voice
Please don’t hold back the voice
Hoʻolohe mai i ka pane. CJ, our zodiac captain, responded with an Oli Komo, permission to land. Transferring our ukana supplies and ourselves into the zodi, we headed for shore. Jumping into the bay, we entered an ancient song. An exchange between land, sea, and sky that spans millennia, long before US bombs fell, when Papahānaumoku bore Kahoʻolawe. Paytention! Watcheachoda! Aunty Davi’s voice filled the air.
We were fifteen – Bernice Akamine, Glen Akamine, Noelle Kahanu, Marques Hanalei Marzan, Page Chang, Keith Tallett, Noah Serrao, Joseph Kēhau Serrao, Josiah Kekoanui Patterson, Cory Kamehanaokalā Holt Taum, Kūpaʻa Hee, Nanea Lum, Josh Tengan, Drew Kahuʻāina Broderick, Maile Meyer – a string of names, an unfinished lei. Artists, musicians, curators, organisers, educators, writers, attorneys, designers, cultural practitioners, entrepreneurs, community members. Hawaiians.
Kanaloa: Holo Mauka
We gathered on weathered slopes, before dawn. We travelled toward the peak. We ascended through carsonite markers, paused, beckoning the sun from its sleep:
E ala ē, ka lā i kahikina
I ka moana, ka moana hōhonu
Rise up, the sun is in the east
In the ocean, the deep ocean
Continued upward, humbled in the presence of Haleakalā:
Piʻi ka lewa, ka lewa nuʻu
Climb to the sky, the great height of the sky
Traversed hardpan, past new growth and old decay—adze flakes, native/non-native plants, coral, shells, and bullet casings. Stopped to discuss revegetation efforts and scatter seeds on the wind, and eventually arrived atop Puʻu o Moaʻulanui.
Then we continued, some barefoot, to Moaʻulaiki, Navigator’s Chair, a piko of a piko of the Hawaiian Island Chain where voyagers in training learned to kilo observe ocean currents, stars, and changing weather. Chanting again:
E hō mai ka ʻike mai luna mai ē
Grant us the knowledge from above
On this day, from this ancient vantage point, we could see Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Maui, and Hawaiʻi islands. Kealaikahiki, the pathway to Tahiti, revealed itself recalling the countless transpacific voyages that began and ended here.
Onward, we share a brief moment with a resilient wind-shaped wiliwili (Erythrina sandwicensis), one of the largest remaining in the islands. Then to the crest of Moaʻulanui, Luamakika, where we made hoʻokupu at a rain koʻa, shrine. Our offerings varied—oli and mele, lei lāʻī, ʻawa, wai niu, meaʻai, and wai, from our respective homes—gifts to Kāne god of procreation, and Kanaloa’s divine counterpart.
Kanaloa: [...] Departure
ʻO ‘awekuhi, ʻo kai uli
E hō mai i ‘a‘ama, i ‘a‘ama aha
I ‘a‘ama ‘ia au
Pointing tentacle of the deep sea,
Grant an ‘a‘ama, ‘a‘ama for what purpose?
For releasing me from my obligation as your guest
Kanaloa has a way of holding on. Like a heʻe, his kino, he clings tightly to those that enter his realm, long after departure. Chanting Ke Noi ʻAʻama is an important part of protocols for release from the burden of responsibility. Protocols that are completed by an Oli Hoʻokuʻu. Accept ‘aʻama crabs instead of us. We have left already. Kahoʻolawe slipped into the distance. Heading toward the harbour, we passed islet Molokini—the Island’s ʻiewe, afterbirth—together in silence. The beachfront resorts of Kīhei, grave reminders of the work ahead.
Does Kanaloa ever truly release his grasp? Should we be free of responsibility?
Mauna a Wākea, Hawaiʻi moku, Hawaiʻi
In the stillness of early morning, before our arrival to Kanaloa, Uncle Emmett addressed the group. Two questions. “Who has been to the Mauna?” Nearly everyone raised their hand. “Who has been to Kahoʻolawe?” Just a few hands. Understanding the significance of the current Kū Kiaʻi Mauna movement is knowing its relation to other longstanding and ongoing movements, to Kahoʻolawe, and elsewhere. Before we can thread our stories of resistance together, we must come to know them.
After returning to Oʻahu from our first huakaʻi to Kanaloa Kahoʻolawe, the two of us continued on. Arriving to Mauna a Wākea in September 2019 was like being late to a party. Two months had passed since the beginning of the most recent occupation against the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory atop the mauna’s sacred summit. Multiple “mauna alerts,” calls for increased presence at the road blockade, had already been issued, including the one that almost rerouted our huakaʻi to Kahoʻolawe. A party in that it felt like we were witnessing a celebratory family gathering, not an isolated protest.
Joining Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu, where kiaʻi have occupied Mauna Kea Access Road since July, was in a lot of ways like being with Kahoʻolawe. At both piko, sovereignty was reestablished through intention, with clarity of vision, and in steadfast support of beliefs and practices. Decades of civil disobedience, resistance, and direct action unite these two wahi pana across time and space, reminding us of the radical possibilities realised through the simple act of gathering together.
Mākua, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi
Sitting together at Hakioawa, after hauling our waterproofed gear ashore, Bernice Akamine and Josiah Patterson met for the first time only to discover that it was Josiah’s father, Dr. Kahu Kaleo, who in the late 1990s, had encouraged Bernice to present the first iteration of her installation, Kuʻu One Hanau (1999), in Mākaha, Oʻahu.
On the final evening, during a closing kūkākūkā discussion, Josiah spoke to the ways Moaʻulanui, Kahoʻolawe and Mākua, Oʻahu, a valley of his upbringing near the sands of his birth, were related: both had been desecrated by the US military and both had been reclaimed and remediated, albeit to different degrees, through unwavering efforts of community based grassroots organisations.
To honour interconnected histories of land-struggles across our Paeʻāina, upon returning to Oʻahu from Mauna Kea, we went to Mākua Valley with Josiah under the guidance of Mālama Mākua including Aunty Lynette Cruz and Taylour Chang and under watchful escort from the US Army Corp of Engineers. On our Island, signs of military occupation are omnipresent; its effects are felt by both community and ʻāina and impact our daily existence.
Honolulu, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi
Ihumātao. Kahoʻolawe. Mauna a Wākea. Mākua. Acknowledging interisland connections, both within and beyond the boundaries of a given nation is vital to our collective oceanic wellbeing. Embodying a continuum of self-determination, we (re)occupied and we continue to (re)occupy ancestral places in the present. Doing so, we held and hold space, in solidarity with communities, if only for an intensive, a huakaʻi, a weekend, a couple of hours. As we do so, we remain vigilant. We must stand together, whenever possible—because threats to Indigenous sovereignties are always imminent.
February 2020, as fires still burn across the eastern coast of Australia, scorching homelands and communities, they are also ablaze on the southwestern end of Kanaloa. Amidst transpacific flames, we find unexpected solace in Haunani-Kay Trask’s “Thirst,” written for Kahoʻolawe.
a wooden lance
with the hardened
gleam of lust
we are parching
in the glare
our kernels grizzled
by a strutting sun
we are combustible
Eō, we are combustible. Ea, we surrender ourselves willingly to energetic transformations. Lighting up. Burning bright. We rise like embers—nourishing seeds. Carried by currents of air and ocean. Across our ancestral places, territories, and nations. We are not the first. Mau a mau. We go on.
A mau loa i ka lani a Kāne
Forever in the heavens of Kāne
A mau loa i ke kai a Kanaloa
Forever in the sea of Kanaloa.
- ^ Kanaloa 2026 Working Group, “I OLA KANALOA!: A Plan for Kanaloa Kaho‘olawe through 2026,” 2014. .
- ^ Dana Naone Hall, “Going to Kahoʻolawe,” Life of the Land: Articulations of a Native Writer, Honolulu: ʻAi Pōhaku Press, 2017, p. 29.
- ^ Davianna Pōmaikaʻi McGregor, “Kanaloa Kahoʻolawe: He Wahi Akua/A Sacred Place,” in Hōkūlani K. Aikau and Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez (eds.) Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawaiʻi, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2019, pp. 261–70.
- ^ The chants and partial chants included in this text were composed by the Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation and are intended (with the exception of E Ala Ē and E Hō Mai) for use only on Kahoʻolawe.
- ^ Haunani-Kay Trask, “Thirst,” Light in the Crevice Never Seen, Corvallis: CALYX Books, 1994, p. 47.
- ^ Pualani Kanaka’ole Kanahele, “He Koʻihonua no Kanaloa, he Moku,” Kahoʻolawe: Na Leo o Kanaloa, Honolulu: ʻAi Pōhaku Press, 1995, p. 109
Drew Kahuʻāina Broderick is a Kanaka ‘Ōiwi artist, curator, and current Director of Koa Gallery at Kapiʻolani Community College, Oʻahu who recently completed an MA from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, New York, and previously worked in Honolulu-based collective PARADISE COVE (2015–18).
Josh Tengan is a Kanaka ‘Ōiwi contemporary art curator, previously Assistant Curator, Honolulu Biennial 2019 To Make Wrong / Right / Now, working to survey local visual culture through annual project CONTACT organised by arts non-profit Puʻuhonua Society. Tengan holds an MA in Curatorial Studies with Distinction from Newcastle University (UK).
With special thanks to Dana Naone Hall and ʻAi Pōhaku Press for permission to republish “Going to Kahoʻolawe,” from Life of the Land: Articulations of a Native Writer (2017), and to David Stannard and Haunani-Kay Trask for permission to republish “Thirst,” from Light in the Crevice Never Seen (1994), CALYX Books.