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August 2007

Pacific Northwest News

TiKKKi: Pacific Island Artists
Take on Tiki Culture

By Rochelle delaCruz

Iosefatu Sua (left) and Darvin Vida with their paintings at BLVD Gallery in Seattle

Many see tiki images without giving it a second thought and may have even forgotten that tiki have deep roots in Polynesia. Seattle artists Iosefatu Sua and Darvin Vida are reminding us to pay attention when cultural representations such as tiki are misappropriated and taken out of context. Here are some definitions:

Tiki: [Maori or Marquesan] first man or creator of first man; a wood or stone image of a Polynesian supernatural power from Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition.

Tiki culture: a mid-20th century theme used in Polynesian-style restaurants and clubs. “English speakers first learned of tikis from Captain James Cook’s 18th century expeditions to the South Pacific…Two centuries later, in a twist of cultural history, tikis conquered California. In their new habitat they may be tacky, but tiki is now alive and well among natives of the west coast of the United States...” from Answers.com and the American Heritage Dictionaries

TiKKKi: a protest from Pacific Islanders Iosefatu Sua and Darvin Vida of the trivialization of Polynesian cultures by Tiki culture.

A small but significant art exhibit TiKKKi opened in mid-July at the BLVD (Boulevard) Gallery in downtown Seattle, Washington where two Pacific Island artists, Samoan Iosefatu Sua and Filipino-American Darvin Vida are displaying paintings that protest Tiki culture.

Tiki culture is a popular phenomenon not only on the West Coast but across the United States. It started in the 1930s but exploded after World War II when American soldiers returned to the U.S. from the South Pacific with romanticized notions of Pacific islands. By the 1950s and 60s, a pseudo-Polynesian influence began to infuse the American imagination, and theme restaurants such as Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s, along with Tiki bars, enjoyed huge popularity. The entrance of Hawai`i as the 50th State in 1959 made it easy for mainlanders to visit the islands and early days of tourism encouraged caricatures of island life which helped in the spread of tiki culture. Even music such as Martin Denny’s popular 1960s song “Quiet Village” contributed to the stereotypes.

Today, an Internet search on tiki yields 1,756, 827 results. A glide over the first sixty pages revealed not only hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs appealing to those enamored of tiki culture, but a wide array of tiki kitsch for sale, from mugs, lamps, napkins, candles, butter knives – everything under the sun. Visual artists Sua and Vida, offended by the misrepresentation of Polynesian culture, decided to use their art to make a statement about Tiki culture.

Iosefatu Sua was born in Wellington, New Zealand where his parents Tuusolo and Pepe Sua had immigrated from Western Samoa. They came to the U.S. in 1986 when Sua was 14, settling first in East Palo Alto, California where his father was a Pentecostal minister for a Samoan congregation. The family then moved to Colorado to establish a similar congregation for Samoan military members stationed at Ft. Carson. Sua graduated from Sierra High School in Colorado Springs, spent four years as a medical specialist in the U.S. Army and was discharged at Ft. Lewis, Washington. He worked at Group Health in Seattle and studied graphic design at Seattle Central Community College.

Sua says he has always painted, beginning with graffiti in the streets. He combines bright, tropical colors with political statements that jar the viewer’s attention. But a set of small black and white ink drawings delivers his message directly. “I wanted viewers to be as uncomfortable when they look at my work, as I am when confronted by all those tikis,” said Sua. “I did the show purely out of my own emotion and opinion of Tiki culture as a reaction to what I see as a lack of respect…a Polynesian version of the American Blackface.”

Sua’s statement gives insight to the title of the show: TiKKKi.

Sad Gods of Happy Hour
by Darvin Vida

Darvin Vida was born in California after his parents Romeo and Mercy immigrated from the Philippines in 1970. They now live in Washington State where Darvin attended Olympic High School and graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Visual Arts. A graphic artist by profession, Vida has worked on projects from Microsoft Zune, Red Bull Music Academy and Scion. He has only recently begun to show his paintings and his skill with a fine point can be seen in a montage of tiki images made by wood-burning. Vida said he started looking into Tiki culture after discussions with Sua and in his research, he found images that were shocking and insulting, even pornographic. “There was a picture in a magazine that showed one of these tikis offering Spam on his penis to a hula girl!” said Vida.

Their disgust with Tiki culture led to the collaboration at the BLVD Gallery which is headed by Damion Hayes who shares a mission “to increase awareness and appreciation of Urban/Street art and culture.”

While many see tiki as innocuous and fun, the show by Sua and Vida is a reminder that its origins come from a people and a place where tiki represents a solemn tradition, and there are those who take offense at its trivialization.

To see photos of some of the pieces in the exhibit, click here.

To learn more, go to www.iosefatu-sua.com or Iosefatu@gmail.com; and www.overstand.net/darvinvida or drvida@gmail.com



Walking from Mexico to Canada:
The Hawai`i Connection on the Pacific Crest Trail

By Lauren Fujii

This March, when my family visited my grandfather in Kaneohe, I had a serious mission.  I needed to eat all my favorite Hawaiian foods because I knew that in one month I would be subsisting completely off of mashed potato flakes, Top Ramen, Snickers bars, and peanut butter.  So during our visit I ate chicken lau lau, saimen salad, spam musubi, guava chiffon cake, plate lunches, and lots of shave ice.

Food cravings are a big part of backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail.  On average, I've walked 18 miles per day since April 27th from the Mexico border to here, Sierra City, California, 1200 miles later.  That's sixty-five days of mashed potatoes, Top Ramen, and peanut butter.

Photo from Lauren Fujii.

Lauren with Grandpa Fujii in Kane`ohe.

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is one of our national scenic trails.  It is on most atlas and highway maps as a dotted red line through the center of California, Oregon, and Washington.  Those of us who walk the entire trail, from Mexico to Canada, in one season, are called "thru-hikers."

I heard about the PCT while on a thru-hike of another famous trail, the Appalachian Trail, in 2005.  I enjoyed seeing the Eastern States on foot and thought that I'd like to do the same on my home coast.  (I'm from Poulsbo, Washington.)

The PCT winds through our national forests and parks for 2,650 miles.  I've hiked through the San Bernadino Mountains, the San Gabriels, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Yosemite, and Tahoe.

Thru-hiking brings a new challenge every day.  In the Mojave, high temperatures and a lack of water frustrated many hikers.  One day, a fellow hiker and I spent five hours under the I-10 overpass escaping the heat.  Luckily, "trail angels" left hundreds of gallons of water cached at trailheads and road crossings for us. In the Sierra Nevada Mountains, quickly melting patches of snow obscured the trail for miles, and curious hungry bears checked out our food supply.

Early one morning I was hiking next to a river when I noticed a shaggy young black bear coming up the trail towards me.  I was still sleepy, but I had to show dominance so I yelled, "Get off the trail, bear!" at the top of my lungs.  Reluctantly it did, and we passed each other warily.

That's the essence of a thru-hike; I experience something new everyday.  Yes, I had to quit my job and live on the cheap, but the excitement sustains me.

And then sometimes, there's nothing more exciting than a Subway restaurant nearby the trail somewhere.  It's not fresh fish, rice, and macaroni salad, but now it's all I have.

I plan on finishing up at the Canadian border in early September and then doing some serious snacking in Vancouver, B.C.!

For a day to day account of my hike, please visit my online journal found at http://numtum.livejournal.com

Lauren O'Connell-Fujii, born December 1981 in Seattle, is a graduate of North Kitsap High School and the Evergreen State College. Mom is Noreen O’Connell, a Seattle Queen Anne native and Dad, Dean Fujii is a Kalani grad 1966. Sister Michele is studying at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

Her 91-year-old grandfather Takao Fujii whom she visits yearly, lives in Kahaluu, Oahu. Grandpa grows pineapples, lichee, limes, grapefruit, bananas, papaya and lots of ginger for flowers and Lauren’s yearly job in Hawai`i is to help keep the weeds under control. While in the Islands, she’s trying to surf and back in Washington, Lauren kayaks and climbs with friends.

Funny, if you from Hawaii and got the right genes, you can tan without getting burned. One amazing wahine! ~ From one proud, getting kinda makule, Pop (Dean.)


Washington Local Students Awarded KSAA Scholarships

 Photo by Rob Dahlin.
KSAA Scholarship Recipients Keala Richardson (left) and Leah Thomas with KSAA-NWR Scholarship Chair Stan Dahlin. Missing from the photo is Rachel Ermitano.

At the annual Wakinikona Hawaiian Festival on July 20th, the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association – Northwest Region announced the names of the three local students who were awarded scholarships for the 2007-2008 school year. Receiving checks for $1,000 were:

  • Leah Thomas, Tacoma, University of Washington senior
  • John Keala Richardson, Federal Way, University of Washington freshman
  • Rachel Ermitano, Spokane, Washington State University sophomore

Stan Dahlin, Chair, KSAA-NWR Scholarship Committee, took time during the entertainment at the festival to announce the three recipients and encourage students in the audience to vie for next year’s scholarships. It is through fund raising events like the festival, plus individual donations that help fund the KSAA scholarship program. The Wakinikona Hawaiian Club is a recent example of lokomaika’i, or being generous when they contributed nearly $600 to the KSAA scholarship program. Many NW people, besides the KS alumni membership, have similar desires to support our youth in getting higher education. This is the10th year that the alumni region has been awarding scholarships to students who are residents of the states of Washington or Alaska who are pursuing post-high school educational programs. If you are interested in contributing to and supporting scholarships for our youths, contact Stan at scdahlin@comcast.net

Pac Island Grill Wins Again at the Taste of Tacoma!

(L-R) The Pac Island Grill Ohana, Raeleen & Jim Smith, David & Leianna Landon, proudly display their 2nd consecutive award for Best Entree at the Taste of Tacoma! The 2007 winner was the "Luau Combo" of Kalua Pork and Hawaiian BBQ Loli Chicken. Last year's blue ribbon was awarded to the BBQ Loli Chicken & Kalbi Combo. They will be celebrating their second anniversary Saturday, August 4, 2007 from noon to midnight at their restaurant in Federal Way with a full venue of live bands and anniversary specials.

More Aloha and Hawaiian Food in...?

Ryan Stringfellow, Hawai`i-born but now living in the Pacific Northwest, sent in this photo of Okole Maluna Hawaiian Grill in Windsor, Colorado -- near Ft. Collins.
In the photo are (L-R) Michael Lau (Ryan's brother-in-law), Ryan Stringfellow, Juliet Higa, owners of Okole Maluna. Higa is from Kahalu`u, O`ahu, and '89 graduate of `Iolani who left the Islands to go to Colorado State University.

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