The O’ahu, Hawai’i home I left to come to Baltimore is a land alive with sea and sand; sun and rainbows; lush landscapes and jagged mountains. It could not be more different than what I have glimpsed of Baltimore, with its blighted landscapes and polluted water, frighteningly high crime rates, and racial/segregational issues that divide the landscape in what appears to be a block by block pattern.
In thought and attitude, Hawaii’s inhabitants derive from a differing and non-majority demographic of backgrounds. It is, instead of a segregation of the Baltimorean black and white peoples, a mix of vastly different ones, including what remains of the indigenous Hawaiians; descendants of New England Calvinist missionaries; descendents of sugarcane plantation workers from Japan, China, Portugal and the Filipines; an assortment of Americans who arrived in Hawai’i over varying time periods for differing reasons, and more recently, various Asian and Polynesian peoples seeking refuge for a wide assortment of reasons. Hawai’i in 2003 reflects a melding of of these cultures. The crime rate is low, and the enjoyment of the land is high.
Living on a Hawaiian island, water surrounds us; in the beliefs of the indigenous Hawaiian people, water has the power to give life; it forms the basis for social and atheltic pursuits; it is battled over in hard fought controversies about the apportionment of fresh water; it is also a commodity (that if change is not made in how it is dealt with, Hawai’i will run out of in 20 years.) As such, “wai” (the indigenous word for water) has a significant mana (power) for people in Hawai’i. It is interesting to observe that “wai” is also the indigenous word for “wealth.”
The experience of leaving O’ahu, HI and coming to Baltimore, MD, has been a difficult adjustment for me and my family – emotionally, financially, and artistically. Within this installation, I have recreated the experience of dislocation as it has been for me. I do not feel “safe” here. The destabilization of my psyche and my family has changed my view of wai. Ever since I have moved here, all wai seem like tears to me, like the many I have cried since I have gotten here. They seep into my soul and blur my memories, eroding any semblence of safety I once felt, in the same way that I have placed the saline solution to “cry” over the prints. Due to the nature of dye ink, these “tears” stain, alter and fade them in ways to make them change and become ephemeral, like my now fading safe life in Hawai’i.
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