By Edith Yang
A woman clothed in octopus tentacles sunbathes on an island, gazing at a deep blue ocean underneath an equally marvelous sky. Works like Adrienne Pao’s “Hawaiian Cover-Ups” will be a part of a colloquium regarding Pacific Island culture and identity between artists, writers, scholars, students and people from the Santa Cruz community.
The Pacific Island Research Cluster is a big force on campus, said Pao, one of the visiting artists who will be appearing at the colloquium.
“They really wanted to put together something exciting and contemporary for their grad students, their undergrad students, and their faculty to get together, hear new ideas, and be able to have a conversation about something that’s very important in our culture,” Pao said.
Even though the colloquium focuses on the Pacific Islands, Dina El Dessouky, event coordinator and Ph.D. candidate in the literature department, hopes to show how relevant it is to everyone in the community.
“It is important for students coming from the U.S. continent to be aware that by engaging in the participation of artists, writers, activists, other people from the Pacific Islander community, you learn more about something that has been important to the U.S. as well,” Dessouky said. “It’s really important for people to acknowledge the role of the Pacific history from a Pacific perspective.”
Despite strong feelings towards educating UC Santa Cruz students about Pacific Island culture, discussion about it is seldom found.
“I feel like there aren’t that many options for people interested in learning more about Pacific Islander culture, social issues and politics,” El Dessouky said.
The lack of Pacific Islander representation on campus is noticeable, said second-year Samoan student Terisa Tinei Siagatonu.
“Personally, I don’t think there’s that many [Pacific Islanders] at all,” she said. “Even if we’re grouped into Asian/Pacific Islander, the number can be really high but I can almost guarantee that there are more Asian representation than the PI.”
Pao has noticed increased discussion concerning the formation and colonization of Hawaii.
“There’s a definite movement that is happening in Hawaii right now to educate and inform about Hawaii pre-colonialism,” Pao said. “I think for that reason alone, there’s something very important to gain for anybody who will be interested in attending the colloquium.”
Pao will show her “Hawaiian Cover-Ups” collection at the colloquium. Her photographs are self-portraits laying on or viewing beautiful traditional Hawaiian landscape. The photographs are buried with staples of Hawaiian iconography such as leis, sugar and fish skin.
“My idea, when I started the project, was about looking at icons and iconography associated with Hawaii that carried a dual purpose and dual meaning with Hawaii,” Pao said. “The photographs are a venture into the seduction and repulsion of tourism and the history of tourism in Hawaii.”
Besides discussions with artists, writers will also be featured at the event. El Dessouky explains the rare but exciting opportunity to have a dialogue about Ma‘ohi writing at the colloquium.
“We’re going to have a Tahitian writer and scholar who is going to talk to us about Ma‘ohi writing,” El Dessouky said. “That’s very big because there hasn’t been a lot of U.S. exposure to French-Polynesian Ma‘ohi writing because of the linguistics barrier. That’s something very distinctive about this event.”
For some, the event is finally acknowledging the presence of the Pacific Islander community at UCSC.
“I’m part of the world too,” Siagatonu said. “The Pacific Islands are part of the world too. I trip over how many experiences, and how many histories, and how many truths are not highlighted or given the space to be talked about.”
_“Writing/Imaging Postmodern Oceania” will be held this Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Porter, D248._