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June 06, 2011

Re-Thinking Hawai'i: A Virtual Tour with Carl F. K. Pao

On May 19th, the museum and Transformer Gallery opened This IS Hawai‛i, a two-site exhibition exploring what it means to be Native Hawaiian in the 21st century. The exhibition includes a satirical piece—The Post-Historic Museum of the Possible Aboriginal Hawaiian, created by Hawaiian artist and high school teacher Carl F. K. Pao—that examines the status of indigenous Hawaiians and their relationship with museums and the field of archaeology.

As part of the opening, Pao led a gallery talk in his role as “acting director” of The Post-Historic Museum. The tongue-in-cheek presentation prompted both laughter and confusion, especially when Pao described one of the so-called artifacts (a Weber grill in a glass case) as a “ceremonial container.” Below are video excerpts of his talk:

Pao, introducing the scholarly question of how a “possible aboriginal Hawaiian” could have obtained a weapon (a.k.a. garden hoe) that was “made in China:”


Describing a set of barbecue tools and the notion of “human sacrifice:”  


Taking one final question from the audience, Pao breaks out of his role as acting director and explains what inspired the work—witnessing a crisis of identity among his indigenous Hawaiian high school students—and why he adopted such a “ridiculous approach” to a serious issue:


The two sections of This IS Hawai‘i are on view at the National Museum of the American Indian through July 4 and the Transformer Gallery in Washington, D.C., through June 25.


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I just returned home to Hawaii from DC and was privileged to stumble across this exhibit while I took a week to visit the Smithsonian. Being a supporter of human sovereignty and an artist, this exhibit was one of the highlights of my week - very effective - brilliant. I was surprised, enchanted, overjoyed and saddened. Thank you for this exhibit.

I can't see the video, I think the exhibition is very attracting.

I just love the exhibit. It is so nicely presented. Thanks for sharing this.

nice informative video, thanks

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