As part of the Honolulu Biennial, Hawai‘i-based artist Kapulani Landgraf presented 108 photographic portraits of Kānaka ‘Ōiwi (Native Hawaiian people)—all of whom work across disciplines and across initiatives to inspire positive change in Hawaiʻi—mounted floor-to-ceiling on gallery walls. Called ‘Au‘a, the body of work began as a response to a historic speech delivered by scholar and political strategist Dr. Haunani K. Trask at ‘Iolani Palace in 1993. Trask’s chanted words, “I am not an American,” are projected upon the portraits. This is the third of four interviews with a project participant.

Kamalu du Preez: Many of these people are my heroes
Kamalu Du Preez’s portrait is one of the first you see in ‘Au‘a. “It’s an incredible honor to be part of a powerful statement, a statement that is an everyday truth,” she said as she stood next to her photograph at a viewing Kapulani Landgraf held for participants on March 10. “Not all the time we get to say these things out loud or outside of the company that we keep.” She refers to the aloha ‘āina sentiment and Trask’s “I am not an American.”

“I just feel humbled to be in a group that when I look at the faces that are here, many of these people are my heroes,” she added.

For the past 18 years, Kamalu du Preez has played a pivotal role in the maintenance of the Pacific and Hawaiian collections at Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. Currently the assistant ethnology collections manager, she was previously the cultural collections technician and an intern. Outside of the museum walls, she is a cultural practitioner and kapa maker. As an academic, du Preez touches on these topics in articles such as “Hawaiian Barkcloth from the Bishop Museum Collections: A Characterization of Materials and Techniques in Collaboration with Modern Practitioners to Effect Preservation of a Traditional Cultural Practice,” which she co-authored with Christina Bisulca and Lisa Schattenburg-Raymond in 2014 for Art and Archaeology.