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, which means 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. Below is the perspective of one of those photographed.

Kamana Beamer: There will never be a last aloha ‘āina

“I just feel this incredible sense of energy and mana, aloha, deep gratitude and commitment for really the generations of aloha ‘āina that have come before us,” Beamer said standing in front of his portrait near the corner where two gallery walls meet. “At the same time incredibly hopeful and powerful in seeing in this space. It also projects this idea that there’ll never be a last aloha ‘āina. It’s pretty emotional.”

Beamer remembers when Landgraf first approached him about the project. “She described really honoring a person that was one of the piko of our aloha ‘āina movement for so long, Haunani-Kay Trask and this incredibly powerful speech she had,” he said. “I knew this was something that was a deep honor to be a part of.”

“As a former student of Trask, she was at the tip of the spear for so many things and the trails that she opened up for our lāhui are everlasting and will endure,” said Beamer. “That’s something that also really speaks to me and why I wanted to be a part of this project.”

Dr. Kamanamaikalani Beamer is a familiar face at the University of Hawai‘i–Mānoa where he is an associate professor at the Kamakākuolani Center for Hawaiian Studies in the Hui ‘Āina Momona Program with a joint appointment in the Richardson School of Law and the Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge. He’s also a director of Stanford University’s First Nations Futures Institute, a resource management development program for indigenous leaders developed by Stanford, Kamehameha Schools, and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu in New Zealand. He’s written extensively and researched on resource management and governance. If his love for the ‘āina isn’t apparent yet, he also maintains lo‘i kalo with his family.