The Native Hawaiian artist’s installation Ponoiwi opens this Friday, Sept. 28, at ARTafterDARK: The Reveal. The work addresses the issue of removing sand from Maui dunes—where Native Hawaiians buried their ancestors for centuries—for the making of concrete for the construction industry on O‘ahu. First installed in 2011 for an exhibition at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, Ponoiwi continues to be a timely work, with the recommencing of the Honolulu Rail project, and Gov. Abercrombie this year signing SB 1171, allowing construction projects to proceed without having to conduct a complete archeological inventory survey of a project. Landgraf is a recipient of a 2013 Native Arts & Cultures Foundation Fellowship.
You’re known as a photographer, what inspired you to do Ponoiwi as an installation?
The first thing that came to me was the idea of using a suspended shovel to represent the gouging of the land and the images came second. I only do installation when I feel the work will be enhanced with multiple layers of meaning and presence.
What inspired Ponoiwi?
I worked on a book project, Na Wahi Kapu o Maui, from 1996 to 2001, where I was documenting cultural and archeological sites on the island of Maui. I worked with someone who was on the Maui Island Burial Council, so I was given the opportunity to experience these places and it always sat in the back of my mind. The whole sand issue was even more apparent after I finished the project. When the Maui Arts & Cultural Center was organizing the group exhibition I Keia Manawa, of four Native Hawaiian women artists [Landgraf, Maile Andrade, Kaili Chun and April Drexel], I felt it was critical to speak to an issue critical to Maui.
Ponoiwi seems to take on more and more meaning as Honolulu continues to develop.
It’s interesting because a lot of people on Maui were not aware of the removing of Maui sand from their island for the purpose of construction on O‘ahu. Although it’s a Maui issue, it speaks to the constant development in Hawai‘i at the cost of Hawaiian land, culture and people. What’s happening currently in Kaka‘ako and the construction of rail in phases will set up for the continuous disregard by the powers that be. It’s exactly what happened with the construction of the H-3, it’s history repeating itself again. Ponoiwi asks, “Why are you doing this?”