From a Native Daughter: Seeking Home and Ancestral Lines through a Dashboard Hula Gir

A. Mārata Ketekiri Tamaira

In the Hawaiian language the term ‘ae kai refers to the place where land and sea meet, the water’s edge or shoreline, the beach. It is, as Pacific historian Greg Dening has written, an “in-between space…an unresolved space where things can happen, where things can be made to happen. It is a space of transformation. It is a space of crossings.” This expanded definition of ‘ae kai serves as a cogent touchstone for examining Adrienne Keahi Pao’s and Robin Lasser’s most recent installation work Dashboard Hula Girl: In Search of Aunty Keahi, which featured in the Smithsonian’s Culture Lab exhibition ‘Ae Kai: A Culture Lab on Convergence in Honolulu, July 7–9, 2017. In the following writing, I invoke a sort of ‘ae kai of my own in which I merge scholarly analysis with visceral first-hand experience of Dashboard Hula Girl. The result, I hope, is a richly textured exposé that simulates in written form the enigmatic domain that comprises the convergence zone—that is, the ‘ae kai—of intellectual understanding and felt encounter.

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A. Mārata KetekiriTamaira is a Māori researcher/writer whose academic focus has been on contemporary Native Hawaiian and Pacific art. She also writes fiction and is currently working on her first novel, Toa’s Tree.

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