© 2023 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Honolulu Biennial 2019 Kicks Off Tonight With Art, Films, Exhibits

Noe Tanigawa
Noe Tanigawa

After its amazingly successful first run, the second Honolulu Biennial opens tonight at Ward Center.  Biennials are all about activating a whole city with art, and now, just about every key city has one. In the 21st-century, Biennials proclaim a city is part of the creative economy, and visitors expect to be wowed by the art, and take part in panels, film showings, and pop up exhibitions, too.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa visited The Honolulu Biennial’s HUB at Ward Center where opening festivities begin tonight.

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa
Florence Jaukae Kamel. Bilum, plant fibers woven into fabric. Kamel will present a fashion show at the HB19 opening.

The Honolulu Biennial 2019 opening party is set for tonight, 5-10pm at The HUB on the ‘Ewa end of  Ward Center.  HB19 continues with events and workshops through May 8, 2019.  

When he was asked to show at this year’s  Honolulu Biennial, HB19, James Bamba, a traditional Chamorro weaver from Guam, was hesitant.

"I don’t think I can do something like that, no, it’s too big, too scarey.  But I’m here, so…"

Bamba explained that after he heard more about HB19’s mission and theme, he was moved to jump in.

The theme of HB19 is, To Make Wrong/Right/Now, taken from a poem by Imaikalani Kalahele:

The source


my origins

lie beneath my feet,

the breath

in my chest


in P?

the destiny

of my race


plunged into

my gut



my veins

with a new nationalism,

old spiritualism,

and a need to make wrong



— Imaikalani Kalahele, “Manifesto” from Kalahele (Honolulu: Kalamak? Press)

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa
Jeremy Leatinu’u (l) and James Bamba hanging out in the chill room at The HUB. A curated nook by ARCH Hawai'i, this room is located in the back of The Hub designed to host the art of sitting, listening and telling story with sound and silence by oneself or with others. Love it!

Bamba:  I think the theme, To Make Wrong/Right/ Now, is a very common story across many islands of the Pacific and across many peoples across the world.  When I heard this, and I read the poem and identified with it, I thought, I have to do it.  I can’t be scared by what a Biennial is. 

Art historian and Curator at the Museum of New Zealand, Nina Tonga, is curator for HB19.

Tonga:  We wanted to be guided by our artists.  So we’re trying to create something that is open, that is allowing artists to bring different strands for us to weave together across our twelve different sites.

Forty seven invited artists from around the Pacific have works spread across Honolulu—at McCoy Pavillion, YWCA Laniakea, and several museums and of course, the HUB at Ward Center.  Filmmaker Jeremy Leatinu’u, from Samoa, has shown in venues around the world...

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa
Marianne Nicolson. Always the New Day Dawns.2016. Carved blue glass, light mechanism, shadow.

Leatinu'u:  Not like this.  I think that’s what makes this one quite special for a lot of Pacific artists.  We all have a connection to the Pacific Ocean.  Within that connection, we are all able to share stories and find out we are connected more than we ever knew.

The Honolulu Biennial lasts for 2 months with films, panels, events and an open stage at the HUB.

Tonga:  Making work, working with volunteers, workshops have started, so they’ve brought this wonderful generosity that we were hoping the Biennial would encourage ad hopefully build on.

Speaking of building, over 80 generous people, young and old, labored together to create a 50 foot double hulled canoe out of invasive species branches at Foster Garden—Leland Miyano’s idea.  See you there.

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa
Chiharu Shiota. Crossroads, 2019. Wool, maps, staples.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
Related Stories