Thursday, September 21, 2006

Downtown LA: Little Tokyo - "kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa"

kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa Recently I was able to attend the kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa exhibition currently at the Japanese American National Museum. This exhibition features portraits taken by Kip Fulbeck, an artist who traveled the country photographing more than 1,000 Hapa. The photographs are compiled in a book of the same title.

For those who might not be familiar with the term "hapa", it was originally a derogatory term derived from the Hawaiian word meaning "half". In recent years, the word has been embraced as a term of pride by those of mixed-race heritage who have Asian ancestry.

Each subject in this exhibition was asked to hand-write the answer to the question: "What are you?" As interesting as it was to place a face to the varied responses to that question, it was the responses themselves that I found the most interesting, especially given that the subjects were of different ages and backgrounds. While many of the answers reflected personal narratives influenced by each subject's upbringing and sense of racial identity, I think some of my favorite responses were from the children including one from a young boy who said that his mother made him come to get his picture taken; another young boy who said that he didn't tell people he was part Danish, because then they'd think he was a pastry; and a little girl who drew a picture of herself saying "I'm a person."

Perhaps the power of the exhibition is equal parts the presentation of so many different stories all at once, as well as the story of the visitor seeing these portraits and reading their responses. The question moves from external to internal, provoking the visitor to apply that question - "What are you?" - to their own sense of identity, their own sense of self and history. For those visitors who truly feel the need to expand upon this potential reaction, the exhibition also has a section where people can take a polaroid picture and write their own answer (subject to the museum's scheduling).

The exhibit runs until October 29th, 2006.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum will also be screening Chasing Daybreak: A Film About Mixed Race in America on October 28th.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

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