New Exhibition Exploring Hapa Identity to Open at JANM

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Photographs and statements from “kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa” (2006) are paired with contemporary portraits of the same individuals and newly written statements in “hapa.me.” Above: Curtiss (Japanese / African American). Below: Harper (Japanese / Swedish / Norwegian / Irish / German / English). (Photos by KIP FULBECK)

A new exhibition by artist Kip Fulbeck, “hapa.me – 15 years of the hapa project,” will open at the Japanese American National Museum on Saturday, April 7, and remain on view through Oct. 28.

The installation pairs photographs from Fulbeck’s groundbreaking 2006 exhibition, titled “kip fulbeck: part Asian, 100% hapa,” with new portraits of the same individuals. The photographs are accompanied by each subject’s handwritten responses to the typically posed question, “What are you?”

The word “hapa” is the Hawaiian transliteration of the English word “half.” Much of its current usage derives from the phrase “hapa haole,” meaning “half white.” The phrase was originally coined by Native Hawaiians to describe the mixed children resulting from encounters between islanders and white settlers. In subsequent years, hapa (or Hapa) has come into popular usage away from the islands, most frequently embraced by Asian/Pacific Islander Americans of mixed descent.

Fulbeck created The Hapa Project in 2001, traveling the country to photograph over 1,200 volunteers who identified as Hapa. The project’s goals were to promote awareness and recognition of the millions of Hapas in the U.S.; to give voice to multiracial people and other previously ignored ethnic groups; to dispel myths around exoticism, hybrid superiority, and racial homogeneity; and to foster positive identity formation in multiracial children.

In 2006, Fulbeck published his first photographic book and premiered “kip fulbeck: part asian, 100% hapa,” the first museum exhibition to explicitly explore Hapa identity. That exhibition remains one of the most popular in the history of JANM, setting attendance records before traveling throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Since then, America’s mixed-race population has grown exponentially, with awareness of mixed-race issues dramatically increasing alongside. Fulbeck addresses this progress with “hapa.me.” The original photographs and statements from the 2006 exhibition are paired with contemporary portraits of the same individuals and newly written statements, showing not only their physical changes over the years, but also their changes in perspective and outlook on the world. The stark, plain format of the photographs remains the same, allowing viewers to focus on the distinctive features of the subjects.

In addition, “hapa.me” includes portraits of hundreds of first-time participants and a new interactive section where viewers can join the community by having their portrait taken and writing their own personal statement.

A 200-page full-color catalog will be published in conjunction with the exhibition, featuring essays by Hapa luminaries Velina Hasu Houston, an internationally celebrated playwright with more than 24 commissions in theater and opera; Cindy Nakashima, who has researched, written on, and taught about mixed race for over 30 years; Keao NeSmith, a Native Hawaiian who teaches Hawaiian and Tahitian languages at the University of Hawaii, Manoa; and Paul Spickard, a UC Santa Barbara professor who has written 20 books on race and ethnicity. The publication will be available at the JANM Store and on janmstore.com for $20.

Fulbeck is a professor of art at UC Santa Barbara, where he is the recipient of the university’s Distinguished Teaching Award. He has authored five books, including “Part Asian, 100% Hapa” and “Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids,” and has exhibited his artwork in over 20 countries.

Additional information on “hapa.me” is available at http://janm.org/hapa-me.

JANM is located at 100 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. General admission is $12 adults, $6 students and seniors, free for members and children under age five. Admission is free to everyone on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and every third Thursday of the month from noon to 8 p.m. Closed Monday, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information, visit www.janm.org or call (213) 625-0414.

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