n. River, river mouth; pool near mouth of a stream, as behind a sand bar, enlarged by ocean water left there by high tide; estuary. – Hawaiian Dictionary (Pukui / Elbert)
Header artwork: “Ocean Stains,” by Noʻu Revilla
This website is a space for creative and critical reflection on Pacific/Oceanic sovereignties, relationships, kuleana, and genealogies. Sparked by collective concerns about the recent US Department of Interior hearings about the potential establishment of a “government to government relationship” between the US and the Native Hawaiian people, this website is a space for responding to, re-framing, and rejecting the terms of US federal recognition. It is also a space for acknowledging, reflecting on and building other modes of Indigenous recognition in and beyond Oceania.
In that spirit, our website is named muliwai, meaning estuary or river mouth in English. For us, the muliwai’s meeting of fresh water and salt water symbolizes the greater Pacific connecting to the wai (water) of specific islands and peoples. Ma ka waha o ka muliwai – at the mouth of the muliwai – we find a place that speaks, takes in, emerges, embraces, loves, resists, is silenced by the sacred or sometimes by force. The muliwai is a murky and constantly changing place; a place of meeting and transformation; a mouth between the land and the ocean; a queer space; our space.
The Department of Interior’s public hearings and comment period ended on August 19, 2014. Our project opens up in the aftermath of the DOI process which has been by turns inspiring, painful, beautiful, and panicked. Where eloquent testimony after testimony was cut off at the two minute mark in the Hawai’i public meetings, we insist that our words for recognizing ourselves overflow the time limits imposed upon us by the United States in multiple ways. We ask our readers to think with us: what (pleasure, politics, protest) can be done in two minutes? What can be done with more? And, thinking with the theme of muliwai, what can be done at the mouth, at the meeting of different elemental forces?
This website is a collaborative project directed by Nolu ʻEhu: A Queer Nesian Creative Collective, based in Honolulu, and Hinemoana of Turtle Island, a Moana Feminist Collective, based in California and Oregon.
About Nolu ʻEhu: A Queer Nesian Creative Collective:
Our young hui was born in Honolulu and includes Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian members who in some way identify as queer and trace their genealogies to Oceania. We believe 1) that the division between creative and critical work is a colonial paradigm and that 2) colonial heteropatriarchy affects everyone.
Nolu ʻEhu members include No’ukahau’oli Revilla, Tagi Qolouvaki, David Kealiʻi MacKenzie, Joy Enomoto, Lee Kava, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Jamaica Osorio, Tressa Diaz, Amberlee Cotchay, and Jennifer Wheeler.
We are Moana feminists – Indigenous feminists with genealogical, kinship, and historical ties to the Pacific. We use Moana (our Great Grandmother, the Pacific Ocean) as a symbol of fluidity that inform decolonizing definitions of identity, belonging, home, and desire. As people who cross the currents of diaspora and who seek to recognize the multiple ties that define home, we affirm the need to hoʻopili (to bring together, stick, claim a relationship, as in the lining of the quilt or the first stage of poi pounding when the taro starts to stick) across and within our Pacific Islander communities by creating and valuing relationships that decenter all forms of hierarchy and oppression. We resist definitions of Native “authenticity” that derive from histories of settler/colonialism as idealized forms of belonging. Instead, we seek to embody fluid identities which resist those categorical norms that assert power, privilege and legitimacy through patriarchal heteronormativity. As ʻŌiwi of the Pacific, we carry our ancestors in our bones; wherever we are and whatever we do, we are responsible to them. We recognize this kuleana as a stance that resists static notions of what it means to call the Pacific, and everywhere we live and love, home. This kuleana bridges all facets of our lives, uniting the personal, political, academic, artistic, story-telling and spiritual work we engage in daily. As a hui, we build creative Indigenous Pacific spaces that seek to hoʻopili by (1) valuing fluid identities (2) by resisting definitions of belonging that uphold colonial ideologies of what constitute “legitimate” forms of family, desire and love, and (3) by demonstrating that our peoples across Moana and beyond, have important stakes in and roles to play in decolonization.
Hinemoana of Turtle Island members include Liza Keanuenueokalani Williams, Lani Teves, Fuifuilupe Niumetolu, Maile Arvin, Kēhaulani Vaughn, and Natalee Kēhaulani Bauer.