‘The Micronesians’ shine in Hawaii

Attorney Arsima Muller, left, and RMI Consul General Isabela Silk, the two Marshallese featured in  Floyd K. Takeuchi’s photo exhibit “The Micronesians” in Honolulu,  posed with the photographer on the opening night of the show at the Downtown Art Center last week.

Two prominent Marshallese women are among nine Micronesian women who are featured in an upcoming photography exhibit in Honolulu that’s designed to challenge Hawaii stereotypes about Micronesians.

Diplomat Isabela Silk, Consul General of the Marshall Islands to Hawaii, and attorney Arsima Muller, a partner in Honolulu’s oldest law firm, are in “The Micronesians,” a photo exhibit by Floyd K. Takeuchi. His work is featured along with the portraits of two other Hawaii-based photographers in Portraits in Monochrome, which opened September 1 at the Downtown Art Center in Honolulu’s Chinatown arts district.

“I want these portraits, which I photographed in a make-shift studio, to force locals in Hawaii to think about their stereotypes about Micronesians,” Takeuchi told the Journal. “When they first see the photographs, they’re likely going to think ‘Micronesian, immigrants, welfare.’ Then when they read the information next to each portrait, they’ll immediately realize how wrong they are.”

Takeuchi asked all nine Micronesian women to wear a so-called “Micronesian skirt,” the hand embroidered, usually serrated edge skirt worn by women from the Central Carolines. Besides Silk and Muller, the group includes Carol Ann Carl, a story teller and poet from Pohnpei; Jocelyn “Josie” Howard of Chuuk, founder and CEO of We Are Oceania; Kimberly Graham of Chuuk, an educator and social worker; Jacqueline Keringilianged Tellei of Palau, a director of a women’s medical clinic; Dr. Mary Therese Hattori of Guam, interim director of the Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center; and Dr. Nicole H. Yamase of Pohnpei and Chuuk, a marine biologist.

Silk and Muller agreed, even though the skirt is something they would not usually wear. Tellei and Hattori also agreed under similar circumstances.

Takeuchi’s show is part of a three-photographer exhibit. He’s also showing with Ed Greevy, the dean of Hawaii documentary photographers, who is known for his photographs of the Hawaiian rights movement in the 1970s through the early 2000s, and PF Bentley, a former nationally known Time Magazine photographer who has lived on Molokai for the past 13 years. All three are show-ing portraits done in black and white.

Silk and Muller aren’t the only Marshallese involved in Takeuchi’s photo exhibit. Former President Hilda Heine has a statement printed in the show’s catalog, also called The Micronesians.

Heine, who represents Aur Atoll in Nitijela, says, “The nine remarkable women who are so strikingly photographed by Floyd K. Takeuchi in this exhibition are notable for at least three reasons: they are exceptional and of Micronesian ancestry; they would be the first to tell you that their distinct and rich cultural traditions helped them to become recognized leaders and role models; and, they would stand out in any crowd, not just one made up of fellow immigrants from Micronesia in the United States. That’s what I see when I study these portraits of nine sisters from the Pacific.”

“The Micronesians” opened on September 1 and runs through October 30. The Downtown Art Center is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 6pm. There is no admission fee.

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