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UH West Oʻahu faculty awarded public humanities grant


UH West Oʻahu faculty awarded public humanities grant

From left: Dr. Masahide Kato, Dr. Kealani Cook, and Kawena Komeiji received a grant award from the Hawaiʻi Council for the Humanities. Image courtesy of UHWO Staff

The Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities awarded a $10,000 grant to a group of University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu faculty for a student- and community-based oral history film project titled, “Life Stories of Cultural Practitioners.”

The project is led by Dr. Masahide Kato, associate professor of Political Science, in collaboration with Dr. Kealani Cook, associate professor of History, and Kawena Komeiji, Hawaiian Pacific Resources Librarian at the James & Abigail Campbell Library, with support from Chancellor Maenette Benham’s Office and the Institute for Research & Engaged Scholarship (IRES).

“Life Stories of Cultural Practitioners” is a multimedia project that will feature videos with Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners and a live event where the audience will be offered an intimate portrayal of cultural practitioners’ everyday lives integrating mo‘olelo, arts, pedagogies, and cultural protocol.

“Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities has served our community for 50 years, supporting the programs that strengthen and perpetuate Hawai‘iʻs cultural heritage,” said Kato, the project facilitator. “One of their values, ‘kuleana to our communities’ histories and futures,’ resonates deeply with the purpose of our project.”

The council awards grants to projects that best support its mission to connect people with ideas that broaden perspectives, enrich lives, and strengthen communities, according to its website. UH West O‘ahu was among the recent 2022 Winter Grantees of the council’s Public Humanities Grants, one of two types of competitive grants offered by the council; the other type is its Preservation and Access Grants.

“This is an opportunity to not only research the life stories of cultural practitioners, but it’s also a valuable way to get that research back into the community almost immediately through digital technology,” said Dr. Lea Lani Kinikini, director of IRES at UH West O‘ahu. “The Academy for Creative Media (ACM) facilities at UH West O‘ahu have made this community-based research really engaging to our students and their ‘ohana.”

Kato added, “The project features the life stories of Uncle Shad Kane and Kumu Page Chang as a living embodiment of Mo‘o ‘Ōlelo — cosmogony, history, and cosmology — that connects us with the ancient past to navigate the future.”

According to the Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities, its grants humanities programs encourage the movement of knowledge beyond academic settings and support public involvement in conversations important to our communities today and looking into our possible futures.

“This project is an offshoot of the UH West O‘ahu ‘Onipa‘a speakers series that Kealani Cook, Kawena Lauriano (Komeiji), and I have been part of,” Kato noted. “Lea Kinikini joining our team has made it possible for us to take it to the next level.”

Over the next year, student filmmakers will work to document the life stories of cultural practitioners, then the project will culminate with a live community film event and screening at the UH West O‘ahu Academy for Creative Media outdoor theater in 2024.