Radical Wāhine of Honolulu, 1945

Mari Matsuda

February 4 – March 8, 2023

Wed 11–3pm
Fri 3–7pm
Sat 11–3pm

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Aupuni Space is pleased to present Radical Wāhine of Honolulu, 1945, a solo exhibition by Mari Matsuda. This installation is a portrait of a little known time in Hawai‘i history when ordinary working women became progressive fighters who never backed down, even when persecuted by the federal government for their beliefs. It honors a cohort of nine visionaries who came of age in Honolulu in times of economic collapse and migration, of rising up against colonial domination, of revolutionary ideas. They questioned the necessity of labor exploitation, poverty, environmental degradation and war. They were young women defying the rules that said women should stay home, be quiet, forgo politics. 

Matsuda grew up knowing these women, and created this installation for retrieval, suggestion, and inquiry–how did such determined change-makers emerge from Hawaiʻi’s plantation towns and urban ghettos? What can we learn from them? We invite an imagined conversation with the radical wāhine of 1945, so that we may walk the same Honolulu streets they walked, feeling the optimism and courage that defined their lives.

The installation includes two shipping pallets carved with the faces of these extraordinary women. The use of pallets alludes to the globalization that brought both revolutionary ideas and traumas of militarism and labor exploitation to Hawai‘i shores. The woodcut images are reproduced on scrolls made of fabric reflecting the re-use ethic of those who weathered plantation poverty. In the center of the gallery, a pallet meditation platform and cast bronze bell marked with the olive branch of peace offer visitors a moment of reflection.

Mari Matsuda is a found object sculptor, alternative instrument maker, and printmaker.  Matsuda is also a writer/legal theorist who helped found critical race theory and intersectional feminism while on the faculties of The William S. Richardson School of Law, UCLA, and Georgetown. She is a life-long participant in movements for peace and social justice.

Critics’ Picks: Artforum

Videos from Poetry Showcase and closing event with Christina Heatherton and Dean Saranillio here.