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  • I Hinanao-ta Nu I Manaotao Tåno’ I CHamoru Siha (The Journey of the CHamoru People)
  • Teresita L Perez
I Hinanao-ta Nu I Manaotao Tåno’ I CHamoru Siha (The Journey of the CHamoru People). Permanent Exhibit, Senator Antonio M Palomo Guam Museumand Chamorro Educational Facility, Hagåtña, Guam.

The beginning of I Hinanao-ta(Our Journey) is marked by a purposeful awkwardness in the first gallery. Visitors to the Senator Antonio M Palomo Guam Museum and Chamorro Educational Facility’s permanent exhibit first enter a small ante-chamber with bland walls, a velvet rope to keep visitors in line, a few paintings by CHamoru and non-CHamoru artists alike, and a monitor perched above visitors’ heads. The simplicity, the sparseness is a trick: It builds anticipation for what is ahead. The docent directs visitors to the monitor and a short video of former Governor of Guam Eddie Baza Calvo, who happened to be in office at the time of the exhibit’s opening. The governor invites guests to engage with this journey of the CHamoru; he ends with a welcome of “maila halom” (come inside) while gesturing with a slightly exaggerated move of his left arm. Synchronized with the governor’s movement, a door positioned behind the monitor automatically opens.

This visit marks my third journey through the landmark exhibit; which is the first of its size and scope for the island and resulted from decades of work by the local government, community, and off-island professionals and advisers. The journey to the exhibit’s opening was not always smooth, as was evident in the struggles for funding and other resources, heated debates among stakeholders about its narrative and who its narrators would be, and many of the other typical obstacles to any attempt to represent an entire people through a museum exhibit, which remain ongoing. Indeed, the political nature of the exhibit confronts visitors head-on before they even step foot inside. As I stand alone in the antechamber, containing my urge to go directly into the exhibit, I wonder: “Does the governor have to welcome me each time I come here?” I ask the docent, who informs me that it is the end of the governor’s message, and nothing else, that facilitates the passage of visitors onward. Therefore, yes. I think to myself that the video-and-door effect might work best for the onetime visitor. So, who is this exhibit for?

As the obligatory message from the governor ends, the door transitions visitors from the antechamber into a thirty-two-seat, state-of-the-art imaxtheater. A presumably elderly CHamoru woman’s voice fills the theater, and through the speakers, she beckons, “famagu’on-hu” (my children). This voice begins the film and underscores the matrilineal and oral tradition of our people, the subtext being that I Hinanao-tawill be told our way, in our voice. When the film starts, the saina (elder), narrating gi fino’ CHamoru (the CHamoru language), tells the CHamoru story of the creation of life, the universe, and the first peoples. Accompanied by subtitles in English, Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin, the film narrates the story of Pontan and Fo’na, our brother-sister creators, who come alive in sumptuous animation.

Halfway through the film, the animation gives way to live-action [End Page 576]sequences that recreate the first peoples’ journey home and offer sweeping images of glimmering ocean waves and of sakman (long-distance voyaging canoes) filled with food and families. Landing on the shores of Guam, the first peoples have come to settle. The film’s end parallels that of the welcome video in the antechamber: an invitation and an open door. This invitation, however, comes from the saina welcoming us to join the first peoples as they step onto the island and start their journey.

I move from the spacious dimness of the theater into the well-lit compactness of gallery two. Eleven-foot-tall wall murals of photographs of indigenous flora and dense foliage serve as partitions for each section; archways near the top of each mural direct the flow of movement. The effect of these murals is both...