- Ē Luku Wale Ē: Devastation upon Devastation by Mark Hamasaki and Kapulani Landgraf
Massive development projects continue to wreak havoc on Hawai'i's cultural and natural landscapes. Developers desecrate ancestral burial grounds, level native forests, and divert the natural flow of streams and rivers to construct golf courses, luxury resorts, gated communities, and highways. Lands that were once used to gather medicine and to grow food have become barren concrete jungles, scarred from the scraping of heavy machinery. Amid these violent acts of transformation, Kanaka Maoli communities and allies are fighting such projects through physical, juridical, and other political means. In some cases, activist efforts are successful in preventing large-scale developments and protecting the land in perpetuity, but in others, the projects continue, leaving a path of grief and loss in their wake.
Ē Luku Wale Ē, a photographic essay by Mark Hamasaki and Kapulani Landgraf, records the destruction to land that transpired during the construction of Interstate h-3 (h-3) on O'ahu. h-3 was first proposed in 1960 when the US Congress approved funding to develop a system of defense highways on the island. After decades of planning meetings, public hearings, court cases, and archaeological surveys, construction began in the 1980s. The project was under intense scrutiny due to the highways' proposed [End Page 282] path through conservation land and its proximity to numerous culturally significant archaeological sites in the valleys of Hālawa and Ha'ikū. To expedite the development process, Hawai'i senator Daniel Inouye convinced Congress in 1986 to exempt h-3 from federal environmental law. After nine years of construction and over us$1.3 billion in expenditures—making it one of the state's most expensive public works projects to date—h-3 was completed in 1997, connecting the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to the Marine Corps Air Station along a fifteen-mile route.
In 1989, Hamasaki and Landgraf began working collectively as Piliāmo'o to document the construction of h-3 using large-format cameras (x). Ē Luku Wale Ē is a product of their extensive undertaking, showcasing 125 of the approximately 1,000 photographs the pair captured over an eight-year period. The prints record moments throughout h-3's construction timeline, documenting exposed archaeological sites, scarred mountain ridges, muddy hills, and metal machinery in each frame. Additionally, the image captions are Hawaiian phrases that describe the desolation pictured. The authors do not provide translations for these phrases, which challenges readers who do not speak 'Ōlelo Hawai'i to work hard if they want to understand the nuances of each title.
Beyond the photographs, the book comprises five other components. Second to the images is a "kanikau [dirge] of devastation" composed by Landgraf that follows h-3's construction path (x). Throughout the chant, Landgraf laments the accumulated loss of land, cultural sites, and native forests through poetic Hawaiian language, with translations for each verse. The kanikau further serves as the organizing structure for the photographs; after each verse, a series of images follow. The third component is the foreword, written by Hamasaki, which describes Piliāmo'o's process in documenting h-3's development. Fourth is Dennis Kawaharada's introduction, which provides a historical overview of h-3 and a verse-by-verse interpretation of Landgraf's kanikau. Following the images are the last two sections: a "Notes to the Photographs" section and an extensive timeline of the h-3 project.
As a collection, Ē Luku Wale Ē represents over twenty years of meticulous research and documentation of one of Hawai'i's most controversial public works projects. To circulate this narrative of loss to a broader public via this publication is in itself an act of resistance that forces readers to bear witness to and remember the sacrifices made in the name of "national defense" and "progress."
The "Notes to the Photographs" section is essential reading for anyone who encounters this book. Whereas the images and kanikau represent artistic renditions of...