Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    OMCA brings the Islands to Oakland

    Pacific Islander history, culture, art and music on display

    A traditional kava circle gathers in Dimond Park, Oakland.Crashing waves. Your own thoughts are barely audible over the din of the ocean, but you still try your best to soften your footfalls, lest you break the spell. Standing transfixed in a dark hall, a projection of the Aurora Borealis looms before you. Chanting emerges as you move further into the room — a language seemingly older than time itself. You have stepped into a different world — Pacific Worlds. 
    The Oakland museum of California exhibit focuses on Pacific Islanders, past and present. The focus is on the history of the indigenous tribes of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. The history, customs, origin stories and means of life are all explored in depth. 
    Continue through the exhibit, though, and you’ll learn how the Pacific Islanders in the Bay Area protect and preserve their heritage. Paintings, sculptures, artifacts and multimedia presentations all weave together to tell a bigger story of a people often marginalized, despite rich culture and beautiful history. 
    Explore the roots of the Pacific Island people, through soundscapes and visuals, and immerse yourself in the intricate patterns of culture and civilizations, merging the traditional and the contemporary.
    The Skillman family dances the Maori haka in Fairfield, California. The exhibit tells the story of a wayward era — the legends and oral traditions, now preserved for posterity. Learn about the cultural significance of tribal tattoo designs and processes — going much deeper than a frat boy’s drunken mistake in 1996. 
    The experience is interactive, as well. You can print your own traditional “tapa” design, add a paper flower to a symbolic lei, or share a fond memory on a post-it note and display it to docents and denizens alike next to a map of the islands. A full-sized boat, hand-carved, dominates the front of the exhibit, invoking traditional transportation methods, before smart phones and airplanes, where the only way to meet and trade with your neighbors meant battling tough seas with only some paddles and your trusted tribesmen. 
    The exhibition weaves a web of heritage — both explaining its evolution and answering the question of relevance — Bay Area natives returning to their roots to gather in an Oakland park to drink Kava (a traditional beverage with numbing properties) or practicing the Haka (an ancient war dance designed to strike fear in the hearts of enemies — made famous by the New Zealand rugby team The All Blacks.) 
    Tongan seamstress Langilangi Mavae makes tapa cloth at her home in Oakland.The story wouldn’t be complete without a study of imperialism, and a discussion of American Colonialism influencing their culture. The museum describes California as “the East Coast of the Pacific,” flipping the script on how we usually perceive our state as the West Coast of the United States. With this paradigm shift, we can begin to better understand Pacific Islander culture, and identify the motivations behind the Bay Area becoming a hotbed of Pacific Islander culture.
    The exhibit is designed to run in conjunction with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), which runs from Sep. 9 to Dec. 31 at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library.


    Pacific Worlds
    is on view at the OMCA until January 3rd, 2016.
    1000 Oak St, Oakland
    More info available at: 
    museumca.org
    ($15.95 general admission)

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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