Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chamurai

This month or next I'll be finishing off an art project I've been working on for more than a year with my brother Jack and i nananfamagu'on-hu Jessica Chan. To be truthful, while I have been working on it for more than a year, the hardwork is actually being done by these artists, I'm doing more of the conceptualizing of it.

The project is titled The Untold Story of the Chamurai: How Chamorro and Samurai Warriors Fought off the Spanish in Guam in 1616. I will provide the description below for you to read to get a better idea of what I'm intending, and you should be interested after reading such a weird title. I received a Guam CAHA grant for this project and so the excerpt below is from my grant proposal.

The artwork will be displayed in an exhibit sometime this fall. I'm not sure where. I might have a small exhibit in a few months of the just the artwork, perhaps at I.P. Coffee or a similar place. Then later around December I might have a more serious show of the pieces with more emphasis on the conceptual nature of the show.

I'll be writing more about this in the coming weeks, this idea is something I've had for many years and I'm excited to see it finally take shape in some way!

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The Untold Story of the Chamurai: How Chamorro and Samurai Warriors Fought off the Spanish in Guam in 1616.

According to historian Michel Ralph Trouillot, “Any historical narrative is a bundle of silences.” Nowhere is this more true than in terms of Guam’s history, especially around the time when the Spanish colonization of Chamorros and the Mariana Islands first begins. We have known for centuries the Spanish side of the story, as they wrote letters and accounts, but the Chamorro side of that story is always tragically absent. Chamorros before the Spanish passed on history as oral history, now we’ve come to follow the more modern way, and so that Chamorro side of the story was forgotten and lost.

For years, so much of the feelings of inferiority, powerlessness and lack of recognition of the value of their own language and culture that Chamorros feel stems from this deafening silence with regards to their past. If after all, you believe that you had no control in your past, or have no past of your own, then you are one step away from believing that you have no future as well. During their colonization by the Spanish, Chamorros turned to legends and stories through which they would maintain their identity and histories, some of which we still pass on today. For this art project I would like to propose the creation of a new legend for Guam. I would combine creative arts with historical research and create a pseudo-museum exhibit which would feature “recently-discovered” historical materials which support that this legend truly happened.

This legend is of samurai warriors from Japan, who came to Guam during the years between the 147 year gap between when Ferdinand Magellan first stumbled upon Guam and when Pale’ San Vitores arrives and begins Guam’s colonization. The Japanese form an alliance with Chamorros in order to fight off the Spanish and prevent their eradication. This never-before-told story, like so many other tales of that era was lost when the Spanish came to power. Chamorros for centuries had no idea of this valiant tale of their victory in preventing the Spanish from colonizing their island in the early 17th century.

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