The Hapa Project at UNC
Interview of Kip Fulbeck by Pacific Fusion TV
Intrigued by the premise of the exhibit, I was excited to meet Kip and see his work. I had the event on my calendar for over a month. The idea behind the project was something I could personally identify with, having grown up in this country with a mixed cultural and ethnic background. As I looked at each photograph on display and read each subject's response to the question, "What are you?", I could see myself in each person. Many of their experiences were my own. It was so refreshing and satisfying to see each face and read each person's response to that question.
The Hapa Project exhibit at UNC
Fulbeck did a wonderful presentation for his audience in Chapel Hill. He admitted that he did not do this project to "find his tribe" -- instead, he was opening himself up to the experience of meeting people and hearing their unique stories, stories that could alter his perception of the world. Even so, I would argue that there is still some level of preexisting camaraderie that exists between people who have gone through similar hardships with identity, particularly with the struggle of finding one's place in two or more cultures. I think Fulbeck explained it best when he said that when people of mixed backgrounds are asked to choose one category to describe their race on applications, they are essentially asked, "Who do you love more? Your mother or your father?" And if the option of "other" exists as a category, it seems unimportant and not even worth mentioning, let alone needing explanation.
Kip Fulbeck's presentation at UNC
Not only did Fulbeck discuss anecdotes of his time putting the Hapa Project together, but he also showed two short films and performed his own poetry, all of which were centered around the idea of hapa and how hapa cannot be fully defined by the category of "other." I was moved and impressed by the voice and recognition that Fulbeck had given to the hapa community, a community that everyone knows exists but never really discusses. (To see more of Fulbeck's work, go here.)
After his presentation, Fulbeck offered to meet and greet audience members in the lobby and sign copies of his books. How could we resist?
All the book signing excitement!
I left the event feeling a little prouder, having come so far from the days when I wished I was like "everyone else." I'm just happy being me.
"Identity is such a crucial affair that one shouldn't rush into it."
- David Quammen
- David Quammen