Hapa-palooza 2014 celebrates three giants of mixed-heritage

An artist, a scientist, and a poet: Hapa-palooza honours Kip Fulbeck, Ann Makosinski, and Fred Wah.

Fred Wah, Anne Makosinski, Kip Fulbeck
Fred Wah, Anne Makosinski, and Kip Fulbeck at the 2014 Hip Hapa Hooray Awards Reception. (Photos by Jordan Yerman)

"What am I? I'm what's on your spoon when you pull it out of the melting pot!!" So writes a subject in California-based artist Kip Fulbeck's photo series "part asian, 100% Hapa".

"The Hapa Project" just opened at the Nikkei National Museum, which also hosted Hapa-palooza's inaugural Hip Hapa Hooray awards. The evening honoured three key figures in North America's mixed-heritage community, who come from different generations and exceed in different disciplines.

Hapa-palooza co-founders Zarah Martz, Anna Ling Kaye, and Jeff Chiba Stearns presented awards to Fulbeck, inventor  Ann Makosinski and poet Fred Wah.

Zarah Martz, Anna Ling Kaye, Jeff Chiba Stearns
Zarah Martz, Anna Ling Kaye, and Jeff Chiba Stearns

Vancouver's own Buckman Coe provided the evening's music.

Buckman Coe
Buckman Coe

The identity of art (or the art of identity)

As a small child, Kip Fulbeck saw himself as white, at least until he started school. The other kids made it painfully clear that they saw him as Chinese.

Fulbeck told the crowd how his latest project blew up: he photographed 1,200 subjects instead of the 100 he had anticipated. He said that the number of volunteers varied depending on where he went, due to different levels of awareness surrounding mixed identity.

Kip Fulbeck, artist

Fulbeck mentioned a woman in Kansas who wrote to him insisting that he photograph her for the project, saying "You've never met anyone like me." Fulbeck then faced the awkward task of telling her that being part-black, part-Korean was not actually as rare as she thought: "To her, it's just, 'There's no-one else in the universe like me.'"

When he first started working on Hapa-centric projects in the Eighties, Fulbeck found that some subjects got angry at no longer "being the special one", finding out that they were not the only mixed-ethnicity people in town. As Fulbeck put it, "You're special, but you're not special in the way you thought you were."

In accepting the Community Builders Award, Fulbeck said, "I just happened to be the first one to do this stuff, and I'm really happy if some small things I did helped open doors for other people." He added that he creates the art he wish he could have seen as a kid: "I made 'Mixed Kids' because I had my son Jack. I wanted him to grow up in a world that was different [from mine], where he wouldn't go to school and get thrown in a trash can because he's Chinese."

(His tattoo portrait project, "Permanence", is the result of being sick of explaining what his tattoos mean.)

Tony Stark is a 16-year-old girl

Ann Makosinski won the 2013 Google Science Fair by inventing a body heat-powered flashlight. As she took the stage, those in the crowd quietly discussed all the things they weren't achieving when they themselves were sixteen.

Ann Makosinski, inventor
Anne Makosinski

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