• Ngaio Simmons

Waiwai - Environmental Justice Camp Day #1

On the first day, we started with a social distanced welcoming circle. We introduced ourselves with our names, pronouns, favorite piece of media we have at the moment. After this, we all collectively decided on the rules we have for interacting with each other while within the space and how we can ensure our relationships with each other are as respectful as possible.


We then had Lauren Ballesteros-Watanabe from Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi give us a presentation for the next half hour or so on the important difference between racist Euro-Western environmentalism versus environmental actions based in Indigenous and decolonial knowledge and ways of relating to the earth, as well as how climate change, fossil fuels, redlining, and the great sickness that is capitalism effects Indigenous peoples and communities of colors here in Hawai’i specifically.

We discussed the intense but necessary journey from a capitalist mindset focused on individualism and extraction to the desired outcome of collective liberation through decolonization.


In between were breaks in which participants got to know the space and each other. We had a brainstorming exercise and presentation by Vera on what a production team is comprised of and the different roles that people typically hold on a film crew.


We then had camera tutorials with the film mentors. The mentors walked the participants through the basics of camera operation and equipped everyone with the knowledge needed regardless of the ultimate role they will hold.

Afterwards, we had Lala Nuss from Conscious Concepts give us a breakdown on the the specific ways people engage in environmental justice initiatives in a Ka Pae ‘Āina context. We spoke about aloha ‘āina and the people and places that embody that in Hawai’i.

Lala reminded us of this ʻōlelo term during our first session for the Environmental Justice Reel Camp. Waiwai can be translated into English as wealth but Lala was quick to clarify that it was wealth we acquire through and for generative/redistributive means, as opposed to the extractive/selfish forms that were used to.


Waiwai stuck with me from the moment I heard it during the session. While it was a little later in the session and we only had a few minutes left before wrapping up for the day, I think it described perfectly what we are attempting to do in this space. We are learning about deep rooted issues on a global and intensely local scale. Issues that affect all of us but perhaps not all in the same way. And those of us sitting in the room with the means to tell these stories and highlight these issues have a responsibility to.


At the end, we concluded with one word on how we felt about the day, with “inspiring/inspired” being the most prevalent one.


And so the questions we have before us from this first session and certainly as we carry on through the week are: How do we take what we’ve gained as artists, knowledge seekers, fellow architects in this decolonial world building, and share it with our communities? What will these films contribute to larger conversations? Movements? What will become the waiwai that we share?


See all pictures from day #1 here.