It is always nighttime in the Metaverse

Nakili (2021)
Qianqian YeTiare Ribeaux

How does making avatars affect your sense of identity?

“Whose digital body is shown and erased as race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability are algorithmically embedded? I am intrigued by how we create and interact with digital bodies, and how this shapes our own identity. The digital and virtual body is a portal, a process, and a path to the past, the present, and the future. I create digital avatars to reconnect with ancestors, to share personal experiences, to imagine speculative myths. Through digital avatars, I hope to introduce non-western/white narratives challenging the power dynamic in the social and political systems. Perhaps the digital avatars are more ‘me’ than me.”

Access Nakili AR on Instagram

“Nakili” is a collaborative Augmented Reality sculpture co-created by Qianqian Ye and Tiare Ribeaux. Nakili draws inspiration from the living deity Hina 'opuhala ko'a, goddess of corals and spiny creatures in the ocean. One of the many forms of the goddess Hina, (“Hina of the Coral Stomach”), a shell from her reef was fashioned by Maui, which he used to draw together the Hawaiian Islands. On Nakili’s body are many coral forms found near the shores of the Hawaiian islands of which support vast amounts of marine life, but are at risk and facing bleaching due to ocean temperature rise, global warming, and the toxins found in many sunscreens worn by visitors to the islands. Nakili positions the corals above water, merging it with a human-like figure, to remind us of our interconnection to it and to all living creatures in the ocean, of which the Kanaka Maoli are descended from (according to the Kumulipo creation chant).

Nakili is part of a larger series of augmented reality installations called “Kai-Hai” - utilizing transpacific stories, oral histories and folklore from Hawai’i throughout Polynesia to East Asia - to explore environmental issues, Kanaka Maoli and other indigenous narratives, migratory paths, immigrant narratives and diaspora across the ocean.  Kai-Hai is a collaboration between Kānaka Maoli artist and filmmaker Tiare Ribeaux (from Honolulu based in the Bay Area) and Chinese artist and technologist Qianqian Ye (from Wenzhou based in LA). Mapping the ocean surface between Wenzhou, Honolulu, the Bay Area, and Los Angeles, this project remixes the ancestral, personal, and speculative stories about the Pacific Ocean.

Nakili means: to glimmer through, as light through a small opening; to begin to open, as eyes of a young animal; to twinkle. (via Nā Puke Wehewehe - ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi)