Using the writing prompt, I am From, as a starting point, Laʻaka says she wanted to embody the things that inspire her as a Native Hawaiian. She was delighted that the prompt didn’t focus on any specific place. Having lived in many different towns throughout O’ahu, Laʻakea never felt a sense of “home” in any particular area.
But in recent years, Laʻakea experienced a cultural awakening. She writes:
With the teachings of my kupuna, I was able to reconnect with my Hawaiian culture, using the land as a medium. Through loʻi farming I gained a sense of pride in the ʻike that I now possessed and the familial relationship that Hawaiians have with the land. I finally felt a sense of “home” in the things that I was doing.
So now when people ask me, “Where are you from?” I tell them, “I am from the ʻĀina,” from the place that was birthed through the love of Papa and Wakea, from the place where my ancestor grew into the first kalo plant; from the place that Kāne struck his ʻōʻō to create fresh springs; from the place that my kupuna lay; from the place that harvests life.
Credits: bio photo courtesy of Laʻakea Ai, post feature photo by Kahoʻolemana Naone