Photography exhibit connects youth, kupuna over Wahiawa’s rich history

It’s been said that photographs capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.

A new exhibit provides a unique snapshot of Hawaii’s history through the eyes of kupuna and keiki from Wahiawa.

Dec. 7, 1941 is a day Alfred Tagudin will never forget. The 82-year-old shared his memory in a new exhibit created by Project Focus Hawaii, a non-profit organization that provides photography internships for Hawaii youth and seniors.

“All of a sudden, he saw very low-flying aircraft and they went out there and it was Japanese bombers and he said, ‘You know what, if I had one slingshot, I could have hit him,'” said Laurie Callies with Project Focus Hawaii. “‘He was sitting there, grinning at me with his goggles on, and I could see the fur around his collar,’ and he said all of a sudden, the ground started just exploding.”

This year, Project Focus Hawaii partnered with the Wahiawa Community Based Development Organization to a create an exhibit featuring 24 Wahiawa kupuna.

“It was a perfect place to start in Wahiawa because it’s a very rich history there, both culturally and economically,” Callies said. “Even though it was a very difficult time then, it was very important for the economy here in Hawaii.”

Each kupuna shared their story with a student from Leilehua High School, Wahiawa Middle School, Island Pacific Academy, and George Washington University, and many of those stories centered around the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

“I remember one, Dr. Chun saying to me, ‘All of a sudden there was a bullet that went through my brother’s car,'” Callies said. “When you sit down and you talk to someone who was actually there, it brings in a whole different perspective.”

The exhibit is called Crossing Bridges, a project that brought together two generations of Wahiawa residents.

“They’re used to 9/11. They’re used to hearing those stories and to hear how close this was to their world and their community,” Callies said. “I think it really opened their eyes.”

The exhibit makes its debut at a private reception on Saturday, Dec. 10, at Wahiawa Hongwanji Church. It will open to the public at Leilehua High School’s library from Dec. 12-20.

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