the hapa project

About

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The Hapa Project is a multiracial identity project created by artist Kip Fulbeck. The project embodies a range of mediums, including a published book, traveling photographic exhibition, satellite community presentations, and online communities

Fulbeck began the project in 2001, traveling the country photographing over 1200 volunteer subjects who self-identified as Hapa (defined for the project as mixed ethnic heritage with partial roots in Asian and/or Pacific Islander ancestry)

Each individual was photographed in a similar minimalist style (directly head-on, unclothed from the shoulders up, and without jewelry, glasses, excess make-up, or purposeful expression)

After being photographed, participants identified their ethnicites in their own words, then handwrote their response to the question “What are you?”

Over 1200 volunteer participants were photographed at dozens of shoots throughout California and Hawaii, as well as Illinois, New York, and Wisconsin

The Hapa Project was created to promote awareness and recognition of the millions of multiracial/multiethnic individuals of Asian/Pacific Islander descent; to give voice to multiracial people and previously ignored ethnic groups; to dispel myths of exoticism, hybrid vigor and racial homogeneity; to foster positive identity formation and self-image in multiracial children; and to encourage solidarity and empowerment within the multiracial/Hapa community

Fulbeck notes a main objective “… was to make the book I wish I owned when I was a kid. I never knew anyone else like me, going through things I went through, not fitting in, always having to choose sides … ”

“Identity is a personal process and I’m adamant that it should be a personal decision, not one made by a community, a government or others”

Fulbeck also states that despite its utilization of common racial classifications, The Hapa Project is fundamentally a project about identity rather than race: “It’s about identity using race as a starting point.”  He argues that race in itself is not biologically determined, but socially created:

“For the record, race is not a scientifically sound assumption. For example, there is no DNA difference between human beings. We are all African. Biologically, race does not exist. It is a social and cultural construct … ”

“The U.S. is a country with a long history of social genocide (Native Americans, African slavery, etc.) and this was all due to the seeming differences we attributed to race. Yes, it is very convenient to categorize people according to race. It is also extremely inaccurate”

The project has exhibited throughout the U.S. and abroad

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