Kaleiʻokalani Matsui

Kaleiʻokalani Onzuka Matsui (she/her) is of Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian), Black, Japanese, and Chinese heritage and was born and raised in Wai`anae, O`ahu. Granddaughter of Blossom and Papa Bennie Brown and Sumie and Ralph Onzuka; and daughter of Jessie and Randal Onzuka. She resides now in Des Moines, WA with kona ipo a kona kāne, her husband, Kitman.

Kalei is the founding leader of Polynesian Dance Troupe Huraiti Mana based in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. While also Master Teaching Artist with Arts Corps and Families of Color Seattle (FŌCS), organizations providing multicultural arts and leadership programs in communities of color, Kalei was awarded the Jubilation Foundation Fellowship Award for helping young people feel fully alive through rhythm and dance.

She is currently the Director of Museum Services at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience and has also had her work exhibited in Visions of Pasifika Light from Another World, and Shining Through: Reflections of an Oceanic Future.

Kalei considers herself ha`api`i, a word of the Reo Mā’ohi or Tahitian language meaning both to teach and to learn. Practicing Indigenous reciprocity, Kalei continues teaching, thus learning and gaining tenfold from her students the knowledge of her people, her cultures, and her kuleana—her responsibility.

Lei Po`o, lei wili style

flowers, foliage, raffia

Lei Po`o, dried

flowers, foliage, raffia

Curator's Note

We chose Matsui’s work because of her strong commitment to the Pasifika community and organizing here in the Pacific Northwest — one of the overarching themes of DISplace. Through her work with the Huraiti Mana Polynesian dance troupe, lei-making, and her work as a whole, Matsui’s dedication to keeping culture alive through authenticity and resilience is prevalent in her handiwork, language teaching, and building of community relationships. Leaders like Matsui and others are important pillars in the Pasifika network as we navigate the challenges of being away from our homelands.

View Kalei’s Instagram Takeover.

Social Media Takeover: Kalei’okalani Matsui

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