The Artist behind Valentines To My Ancestors

Written by Wainani Paikai | Photos by Jared Perez | Poster by Lala Openi 

On a late Sunday morning, Bay-area native freelance pixel pusher Lala and I sip our much needed cold brews from Manifest and discuss subjects ranging from articulating cultural nuances to dope Chinese hip-hop groups (look up Higher Brothers-- you’ll thank me later). She states that since moving to Oahu in 2016 she has been able to tap into her Chinese heritage and begin to find clarity within her own identity.

I’m finding my body knows things, even if I don’t know the details.
— Lala Openi

As a freelance pixel pusher, which includes graphic design, motion graphics, film and photography, Lala uses her talents to pay the bills as well as create stunning passion projects such as Valentines to My Ancestors (V2MA), a submission-based qti/poc collection of messages-in-a-bottle (written and visual messages of love) to our ancestors, elders, roots, where we've come from. V2MA challenges people to rethink Valentines as an opportunity to have an internal connection with the past instead of a corny and superficial holiday.

V2MA was inspired by Lala wanting to write a letter to her grandfather who recently passed. It was a way for her to connect with her grandfather along with her other ancestors. Since sharing the idea, many of her peers were also interested in connecting with their ancestors. Some found writing the letter to be more difficult than expected and used her prompts to guide their personal grief and healing outside of the project. Lala originally wanted V2MA to be a zine-- a non-commercial publication, but was uncomfortable selling people’s personal letters so instead decided to show the collection at About the Goods’ First Friday. The event welcomes the community to join in the project and write letters to their ancestors. She clarified all those who are interested don’t need to submit their letter to the collection.

V2MA launch flyer-01small.JPG

With 2018 just beginning, I inquired about upcoming projects she’s most excited about. She is working to have a holding space at a local museum, a long time goal of hers, showcasing different narratives of identity. This holding space will also be a part of an upcoming film about differences between culture and heritage. After moving to Oahu she discovered that there are certain subtleties that were specific to the Bay area and that the “Bay” was her culture. It will be exciting to see how she works to refine the project throughout the year.

Along with these larger upcoming projects, Lala Openi, Jared Perez, Megan Kaleipumehana Cabral, Jasmine Gatlin, and Taryn Cunningham also known as The Contingency will be starting up their monthly event Kings, Queens, and INBTWNS again at Chinatown venue Manifest on February 22,2018. Creating a safe space for QTIPOC which stands for Queer, Trans, Intersex People of Color is important to her and The Contingency. They are also looking to the community to be a part of the discussion and share their own experiences to help and create a safe space outside of their monthly event.  For more information, follow the Contingency on Instagram @thecontingency or on Facebook @hicontingency.

About the Goods is excited to showcase Lala and her most recent project Valentines to My Ancestors. For more information on her upcoming projects, visit her instagram @openiiiiiiiii or website

Please join About the Goods and Lala at First Friday


Friday, February 2, 2018
6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

About The Goods
1145 Bethel Street
Honolulu, HI, 96813 United States

Wainani Pakai