“Words in the World: Literatures, Oratures, and New Meeting Grounds” was held at UHM on 7–9 February and featured Albert Wendt, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Pualani Kanakaʻole Kanahele, Kimo Keaulana, Hosam Aboul-Ela, Francesca Orsini, and Chantal Spitz. The symposium bought together literary critics, performance artists, and cultural practitioners to discuss the situations of literatures and oratures, both in relation to the earth and to each other. Throughout the program, the presenters endeavored to trace the movements within literary, cultural, and performance circles to reconceptualize the field of “world literature.” Working from a location in Hawaiʻi and Oceania, the symposium pursued an alternative vision of “words in the world” that foregrounds perspectives and cultural forms from around the world that the field of “world literature” previously peripheralized. Visiting scholars and UH faculty members and students discussed need for the literatures and oratures of the world to engage indigenous aesthetics and ethical traditions of speaking from and for particular places, while developing lines of connection and affiliation among disparate communities of writers and scholars.
Portraits of Al (2008), a film by filmmaker Anne Keala Kelly, was shown on 5 February in a pre-conference event. Portraits of Al pays tribute to Wendt and the impact of the artwork he began painting during his tenure teaching poetry as UH Mānoa’s Citizens Chair of English from 2004 to 2008. In the film, Kelly interviews those inspired by his work and paintings. Vilsoni Hereniko’s Drua: The Wave of Fire (2012) was presented on the first evening of the symposium and was followed by a discussion of the film, which was produced while Dr Hereniko was director of the Oceania Center for Arts, Culture, and Pacific Studies at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji.