This site features a curated list of selected works by Hawaii-born and raised New Media Artist, Jen Goya, and examples of student work.

Sakada

Jennifer Goya
Sakada, 2009
High Definition Video, Performance
1 minute, 52 seconds

In Ronald Takai’s book Pau Hana:  Plantation Life and Labor in Hawaii, he explains how essential “plantation paternalism” was in the success of a plantation:

The paternalism of plantation mangers, while it sometimes sprang from a sincere concern for their workers, played an important role in plantation production and profit making.  Managers took an “intelligent interest” in their laborers in order to secure more work from them and increase production.  Seeking to maximize production, plantation managers regulated many personal areas of their workers’ lives, including their eating habits. Plantation paternalism was designed to extract a good day’s work from the laborers but also to weaken the power of workers to organize and strike (Takaki 64).

Ronald Takai, page 64

The loss of self in relation to the product becoming more important than the self, lead to a desire for some type of recognition, a desire for acknowledgment, and the attention that was given to workers at that time feed an empty hole that needed to be filled.  These people were seeking acknowledgment that was taken away from them.  This construct allows their vulnerability to be abused by this faux genuine-ness of there paternal bosses.

Sakada shows the artist impersonating Venicia Guilala who worked for Dole Plantation for 20 years. She was a college-educated teacher in the Philipines who came to Hawaii with her husband. Venicia’s voice narrates this performace of a pineapple plantation worker preparing for work.

The second scene in the film shows the worker struggling to de-crown a pineapple.  Once the worker is successful, she chops the fruit into chunks and places it in a bowl.  She then takes the bowl filled with pineapple and tilts the bowl forward to the camera. 

The viewer witnesses the physical “armor” the worker must wear for work, which contradicts this idea of protection being provided by their boss who had ulterior motives.  The worker is covered entirely made “invisible” for her “own protection,” the protection is for the product rather than the person.  When plantation owners realized how much control they had over their workers personal lives by pretending to care, they exploited it even more so by breaking up the plantation workers into groups, so that they couldn’t even have an identity as a group of laborers, in which to allow them to unite and organize if they desired. 

The impersonation of Venicia becomes a vital performance that replaces the real to provoke an extended “real” truth that examines the role of the worker.  The video culminates by clarifying the role of the viewer, the last scene where the worker tilts the bowl of pineapples forward to the camera, the viewer finally takes on the role of the consumer as the worker addresses them directly by this act of servitude.