Aniani Ku: We are the future.


As a creative, healer, and social entrepreneur my art projects often involve facilitating groups of people seeking change through the creative process, and my solo work is usually inspired by social trends, important historical events, or ideas outside the mainstream. In this last year, I have also sought out opportunities that are specifically designed to disrupt the status quo; to shine a light on alternative futures from an indigenous perspective.

It has been very interesting to me that my focus on the future has only intensified despite being engaged to do art about a wide variety of topics. The more I have assessed the “why” of it all, I think it’s because I have deep roots in activism and conservation and have come to feel that the creative energy between art and social justice is unbalanced. I certainly love a great t-shirt that confronts status quo or a viral social media meme that speaks to ending #NoDPL and fighting for #Waterislife or calling out the oppression of indigenous peoples and local communities by out of control capitalism. However, there is already so much energy around fighting against “what we don’t want” that visions of “what is possible” just don’t get the amount of social air time required to take root more broadly.

For me, it’s not a choice between a utopian or dystopian future but rather about perspective and balance.

We need our hard-core, roots-radical emissaries who call out injustice and are willing to creatively champion a cause to the bitter end. However, my kūpuna (elders/ancestors) lived and worked with future generations in mind. As important as standing up to oppression is to catalyzing change and to giving people a sense of empowerment, we also need to use our agency to manifest positive, life-affirming  realties. We need to live and promote holistic, culturally-rooted models of community that are grown from an intent to increase what is pono (goodness, balanced, moral center) versus in reaction to what is hewa (error, fault, wicked).


As one contribution to address this inequity I created Anuani Kū: #Selfie3017, which is both a symbolic statement as well as a literal representation of an indigenous technology, I envision being created in the future. Aniani Kū means standing mirror and is my chosen term for a “selfie” …but not just any kind of selfie. The Aniani Kū images are intergenerational, intra-dimensional, spectral print-outs of a person’s spirit and genealogy up to 40 generations back. Each individual’s Aniani Kū is unique.

This minute long video provides a full view of #Selfie3017.

How would an Aniani Kū be produced?

I imagined that the actual Aniani Kū "machine" would be a portable capsule used while in contact with the earth, preferably within 5 miles of where the user was born. An individual would place their hand on a small scanner and a blood sample (like a pin prick) would be taken and mixed with ʻāina (soil) and kai or wai (salt or fresh water) from the area. This mixture would then be inserted into a special ink cartridge, mixed with pigments, and the tiled image would be produced from a special printer.

Each Aniani Kū would be unique to each individual but would contain a collection of common patterns and images that would be part of an ongoing research project to help understand intergenerational knowledge and spiritual connections to the past.

These are close ups of some of the patterns within #Selfie3017. Top to bottom, left to right: Tree-ring and snake, armor, hank (as in yarn), hua, eternal flame, and birth. Each of the patterns hold a specific meaning but these meanings change based on how they are presented and combined with other patterns.

As the technology would be emergent, how to accurately interpret the patterns would be part of an ongoing research initiative. Ongoing research would then document and inventory common patterns and imagery to assist in deciphering their meanings.

As my ancestors were deeply spiritual people and had a relationship with the supernatural world, I also think that people who made their Aniani Kū would likely report receiving information about their selfie in dreams. From this ability to receive information from other dimensions (or realms) this technology would be an additional tool to regain seemingly lost knowledge.


The underlying layers of meaning in my #Selfie3017 speak to the fact that the future is based on our actions in the present, and in this way is already known. The future is a culmination of decisions made over thousands of generations so the cliché is true––it starts at home. As I believe we are infused with intergenerational knowledge, be in conscious or unconscious, time is therefor, more of a construct to help us create and explain our reality to each other versus a point out ahead of us that has yet to be created. Our future’s form might be intangible or fluid to us but it is rooted in where we stand in this moment.

Literally, #Selfie3017 is a life sized Aniani Kū of me or the 3017 version of me.  Made from paper, pen and pencil, and mounted on a handmade board covered with chalkboard paint. The piece is meant to look like researchers are taking notes (thus the annotations along the right side) and working to understand the symbolism of the imagery and patterns in real time.


You might be asking, “What is the point of Aniani Kū? And could this technology actually be possible?” I don’t think the answers are important as they are not the right questions.

The heart of the matter circles back to the symbolic meanings behind #Selfie3017 itself. It all begins with each of us as individuals, whose decisions collectively steer our ship towards the horizon. My Aniani Kū is but one piece of art that in the end will be part of my entire inventory of creative expression. Thus, it is the intent with which I created it and the choices I make about all the work I create, and how I live my life, and live my purpose that matters.

The question I ask myself—the question I think we must each ask ourselves—is, “What is my kuleana to the past and the future?”

Kuleana is one’s burden and privilege to take on the work they were meant to do, as well as the work required by the generations that have come before. Kuleana can be employed in service to self, family, community or to humanity and the planet.  As I see many layers to my kuleana, my actions must at times be directed at helping myself or a smaller group. At other times, I must act based on what I know the future needs––what generations unborn need. 


My #Selfie3017 is but one expression of my kuleana, which is in part to give form to a future where indigenous knowledge is honored as a living prayer, and allowed to grow and to be of service to humanity without justification to those who do not understand it. My #Selfie3017 is also about my journey to deepen my connection to self and to my ancestors, and in doing so to inspire others to do the same.

If Aniani Kū were a real technology available to you today, what would you see in the mirror?

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Naiʻa Lewis