Kaili Chun / Kanaka Ōiwi / Hawai’i b.1962 / Uwē ka lani, Ola ka honua (When the heavens weep, the earth lives) (detail, APT10 installation view) 2021 / Site-specific installation with stainless steel, plexiglass, water, digital interactive and four-channel soundscape (looped) / Dimensions variable / Commissioned for APT10 / Courtesy: The artist and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants / Proposed for the QAGOMA Collection / © Kaili Chun / Photograph: QAGOMA

Kaili Chun
Uwē ka lani, Ola ka honua (When the heavens weep, the earth lives) 2021

Not Currently on Display

Uwē ka lani, Ola ka honua (When the heavens weep, the earth lives) comprises more than 400 stainless-steel cables that imagine rain as it appears when caught by sunlight slanting through the environment. ‘Uwē ka lani, Ola ka honua’ is an Ōlelo No’eau (Hawaiian proverb), which recognises the interconnectedness between all living things. Chun explains:

Rain was always seen as a blessing from na Akua (gods). When rain falls, the rivers and streams are full of fresh drinkable water, the lo’i (taro patches) and various plots of food sources are full and thriving. When the earth is healthy, we too are healthy. This is our traditional belief: that water is not simply water, but that it is sacred. It is the water of life, ka wai a Kâne, and we are connected to it — body and soul.1

Physically connecting the heavens to the earth, each strand of Chun’s installation holds within it a drop-like capsule of water collected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants from around Australia. The work represents the vast diversity of environments that exist across Australia — from those with abundant expanses of fresh and salt water, to lands where water is scarce — as well as the participants’ understandings of self and place. The sharing of traditional names and words about water enables audiences to also develop greater understandings of the deep scientific knowledge that these participants have of these resources and environments.


1 Kaili Chun, artist’s statement, November 2020.

Kaili Chun is a Kanaka Ōiwi artist who lives in the Hawaiian city of Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, the place of her ancestors. Chun is close to her Hawaiian family and holds great respect for the knowledge and values she has inherited, including a strong sense of love and responsibility towards the environment in which she lives.

Honolulu’s natural beauty has been heavily impacted by urban development, agriculture, aquaculture, militarism and tourism. Chun’s artistic practice responds to this through sculpture and large-scale installations that are often site-specific and involve community in creative dialogues around the significance of healthy land and waters, and how we may live with a greater awareness of our relationship to these vital sources of life.