An Interview with Ikaika Hussey, publisher of Summit Magazine

I met with Ikaika Hussey over some (locally brewed) beers and asked him about his vision for his two projects, The Hawai’i Independent and Summit, a new lifestyle magazine based on the concept of “the modern island,” or Hawai’i as a global place. Below is part one, which focuses on Summit. In part two, we discuss the longer-running news site The Hawai’i Independent.

Ikaika is a native of Kaneohe, O’ahu, a graduate of ‘Iolani School and has a master’s in Political Science from UH Manoa. He was a delegate to the first Hawaiian sovereignty constitutional convention, from 1999-2001, and is a co-founder of MANA – Movement for Aloha no ka ‘Aina. He was noted as one of the  “Ten who made a difference” by the Honolulu Advertiser after his involvement in the occupation of UH’s Bachman Hall to protest the UARC.

Umi Perkins: What is your vision for Summit?

Ikaika Hussey: I’d like for Summit to become Hawai’i’s global magazine, and in the process, I’d to change people’s expectations of Hawai’i. People in Hawai’i and abroad have pretty low expectations for what Hawai’i can produce and the ideas that we can create and I’d like to elevate those expectations, and in the process, rebrand Hawai’i.

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Cover image from Summit, issue 1

UP: What would be that new brand?

IH: Well, first I’d like to reconnect us with our own history. Most people have no idea about the Hawai’i before, you know, 1959 or whenever they landed here…

UP: 2007?

IH: [laughs] So I’d like to reconnect us to where we’ve come from and to show that there’s more to our home than palm trees and skimpy swimwear and maitais.

UP: And what is the role of capital and business?

IH: The role of capital … you know we have a serious problem. We’re a mono crop economy, essentially, with tourism as our only real product. Capital should be focused on broadening the range of products – local, endogenous production. We need more products that we can export.

UP: Any ideas?

IH: There’s a lot of things that are hopeful: fashion, designer goods, furniture.

UP: Like the furniture they borrowed for The Descendents?

IH: What happened with that?

UP: They borrowed the furniture from a Hawaiian family and put it on the movie, so it had a global audience.

IH: Oh really?

UP: It was like the furniture in my grandma’s house, or Honolulu Furniture Company … 50s… So what about the intellectual culture? What is Summit’s role?

IH: I think of Summit as a cultural product. It’s an artifact of Hawai’i’s future, and hopefully in that future intellectualism is celebrated as it was in our own past.

UP: So I really like the blend in Summit of high fashion and serious journalism and local versus global. What is your view of that blend?

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Photo shoot from Summit issue 1

IH: I think that’s sort of Hawai’i’s blend {laughs],  you know? We have this amazing, rich culture and history and yet we’re part of a global fabric. And the way that we fit in to that global fabric … our role is to showcase the things that are unique about our community, our culture, and at the same time incorporating modernity and ideas into our own DNA. I think that’s something we’ve been doing for a long time. Culture is always a synthesis of influences.

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Ikaika Hussey

The key thing is that we keep our own sense of self at the core, never forgetting who we are, and also not allowing soporific gestures toward paradise to substitute for actual culture, actual history, which is the danger with a lot of cultural production in Hawai’i [and also] industrial production. A lot of it is put on. It’s not real.

UP: That’s a nice turn of phrase. I’m hoping to surpass in this interview the OHA interview of you where they end with you taking a phone call from a reporter [laughs].

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