On October 19, 2011 “Hawai‘i Loa Ku Like Kākou (Hawai‘i Kākou)” the Hawai‘i Convention Center’s first permanent native Hawaiian indigenous artwork was unveiled. The mural was created by the Hawai‘i Kākou Community Mural Project headed by Lead Artist Meleanna Meyer. She was joined by fellow kumu (teacher) artists Solomon Enos, Kahi Ching, Al Lagunero and Harinani Orme together with six alakai (leaders) and featured a team of 17 talented haumana (students), ages 12 to 19, that came from various public, private, charter and Hawaiian immersion schools.
Kumu Meleanna reveals that the idea for a community mural project started a few years back she and her fellow kumu and alakai mentored young artists in painting a mural for the Sheraton Waikīkī. They were also involved in creating various mural projects such as the “Kuakeahu” Mural at Camp Mokule’ia, the “Ho’ohuli” Mural at the Bishop Museum and the 250-ft long mural near Kalihi Waena Elementary along Kalihi Stream.
Located at the Level 1 Lobby of the Hawai‘i Convention Center, the 10’ x 64’ mural was made possible through funding from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Painting began on October 3rdand during a short opening ceremony guests were invited to put their fingerprints on to the mural to mark the starting point of this project. It symbolizes that each person is indigenous to a certain culture and that the imprints we leave behind are something we all have in common.
“New Old Wisdom”
Apart from mentoring young artists, the Hawai‘i Kākou Community Mural Project also serves as a venue to share the indigenous voice through art. As a visual response to the gathering of world economies in Hawai‘i, this mural serves as a reminder that lessons from Hawaii’s indigenous past are alive and relevant in helping to influence our future. It is a Hawaiian perspective on the economy rooted in indigenous values.
The theme of practicing “New Old Wisdoms” is a prominent message embedded into Hawai‘i Kākou. Symbols and icons representing various indigenous economies throughout Asia and the Pacific are included in the design. Among them, the ‘auamo (carrying stick) is symbolic of everyone’s shared responsibility of keeping the land and our resources in balance. Images of Po’e (people) working and being “pushed, pulled, woven and gathered by the land” reveals our direct relationship with the environment. Throughout the mural, the haumana added small dots and “fish” forms that move through the piece, representing “the currents, winds, veins, and arteries that weave elements together.”
Color choice is also indicative of the artwork’s message. Shades of amber, ocher, yellow and blue suggest “colors of hope and the urgency of fire.” Crimson is also visible and denotes the “internal bleeding” of people and the environment impacted by exploitation and imbalance.
Throughout the seven days that the Hawai‘i Kākou Community Mural team worked, many hands have touched the artwork and inspired the design. Sketches and drawings can be seen surrounding their work area providing guidance and inspiration as the group worked throughout the day and well into the night.
This made the mural dedication held on October 19th even more special because they were unveiling not just a great piece of indigenous artwork but a product of true collaboration. Friends and family of the haumana, alakai and the kumu were present to witness this occasion.
Maile Meyer, sister of artist Meleanna and one of the principal organizers of the mural project expressed gratitude towards everyone supporting the effort. The kumu also took the time to recognize and thank each of the alakai and haumana who participated in the mural as well as everyone who worked behind the scenes to make this community mural project possible.
The mural’s unveiling occurs just in time for the APEC Leaders Summit in November and is another way to showcase Hawai’i’s culture to the world leaders and future visitors of Hawai‘i and the Hawai‘i Convention Center. Beyond the art styles and skills involved in creating the mural, Hawai‘i Kākou is a strong medium that gives Hawaiian artists a chance to share the indigenous perspective of community economics – an economy that is based on sharing, relationships and aloha. Kumu Meleanna puts it more aptly, “Art is our visual currency. We trade in heartworks; we trade in spirit; we trade in aloha.”