ANAHOLA— Around 100 people gasped in pleasant surprise at Kanuikapono Public Charter School in Anahola.
The collective sound came after the group watched the school’s students unveil colorful Hawaiian murals they created to artistically represent new beginnings and love for the land.
“The mural is like a landmark for the community now and so it’s important to celebrate things like that, little successes,” head mural painter and creator of the Estria Foundation, Estria Miyashiro, said. “Also, there aren’t many opportunities or spaces or even permanent art works. There aren’t enough, I think, that celebrate and honor and preserve our stories.”
The celebration began with elementary students from the school’s hula club performing a song for the community followed by a welcoming provided by students Destiny Park-Adric and Sereniti Williams before the murals were unveiled.
Having worked on the murals for over two weeks with Miyashiro and painter Mike Tyao, the elementary, middle and high school students were happy to showcase their work on Friday.
Flowing red lava, a giant tree with a man and woman’s face in its bark and a white waterfall flowing over the hands of two people holding a taro plant graced the wall.
“We teach the students to ground, meditate and so through that practice they get clues of what to paint,” Miyashiro said. “We like to think it comes from our ancestors or God. So, once we stop meditating, we talk and we think about ‘what did you get?’ What do you have?’ And they start finding that a lot of people got some of the same messages and we have to figure out how to turn that into an image.”
The inspiration for the first mural also came from the sacred places the students discovered in their own backyard.
“I don’t know how to explain it, it was exciting getting to see our work and it being the first Mele Murals on the island is a good feeling,” said 10th grader Anuhea Spencer.
Having named their mural “O ka Mihi ka Laau Mua a he Piko Hou” meaning “new beginnings start with forgiveness,” students like Spencer gathered before their creation and explained what each painting represented to the audience such as how the lava flowing into the ocean represents a new beginning and how the image of the man and woman represents coming together and exchanging breath or forming a connection.
It’s the student representation of the past, present and future of their island.
“My favorite part was probably doing the spray painting,” Spencer said. “It was kind of hard, it took me a lot of tries but hopefully at the end it looked nice.”
The second mural is called “Aloha Aina” meaning to “love the land.” The second mural showcased a rainbow flowing over a mountain, two hands reaching up from the earth and sky grasping each other and the pollution affecting the land by modern day devices all within the words Aloha Aina.
“I felt it was a once in a lifetime thing because not too much people get to do this stuff,” said eighth grader Lokelani Mahuiki. “Once they (community members) see it, they’ll see it’s like the inspiration of something and maybe they’ll be inspired to do something better and help the community.”
The students also presented a third mural they had created earlier to audience members which was dedicated to Prince Humehume, Princess Kaiulani and Prince Kuhio whose face was placed in the painting of a sun.
Many Anahola residents were pleased with the murals’ presentation including Erica Taniguchi whose second-grade son participated in the mural.
“I think it’s really powerful and I think its the most effective way to create change by going directly to the school, to the children at a young age and connecting them to the place that’s around them,” she said about the mural. “It’s much more effective than trying to educate adults.”
The students worked with the project Mele Murals, which is under the Estria Foundation. The mural was also created through paint donation from Sherman Williams in Kapaa and the company Montana Cans.
“These murals benefit the community in really amazing ways,” Miyashiro said. “For one thing, you see students transform. Often a lot of the schools don’t have arts education. So for the ones who are like checking out of math or science or things like that. Art as a way to communicate, it validates them and empowers them.”