Murals more than ‘paint on a wall’

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Dr. Addison Bulosan of the Rice Street Association, second from left, interrupts the workflow of Mo‘olelo Murals artists Bethany Coma, Holly Ka‘iakapu and Bree Blake, front to back, after dropping some paint on the cover cloth during the application of prime coat on the construction wall of the former Kaua‘i Realty building on Kress Street in Lihu‘e Thursday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    From left, Mo‘olelo Murals artists Bethany Coma, Bree Blake and Holly Ka‘iakapu start work on prime coating the construction wall on the former Kaua‘i Realty building on Kress Street in Lihu‘e Thursday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Mo‘olelo Murals artist Bethany Coma works with muralist Trysen Kaneshige on a “Stop Asian Hate” piece during last Saturday’s rally hosted by the YWCA of Kaua‘i on the lawn of the Historic County Building on Rice Street in Lihu‘e.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Mo‘olelo Murals artist Bethany Coma and muralist Trysen Kaneshige work on a “Stop Asian Hate” piece during last Saturday’s rally hosted by the YWCA of Kaua‘i on the lawn of the Historic County Building on Rice Street in Lihu‘e. The completed mural now stands outside the YWCA of Kaua‘i building on Hardy Street in Lihu‘e.

LIHU‘E — “It’s beautiful,” said Oscar Hernandez, who took advantage of the afternoon shade to wash his car on Kress Street. “This is real nice.”

Hernandez was referring to the Prince Kuhio portrait with profound words that graced one of the walls on Kress Street in front of where he was washing his vehicle, just steps away from where a group of mural artists worked, wielding long-handled paint rollers to cover the raw construction panels concealing work being done inside the former Kaua‘i Realty building.

“We’re going to have to come back,” said Bethany Coma, one of the Mo‘olelo Murals artists. “This is going to be a three-part piece, with each of the artists putting their rendition on a storefront.”

The group includes Holly Ka‘iakapu, the Mo‘olelo Murals lead artist and associate director of Kamawaelula‘ani Corp., Coma and Bree Blake, who doubles as a server at Keoki’s Paradise when not painting.

Finding roots through the county’s Rise to Work program last year, the goal of Mo‘olelo Murals is to have a mural in every town on the island. The murals are true to the group’s mission of translating the ancient and pre-contact mo‘olelo, or stories, of the specific places into visual art as murals.

Previous to the group descending on Kress Street, the artists under Ka‘iakapu’s supervision launched their first set of Mo‘olelo Murals at the Salt Pond Beach Park main pavilion with the depiction of Hi‘iaka. A similar project under a different group decorated the bathrooms at ‘Anini Beach Park.

“Mo‘olelo Murals is more than putting paint on a wall,” said Nikki Cristobal, director of Kamawaelula‘ani Corp. “It is about education the general public about our place-based and culturally-specific mo‘olelo, and making this knowledge accessible to the community by literally putting this information in front of the public’s faces.”

“The group is part of a larger archival project involving extensive research and documentation of not only the past mo‘olelo, but the mo‘olelo we are currently creating in the present day to pass on to our future generations,” Cristobal said. “The project involves hula halau, cultural practitioners and kupuna who help weave an accurate mo‘olelo, and help create and document through oli, mele and hula around the mo‘olelo we are creating murals for.”

Track the progress of the mural group that meets on Fridays starting at 3 p.m. through social media and kamawaelualani.org.

Mo‘olelo Murals plans for upcoming murals at Kalena Park for Earth Day, and a future series of plantation-history murals lining Rice Street in Lihu‘e.

The group will be hosting its first fundraiser with a Paint Night with the Mo‘olelo Murals Wahine Monday, April 19, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Harbor Mall shopping center in Nawiliwili.

Tickets and more information are available at eventbrite.com/e/harbor-mall-paint-night-tickets-14789676445.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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