Students from Hoʻoulu ʻŌpio Academy honor the past and embrace the future in this Mele Murals project in Heʻeia.
“We are painting a Mele Mural today in Heʻeia at the back of Boston Pizza, which faces Windward Mall by where Sports Authority used to be,” explains Estria Miyashiro, lead artist for Mele Murals. Miyashiro continues, “On this project we’re collaborating with students from Hoʻoulu ʻŌpio from Castle High School.”
Hoʻoulu ʻŌpio Academy Coordinator Donna Okita expands, “Hoʻoulu ʻŌpio Academy, our focus is on natural resources, where our students are going out into the community, we’re working on a farm that we have on campus, we’re trying to expose them to the culture component, a lot of hands-on teaching hands-on learning, and project based. We want to expose them to what is out in their own ahupuaʻa.”
“Several of the Mele Murals have been on school campuses,” says Miyashiro, “but our intention and our hope is that we paint off campus so that students can see how the public interacts with the art, they can get positive reinforcement from people walking by so this is a really good opportunity for them to experience those things.”
Miyashiro continues, “ we’ve gotten great support from the property owners, King Street Properties. They’ve made it really easy for us.”
“When he first told us about it, you know, I could not really relate to it,” reflects Rand Totoki, Property Manager at King Street Properties, “and then I was here one day, you know, and he showed like five 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper all taped to each other and he was basically telling the story. Very deep meaning.”
Miyashiro shares the story with Totoki, “There’s a story that long ago a tsunami came all the way up to the mountains and wiped out everything so, you know, a lot of the old stories, a lot of our old structures and things were gone and the lesson here is that after hardship, after crisis, you rebuild your foundation.”
“I think this mural especially is very much connected to this place and not only does it share some of the history but I think it also is really meant to be a message more for the students than for anybody else,” explains Miyashiro.
He continues, “It seems like a lot of the students from the Hoʻoulu ʻŌpio academy have struggled and gone through difficult things even at their young ages so I think that this message for them can strike a personal cord and they can reflect on it in their own time.”
“I guess what they’re trying to interpret from the story to others is that after a bad time or after a storm there’s always new life,” reflects Cheyenne Freitas, a student at Castle High School.
Another student, Kaheaonālani Lee, shares, “My experience with this has been, I felt so soothing and calming with this mural. Some days its been really rainy but we work through it and some days, like today, its been really hot, so its just all over the place but its just super fun.”
Totoki shares, “there were hardships, it rained, you know, some of the paint was washed off the wall. I think that was pretty devastating. But they picked up and they continued and you know, you see the end product.”
The student body offers an oli, or chant, to the mural on the morning of the unveiling celebration.
Tiare Agpaoa, Educational Coordinator for Mele Murals addresses the crowd in attendance at the unveiling, “So the mele is Kalamakū and the mural is Huliau. Huliau is here in the beginning of the mural so if you look at the mural it starts on this side and moves on that way. Huliau means to turn and look to the past so that we can move on into our future. And as we get to this side of the wall, by the ʻiwa you see Kalamakū, and kalamakū is the torch. And you see the ʻiwa, the colors that are in the ʻiwa, the red, the yellow, the orange, and below the tail of the ʻiwa you see blue. When you look at a flame, the hottest part of a flame is blue and as it moves up it gets to the reddish orange and then it moves up and it becomes yellow. That ʻiwa represents that torch, that light, that kalamakū that is all of you. You are the lamakū, you are the torch for the next generation to carry all of this forward. So we felt that this mele was very fitting for this wall in this time of change and transformation taking you to become the torches of this current generation, yeah, and when you look at our foundation, which is the triangles at the bottom of the wall each one of you are represented in our foundation.”
Lee addresses the crowd explaining, “This in the mountains is Kamehaʻikana, and her name means the multitude of generations and this is why the babies in the kalo, they are growing and they’re gonna be taking care of the land now like how we are now.”
“Something I’ve learned is how important teamwork is,” says Kamailelauliʻiliʻi Loretero, another Castle High student as she addresses the crowed. She continues, “Each one of us had a certain role and task in completing the mural. We had to follow leads from our kumus and also each other. Sometimes there were major obstacles and setbacks so we had to be resilient and didn’t give up.”
Student Lily Ann Pierides addresses the crowd with final remarks, “So thank you Uncle Joe, Estria, Aunty Mahea, Aunty Tiare, and Uncle Wayne, and Eucharis, for giving us all this opportunity to be a part of a community and make this mural for everybody and all the generations to see. Thank you.”
“Its more than just a painting on the wall,” reflects Totoki, “its uh, the community backed it up and I think its a good story.”
“We want them to be able to pass this on to their children, to their grandchildren saying that, you know, what this story or what this wall represents and we hope that this wall will be here you know in the next 20, 30 years so that they have the opportunity to share it and its something that they can be proud of and say that ‘I was a part of this, I was able to participate in this,’” explains Okita.
Lee reflects, “To me this mural’s story is telling me that there’s always gonna be some storm to come and ruin everything that you just made but all you gotta do is push back and fight harder.”