The Kamehameha Schools Community Learning Center at Māʻili (CLC-M) has partnered with artists John “Prime” Hina and Haley Kailiehu to create murals on its walls with the help of more than 150 preschool keiki, ‘ōpio (youngsters), community members, partner organizations and staff.
The vibrant murals tell the story of the Waiʻanae coast, and provided learning and leadership opportunities for area haumāna intended to inspire their overall educational success through cultural connections to area land.
The mural project began with the idea of connecting community to place, providing cultural ‘ike (understanding) and creating a welcoming space for the community. The first mural by Hina involved students from Wai‘anae High School (via a partnership with Kalihi YMCA), and interns from KUPU and Kauhale Digital Media.
The youth participated in a huakaʻi (journey) to Keawaʻula where they were asked to meditate and let the environment inspire their thoughts. Each student also contributed ideas after hearing significant moʻolelo (stories) about each ahupuaʻa. The result is a profound piece that speaks to the moʻolelo of Waiʻanae.
“Bringing kids to explore the places where they are from in Waiʻanae, and to learn the moʻolelo of these places, provides a spark to create. Everyone is creative with the right inspiration,” said Hina, the founder of Urban 808 – a community collective focused on improving the quality of life in communities through art.
The foundation of Kailiehu’s works are mo‘olelo. That is what grounds them in place. For these particular pieces produced for the Wai‘anae community, Kailiehu pulled from her own experiences in Waiʻanae and spoke with key community members to formulate her approach.
“I think part of my kuleana as an artist is to use these opportunities to inspire the next generation to portray mo‘olelo from their specific ‘āina to create art and murals to honor, respect and ho‘omana,” said Kailiehu. I look forward to the day when there are hundreds of artists spread across the pae ‘āina creating art within their own communities.”
Angela Hoppe-Cruz and her three keiki all contributed to the painting process as a way to share aloha for the community and learning center. Her son Ethan, a student at Ka Waihona o Ka Naʻauao Public Charter School was there every day during Kailiehu’s mural creation process. He became an alakaʻi (leader) for preschool keiki and other community members who entered into the spaces.
“It truly left me speechless,” said Hoppe-Cruz. “I was amazed at how all these hands contributed to the fulfillment of a vision while inspiring hope.”
KS Waiʻanae Coast Regional Director Kalei Kailihiwa praised the kākou effort.
“We recognize that we need to work with others to uplift our people, our keiki,” she said. “Working with Prime and Haley to create community projects like this not only connects our Wai‘anae coast families and keiki to their wahi pana (sacred place) but also strengthens their cultural identity through art – and that is so valuable.”
Photos by Nick Smith.