A new Auahi Street mural brings a message of hope and unity to the Our Kaka‘ako community at the end of a challenging year.
This holiday season, Lana Lane Studios artist Kai’ili Kaulukukui has teamed up with the the City and County of Honolulu and SALT at Our Kaka‘ako to present the community with a 3,000 square foot street mural on Auahi Street between Coral Street and Keawe Street beside SALT at Our Kaka‘ako. The new ground artwork pays homage to the traditions and values that Kaka‘ako is built upon while encouraging people to come together and stay strong during this COVID-19 pandemic.
The mural’s title draws inspiration from the ‘ōlelo noʻeau “ʻAʻohe hana nui ke alu ʻia,” a Hawaiian proverb that means “No task is too big when done together by all.” The art depicts a scene of family harmony: a mother making a gorgeous plumeria lei together with her two keiki—a young son sits on her lap stringing white and yellow flowers together while her daughter helps by carrying in more lei flowers. More plumeria cascade dramatically across the ground.
The message is truly poignant at the end of a challenging year. Much like the ‘ohana painted on this Auahi mural, it is our sincere hope that the community will come together and unite as we emerge through COVID-19 together. No task, no challenge is too big for us to overcome if we all lend a hand.
The keiki in the mural also bring to mind the importance of passing down our Hawaiian traditions to the younger generation. Artist Kaulukukui mentions that during the conception photoshoot, the boy was full of energy and running around, but once he was sitting on his mother’s lap, he focused immediately on the task at hand. “It was a beautiful thing to see,” says Kaulukukui. “I wanted to get that feeling of him focused, sitting, and joining his family with his mother’s hands over his.”
A classically trained oil painter, Kaulukukui works out of Lana Lane Studios in Our Kaka‘ako and also has a private studio in Puna on Hawai‘i Island. Kaulukukui has painted all over the world and his artwork has been shown in Hawai‘i, California, Mexico, Canada, China, and New Zealand. While he’s painted many street murals in the past, this will be his first full ground mural. “When painting on concrete, you don’t have time to render it too much so the style will be very graphic, simple and straightforward,” says Kaulukukui. “We chose basic colors like white and yellow plumeria that everyone would recognize.”
The art installation began Christmas weekend and took approximately five days to complete. The process began with pressure washing, then drying, chalking and gridding out the painting. Kaulukukui and his team of fellow artists then started painting, filling in the colors throughout the days and, on the last day, checked to make sure the lines looked right and finished it off with his final touches.
On Wednesday, December 30th, the mural was blessed and dedicated at an official ceremony with representatives from the parties involved, including a surprise visit from former Mayor Kirk Caldwell. The representatives in attendance were: Dixie Diga, General Manager of Colliers International; Jon Nouchi, Acting Director, City and County of Honolulu Dept. of Transportation; Dreana Kalili, Deputy Director, City and County of Honolulu Dept. of Transportation; Kahu Kenneth Makuakāne; and of course, the mural artist Kai‘ili Kaulukukui and his manager Angéla Árvai.
During the opening remarks of the ceremony, Diga said, “For the past four years, I’ve been able to look up and appreciate the innovative arts of Kaka‘ako. Now, I can look to the ground and see this beautiful work. It represents the resilience of our community, sharing a positive message for all of Hawai‘i.”
Kahu Makuakāne said, “This artwork makes the intangible tangible – it transforms the abstract idea of coming together as a community into something visual and physical. When I look at this mural, we see the petals and how the flowers are strung together to be a lei. It represents us — we are the lei of Honolulu,” he said.
Whenever Kaulukukui paints in Kaka‘ako, he is reminded of the area’s rich history. Our Kaka‘ako was once a place of salt ponds of which pa‘akai (salt) was prized as a precious, natural resource. The area eventually developed into immigrant camps where “everybody knew where they had to be with their families, but they would visit other camps, share meals and stories. It was a mixing pot of different communities,” says Kaulukukui. Many people have been historically misrepresented in Kaka‘ako and Kaulukukui says that he feels art can help change that stereotype. “I remember in the ‘90s we wouldn’t even drive down Auahi Street because of that stereotype. Now, it’s changing,” he says. “Kaka‘ako became an arts community to bring people in, but the art is still there. That’s what’s so important: Kaka‘ako is keeping its soul and it’s really cool. I hope this mural brings people down here to enjoy the arts while also supporting the neighborhood’s local businesses.”