Art and Our Kaka‘ako are synonymous. Creativity and a deep appreciation for art and culture are in this neighborhood’s DNA. Take a stroll, and you’ll see amazing vibrant murals enlivening walls and surfaces everywhere you turn.
A majority of the diverse and colorful imagery comes from POW! WOW! Hawai‘i, an exciting, popular festival that draws talented local and global artists to the district to paint and refresh murals and celebrate these expressive publicly accessible works of art.
Usually held each February, the event was co-founded by artists Jasper Wong and Kamea Hadar in 2010. It has expanded into a global phenomenon that is more than just street art. Here in Honolulu, the festival invites the community to participate in workshops, lectures, exhibitions, demos, block parties and Q&As with artists. Today, POW! WOW! is made up of contemporary artists who are dedicated to community enrichment through art outreach and educational programs – engaging people in the creation and appreciation of art. The headquarters for POW! WOW! is Lana Lane Studios, a creative workspace and center for art instruction and learning in the heart of Kaka‘ako.
Other murals in this area are community projects and collaborations with nonprofits like 808 Urban or commissions by private parties and the City and County of Honolulu. As Kamehameha Schools’ Kaiāulu ‘O Kaka‘ako Master Plan (KKMP) progresses, we can expect more murals to enrich this special neighborhood.
Fancy a stroll?
Here are a few murals you can look out for during your next visit to Our Kaka‘ako. Remember, some of them may change during the next POW! WOW! Hawai‘i event so be sure to capture them when you can.
1. “Naupaka and Kaui” – SALT at Our Kaka‘ako
Co-lead director of POW! WOW! and local boy Kamea Hadar is famous for creating large-scale murals and paintings that capture the beauty of Hawai‘i through its people. His mural, “Naupaka,” located above the SALT at Our Kaka‘ako parking structure on the ma uka (mountain)-facing wall, brings to life the Hawaiian legend of the naupaka flower, which portrays an incredibly lifelike depiction of Naupaka – sister of the fire goddess Pele –and her lover, Kaui.
2. Hōkūle‘a “Mālama Honua” – The Flats at Pu‘unui
The Polynesian Voyaging Society and 808 Urban teamed up for this piece found at the courtyard of The Flats at Pu‘unui. The ground mural shares the importance of working together in the wa‘a (canoe) for a successful voyage and how that same principle applies to the way we live on the islands. In the vibrant and colorful mural, you can see silhouettes of ocean creatures, canoe plants, and the island that is also portrayed as the wa‘a.
3. “Aloha Monsters” – 690 Pohukaina Street
Designer and illustrator Kevin Lyons is known for his signature monster characters found all over the world – Milan, Paris, Tokyo, New York City and, of course, Honolulu. Keiki especially love seeing these playful orange, blue, yellow and red monsters running rampant over the huge 60-ft. long by 16-ft. high wall on Pohukaina.
4. “Pu‘uwai of ‘Ohana” – 729 Auahi Street
This imaginative mural shows this boy next to a fantastical dragon-like creature and his family nearby against a tropical background. The mo‘olelo (story): “Storekeeper” has a mind-bending book more than 20 years in the making about a local boy who is separated from his ‘ohana and must travel through time to reunite with them. The mural is a representation of just one part to this story.
5. “Hilo Honu” – Auahi Street
This giant honu (sea turtle) swimming in the ocean was created in POW! WOW! Hawai‘i 2020 by Hawai‘i Island artist Kai‘ili Kaulukukui. The mural looks beautiful from afar and up close, where we can see the intricate amount of detail in the shell, turtle’s eyes and the depths of blues and greens.
6. “Blue Tiger” – Corner of Cooke Street and Pohukaina
A blue tiger stalks the wall among jungle leaves and plants. We’re a fan of the bright stand-out colors of blues, greens, pink, white and black. Artist Kim Sielbeck is a household name in the design business and her colorful fun illustrations are found on packaging, clothing, magazines and murals across the world.
These are just a few of the murals in the Our Kaka‘ako neighborhood. There’s so much to explore: sharks, surfers, portraits, Gundams, Totoros, typography and worlds more. We invite you to take a look around and explore during your next visit!