Blessing held for launch of UH Hilo Mele Mural; paint parties scheduled March 16 & 17

Mele Murals is a statewide youth project where communities are creating a series of large-scale outdoor murals focusing on Hawaiian cultural and historical heritage.

By Susan Enright.

Group gathers facing wall that will hold the mural.
Students and staff stand during the blessing of the UH Hilo Mele Mural, a project to take place on a wall at Hale Kauanoe residence hall (at right). Courtesy photo.
Estria and Kekoa stand talking at blessing ceremony.
(l-r) Estria Miyashiro of the Estria Foundation gestures while talking with Kekoa Harmon, who performed the blessing ceremony. Courtesy photo.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo held a blessing today for the launch of the UH Hilo Mele Murals project.

Mele Murals is a five-year, statewide youth project that started in late 2013, where local artists, youth, and other members of communities spanning the eight major islands of Hawaiʻi are creating a series of large-scale outdoor murals focusing on Hawaiian lyrics and mele (song) that explore moʻolelo ʻaina (stories of place) and cultural and historical heritage.

A goal of the project is to create an all-islands public art project that is artistically excellent and deeply connected to the history of Hawai‘i, as well as a source of pride.

Mele Murals is a project of the Estria Foundation, a non-profit organization working internationally to create social change through the creation of art. Estria Miyashiro, creative director, has been spray painting for over 30 years, and in the world of graffiti art, is recognized as an urban art living legend. Through his work, he is known as a valued historian, and also a community leader who is helping to awaken the social and political consciousness of graffiti writing art. He is here in Hilo to help oversee the creation of the UH Hilo Mele Mural.

Gail Makuakāne-Lundin
Gail Makuakāne-Lundin

“UH Hilo is extremely fortunate to be part of a movement that has already inspired thousands of youth across our state,” says Gail Makuakāne-Lundin, interim vice chancellor for students affairs. “The Estria Foundation and Mele Murals project provides an opportunity for our students from varying experiences and backgrounds to collective bring their ideas, talents and energies into focus by creating a piece of art that has personal meaning to each of them and will be part of their legacy here at UH Hilo.”

The Mele Murals model engages cultural advisors and students to honor the cultural heritage of place through art education and ‘āina-based (land-based) learning. Through Mele Murals, the Estria Foundation hopes to:

  • Develop arts-interested youth into visual storytellers
  • Preserve Hawaiian values
  • Increase cross-generation and cross-island engagement for all to learn
  • Share the mele and stories that highlight important artistic, cultural, and historical themes with a global audience.

UH Hilo’s mural will be done on the back walls of Hale Kauanoe residence hall facing Hale Kēhau dining room.

To complete the task, the Estria Foundation is partnering with the Office of the Chancellor, the Hoʻokahua Project (applied learning), Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center, University Housing, and Hale Kanilehua Living Learning Community. This type of partnership at UH Hilo is the first of its kind.

In addition to students and staff from the above groups, the core hui (group) that will be involved in developing the concepts and design also includes:

More student groups from on-campus and off-campus will be involved in the paint party days.

Today’s blessing and dedication was done by Kekoa Harman, assistant professor of Hawaiian studies and Hawaiian language at Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language.

Schedule of painting events

The UH Hilo Mele Mural project kicked off March 9 with the first of a series of workshops with a core group of students and will conclude with the mural unveiling on March 19.

Campus Paint Parties are scheduled Monday, March 16, and Tuesday, March 17, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at UH Hilo Hale Kauanoe Residence Hall. Paint supplies will be provided for those who attend.

For more information, contact Hoʻoleina Ioane.




About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.