Painting parties held for UH Hilo Mele Mural

Children from E Makaala Elementary School, high school students from Laupāhoehoe Community Public Charter School, and students from UH Hilo’s pharmacy program all took their turns adding to the mural today.

By Kara Nelson.

Group of painters stand in front of the mural. Mural shows images of volcano, forest birds, graphic of Maunakea, covering end wall of residence hall. IN the background are students working on the mural.
(l-r) Ulu Ornellas, Estria Miyashiro, Jesse “Dak.1ne” Velasquez, Kaua Mitchell, Beethoven Sausal. Photos by Kara Nelson.

Yesterday and today, painting parties have been held at the University of Hawaii at Hilo for the Mele Mural Project, which will be unveiled on Thursday, Mar. 19 at 4:00 p.m. Last week, students developed a design concept.

Mele Murals is a five-year, statewide youth project of the Estria Foundation 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 exploremoʻolelo ʻaina (stories of place) and cultural and historical heritage.  Estria Miyashiro, creative director at the Estria Foundation, is here in Hilo to help oversee the creation of the UH Hilo Mele Mural.

A crane holds a bucket aloft for painter to reach the top of the wall. At right is a group of pharmacy students receiving instruction on their task.
At right, UH Hilo pre-pharmacy students get instructions before beginning work on the mural. Meanwhile, artists, high school volunteers, and core hui members work on the mural. Click to enlarge.

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

Earlier today, children from E Makaala Elementary School added to the mele mural. Next, a group of high school students from Laupāhoehoe Community Public Charter School were painting. Later in the day, students from UH Hilo’s pharmacy program took their turn.

Two members of the core hui (group) involved in the UH Hilo Mele Mural Project — UH Hilo students from Hale Kanilehua Living-Learning Community — expressed their feelings about the project.

Originally from Kona-side of the island, Kaua Mitchell, a sophmore in pre-nursing, says, “It’s empowering and meaningful. As the core hui, it touches us and hits our na‘au (the gut or the mind/heart). And then I think that also explains the word ‘core’ as like the middle, because — I don’t know — just something so meaningful and powerful, also because it depicts everything from mauka to makai (mountain to ocean) that describes Hilo and where we’re from and currently residing.”

Ulu Ornellas holds a brush in right hand, painting the mural at right with a blue color.
Ulu Ornellas paints a section of the mural. Click to enlarge.

Ulu Ornellas, a junior majoring in Hawaiian Studies and agriculture, says they went to Puuhuluhulu, King’s Landing, Waiuli, and Moku Ola (Coconut Island) for inspiration. “We learned about different places of Hilo and different stories of Hilo so that we could create our own image of what Hilo is to us, so it’s definitely working as a community — definitely not a one-man job.”

Jesse “DAK.1NE” Velasquez, who was born and raised on O‘ahu, is one of the artists that came with the Estria Foundation. A 21-year-old full-time artist, he says he and artist Beethoven Sausal, also from O‘ahu, are working on the right side of the murals, especially the birds. “I think primarily why I’m here is I want to inspire everybody,” he says. He came to “give this thing life,” and has always been inspired by Hawaiian and Filipino culture. “I really take appreciation of the (Hawaiian) culture,” he says.

Ornellas says the core hui members, about 20 students, are trying to spread the word and show people what Hilo means to them.

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About the author and photographer of this story: Kara Nelson is a senior at UH Hilo double majoring in English and communication. She is an intern in the Office of the Chancellor and writer for UH Hilo Stories.