UH Hilo College of Hawaiian Language contributes to Hilo mural project celebrating Hawaiian immersion schools

The Hilo mural is part of a 10-mural statewide project to invigorate Native Hawaiian language and culture while celebrating the 23 Hawaiian language immersion and charter schools.

Hilo is now home to the third installment of a statewide campaign to commemorate a landmark anniversary for Hawaiian language education. The project celebrates the 30th anniversary of Ka Papahana Kaiapuni (Hawaiian immersion schools in Hawai‘i). The campaign encompasses designing and creating ten Living Legacy Murals inspired by the mo‘olelo (story) of Kalapana.

The Hilo mural, located at 51 Maka‘ala Street, is sponsored by Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, Kamehameha Schools, and the state Department of Education Office of Hawaiian Education. 

Kamalani Johnson

“The project’s goal is to use art as a medium to invigorate Native Hawaiian identity and perpetuate Hawaiian values, language and culture, while raising awareness of the 23 Hawaiian language immersion and charter schools that form Ka Papahana Kaiapuni,” says Kamalani Johnson, lecturer at the college and the mural project’s Hawaiian language director.

The mural project is being led by a collective of artists and supporters called ‘Āuna Pāheona headed by graffiti artist John Prime Hina. They have been traveling the state since August. The group is engaging local artists and Hawaiian immersion schools to design and create the murals, which are being painted one at a time culminating on May 25, 2018, in Hanapēpē, Kaua‘i.

The Hilo mural was created by teachers, students and ‘ohana (family) from Ka ‘Umeke Kā‘eo (a pre-K12 Hawaiian immersion school), along with Hawaiian language students from UH Hilo and the Hawaiian medium laboratory school Ke Kula ‘o Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u (a laboratory public charter school) in Kea‘au.

The story of Kalapana

People standing looking at the large mural on side of building. The mural is mostlry greens and blues with two large faces at left and one at right with island and ocean scenes between.
The Hilo mural depicts Kalapana and his skills. Courtesy photo, click to enlarge

The story of Kalapana involves his mother, Halepākī from Kaua‘i and his father, Kānepōiki from Kona, who dies when he loses a ho‘opāpā (battle of wits) challenge from Kaua‘i chief, Kalaniali‘iloa. When he matures, Kalapana travels to Kaua‘i and avenges Kānepōiki’s death by winning his ho‘opāpā challenge through his knowledge of the winds, rains, plants, songs, and ‘ai (tools) that are unknown to Kalaniali‘iloa.

“This mo‘olelo was selected for the tenacity and drive of the protagonist,” Johnson says. “The strife Kalapana experiences with the loss of Kānepōiki, that leads to avenging the will of his father is comparable to Hawaiian language revitalization efforts.”

The Hilo mural depicts Kalapana unofficially putting his ho‘opāpā skills into play after completing his schooling with Kalaoa, then going to Kaua‘i where he encounters a local of the area.

Commemorating 20th anniversary of UH Hilo’s Hawaiian language college

Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa
Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a

The Ka Papahana Kaiapuni celebration coincides with the 20th anniversary of UH Hilo’s Hawaiian language college. College director Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a says the murals commemorate the progress and revitalization efforts of the Hawaiian language through its Hawaiian medium-immersion educational pathway as Hawai‘i prepares to mark next year’s 40th anniversary of ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language) as a state official language.

Kawai‘ae‘a says the college continues to support the renormalization of ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i through various initiatives, including new Hawaiian lexicon, an on-line dictionary and Hawaiian medium curriculum for grades K-12 supported by the college’s Hale Kuamo‘o Hawaiian Language Center. Additional contributions include the preparation of Hawaiian medium-immersion teachers through the Kahuawaiola Indigenous Teacher Education program and Hawaiian medium laboratory schools such as Nāwahīokalani‘ōpu‘u.

“Through strong collaboration of P-12 and tertiary education working together with schools, families, government and community, Hawaiian language is showing a shift towards recovery of this precious cultural resource,” says Kawai‘ae‘a.

Read the full press release in English and ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i.