Estria Foundation and 808 Urban
In the heat of last Tuesday’s afternoon sun, about 10 people gathered for shade under a tent in an open field near Honolulu Community College in Kalihi. The group had spent the day working on a massive, colorful mural that takes up the full length of the 23-by-180-foot wall.
“The message of the mural is about long-term sustainability in Hawaii in terms of water use,” says Estria Miyashiro, founder of The Estria Foundation, a local nonprofit that promotes positive social change through art. The mural, part of an international series called Water Writes, is a collaborative effort between the Estria Foundation and 808 Urban, a collective that works with low-income neighborhoods and uses art to discuss cultural and political issues, and other local artists. This is the third mural in the series, and there are more to come across the globe, including Colombia and Palestine.
“We asked ourselves, ‘what does an ahupua’a look like today?’” Miyashiro explains. In ancient days, he says, water ran down streams into taro patches and fish ponds, then went back into the stream. These idyllic images of the past are illustrated on the right side of the wall. Nowadays, however, water is privatized. And in parts of the world, many people do not have access to water because they simple can’t afford it. “We want to call attention to the water issue,” Miyashiro says. “I think that a lot of people in Hawaii don’t even realize that our water is owned by private companies.”
Inadequate access to water and struggles for control of water are common threads throughout the series, the group says.
The group envisioned what modern water systems could look like, rendering up a slew of sustainable practices such as wind turbines, rooftop gardens, solar power and water catchments on the other half of the mural. It’s like a modern-day ahupua’a that could use less energy and waste less water, Miyashiro says.
The piece, which is the largest spray paint mural in Hawaii, will be unveiled Thursday, July 7, at 4 p.m. at 905 Kokea St. Gov. Neil Abercrombie is scheduled to speak, and the evening also will feature local musicians and a variety of food trucks. Organizations including Earthjustice and the Surfrider Foundation also will have informational booths at the event. For more information, contact Amanda Corby at 783-1407.
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