As an outsider, I was fortunate enough to have phone conversations with a wide cross section of the Maui Community leading into this project. These discussions lent insight into the island’s recent history, the struggles to preserve cultural practices, family, and the environment on an ever developing island mostly seen as a major tourist destination. The process brought about a profound shift in my thinking having once visited as a tourist. My overall design at this moment in time focused mainly on this dichotomy of viewpoints.
Once the project found a home in Wailuku, and upon my arrival, the design and the story evolved. I continued the conversations in person with local residents, and began my own personal exploration. The design as a result reflected more about Wailuku, the history of the town, and the importance of water, taro and the Na Wai ‘eha in the West Maui Mountains. The mural is an anachronism, featuring a pre contact Iao Valley and its surroundings with a mixture of figures from the past and modern day. One figure sits in field of Taro plants which exist in the place of Maui’s sugar plantation, next to the restored flowing river. I was introduced to a Kumu Hula, and in the spirit of true community art and collaboration, she helped direct the poses of the figures, infusing her own personal meaning through the figures’ gesture, actions and placement in the design. For me these figures highlight the importance preserving of Hawaiian Cultural practices and the restoration of the water to the land, free of ownership, and for the benefit of future generations.
Beyond the landscape lies a collage of images inspired by my earlier conversations, which work their way through the sky, intermingled with rays representing the Na Wai ‘eha and the sunlight. This imagery depicts a range of topics, from the burning of the sugarcane crops, the bombing of Kaho’olawe Island, introduction of invasive and endangered species, on island development and heavy industries threatening the ecology. Among this collage of imagery are appropriated photos taken from the Hui No’eau’s #mauieveryday Instagram campaign. For the Hui’s Campaign, residents posted photos in response to daily questions concerning on island life. This campaign was a way to utilize the immediacy of technology to crowdsource and breathe new life into the community art process.
I primarily create murals linked by a common theme of restorative justice. I was very interested in the Hawaiian practice of ho’oponopono and the commonalities it shares with restorative justice. I feel ho’oponopono’s theme of restoring balance, and making right, was the very basis of this residency from the start. To inform this design I spoke with people responsible for protecting the environment, protecting the water, land conservation, teaching cultural practices, supporting foster families, exposing injustices; people who work every day to restore the balance. It’s through their input and expertise that this mural exists.