King David Kalākaua Middle School

Honolulu, Hawaii

Our Mele Murals staff completed the final mural of 2017 with David Kalākaua Middle School. A huakaʻi (fieldtrip) was taken to Hoʻoulu ʻĀina where we did some mālama ‘āina (land care giving) activities and a walk-story, learning the mo‘olelo (stories) of the area of Kalihi. 

After two days of reflection on what the concepts of the mural should be, our Mele Murals and Kalākaua Middle School staff worked with the alaka‘i hui (junior leadership group) of 50 students on paintbrush basics workshops, so that they in turn would learn to teach their classmates how to paint the following week.

The core alaka‘i hui lead the paint workshops with their classmates on for three community painting days, where all haumāna and members of the Kalihi community were invited to paint. Final touches were then painted by selected Mele Murals community artists. This was the biggest Mele Mural project facilitating about 1,000 haumāna (students) to paint the mural project in unison. In addition, our Mele Murals staff and the core alaka‘i taught the haumāna the mo‘olelo (cultural stories) that are shown in the imagery of the mural.

The relationship of King David Kalākaua Middle School is greatly tied to the family of the late Palani Vaughan. We honored this relationship with the mele of Haʻaheo written by Vaughan. The verse below of Ha‘aheo can be seen on this Mele Murals wall.

Ha‘aheo, e Hawai‘i  (Be proud, o Hawaii‘iʻs people)

No ke one hānau e  (of your homeland.)

E mālama mau na ‘ano  (Preserve, forever your ways)

O nā kūpuna e  (of your ancestors.)


The main message conveyed in the mural is that it is our kuleana (responsibility) to do our part and act as the hands of this land and to carry on/ perpetuate the stories of the past that are rooted in Kalihi. These stories of our ancestors and of our cultures live on through each one of us. As children, we are the hope for the future. We need to be inspired, stay inquisitive, and keep dreaming so that we can make positive changes on our communities, families, and world. Below is a breakdown of the panels of the 200,000 square foot mural.

Shark (Māno) panel:  Many students saw sharks and caves in the meditations. Historically, sharks were the guardians of Kalihi. Sharks frequented the caves and lava tubes in the area, swimming up the valley and they were known to chase fish upstream from the ocean for fishermen to catch. Particular sharks also guarded the residents of Kalihi and kept the people safe from other man-eating sharks. We learned at Hoʻoulu ʻĀina that Hawaiians used to race sharks and that the people of Kalihi were known for being the best and fastest riders. 

Portals:  Students also saw portals in their meditations. We have three portals in the mural, signifying our three piko (our head (the past and ancestors), our gut (the present day), and our reproductive system (the future and our children). Portals can also be a way to access our ancestors and to tap into their knowledge. School, books, anything can be a portal that can transport you to another world or open your eyes to a new way of learning. The mountains behind the portals are the valley walls of Kalihi, which we learned originally carried the name Kalihilihiolaumiha which translates to the eyelashes of Laumiha. We can remember this by visualizing her eyelids as the valley walls and her eyelashes as the treeline along the ridges.

Taro (Kalo) panel:  Some students saw kalo in the meditation. Our ancestors are shown here cultivating kalo and working hard in the loʻi that used to cover the kula lands of Kalihi where Kalākaua Middle School is located. The perspective is from under the water, giving a twist on the usual imagery and symbolizing how we should try to see things from all different kinds of perspectives. In this position, the person looking at the mural is looking at it from the vantage point of the kalo, reminding us of the story of Hāloa and how in Hawaiian mythology kalo is related to us as our older brother. Putting ourselves in the kalo’s shoes, so to speak. Kalo represents the strength and resilience of our ancestors and farming in Kalihi was hard work. The rain of Kalihi is seen in the mural in the background and is named Uaua, which translates to rainy rain. That’s because it rains so much in the valley and the rain keeps everything lush and green. But living in the rain isn’t easy and we are reminded of that as well since uaua also translated to having thick skin The people of Kalihi were always known for being tough and for being hard workers. The farmerʻs hands pressing palms down working the land showing work (hands held up signify offerings).

Spear panel:  A few students saw spears in the meditation. We today, are the point of the spear, supported by everyone and ancestors that came before us. However since we are the point of the spear, only we have the ability to affect change right now. As a spear, we have the power to protect or we can destroy, so we need to be mindful of our actions and ensure that our impact on our surroundings, family, and community is a positive one. This panel was left blank at the bottom so that when it is finished, students can stand at the wall and take pictures as the spear point.

Boar (Pua‘a) panel:  Puaʻa (pig) clouds were seen by multiple students in the meditation. Kamapuaʻa can take the form of a boar and acted as a kiaʻi or protector/ oversaw of the area after he defeated the chief, Olopana. Additionally, ao puaʻa is the name of cloud formations that happen as a forecast of rain. We can see these formations often along the mountain range at the back of the valley.

Princess Kaʻiulani panel:  Many students saw Kalākaua in the clouds and also saw a young and beautiful female figure. Kalākaua’s niece, Kaʻiulani, may be that figure. In 2012, a seer and friend of Estriaʻs shared her vision and words of Kalākaua with his team. Since then, Kalākauaʻs words below has become the driving force for the Estria Foundation’s mission. 

“My niece, Kaʻiulani was to be the hope (for Hawai‘i).  But she passed away so young. The keiki today as always, are the hope of the future.  Look to them, teach them, groom them, show them wonder, and inspire them. Change comes from inspiration. Without wonder we cease to exist.”

“As a child, Ka‘iulani inspired me. She was always full of life, full of wonder, so inquisitive, and always asking questions. I regret not spending more time with her then. I sometimes viewed her inquisitions as a nuisance, and I am so sorry for that. She was a beautiful girl, beautiful from the inside out. As she grew older and returned home, I watched her from my place above. I was so proud of her. She was to be our hope. So many kanaka loved her, and revered her. But just as many scorned her, because she was half. The disdain was so strong. They felt that she did not carry the mana of a pure blood.  But what they did not understand, nor did even I at the time, was that mana is drawn from our ancestors, great people who lived before us, no matter who they are. But reverence and love come from within, it is personal. It comes from our connection to our creator. It’s what drives the mana. No matter who or where your koko [blood] is from, it is the love and reverence that stems from the creator that is the driving force. Mana knows no color, it is the power within. It is our connection to Ke Akua above, below, and within that matters and is the driving force of your strength.” 

We feel that the presence of Kalākaua, Kamapuaʻa and Kaiulani in many of the studentsʻ meditations. The idea that we must look to our ancestors for guidance, seek wonderment and inspiration, and find love and strength from within are messages we think the mural can help to bring to life for the Kalākaua Middle Schoolʻs ohana.

Whale (Kohola) panel:  Some students saw whales in their meditation. Sperm whales could be tied in with Kalākaua. There are stories about how sperm whales made booming noises offshore when Kalākaua died, similar to the gun salute of a fallen soldier.

Turtle (Honu) panel:  A lot of students saw honu in their meditation. We welcome students to elaborate further on what the honu mean and what they symbolize for them and help us understand their place in the mural and their message. When one sees a honu in the ocean, you know that you are in clear and clean waters that are safe.

Weʻre also blessed that this Mele Murals Unveiling Day was featured in the StarAdvertiser. If you have a subscription, check out the story on this link.

We give our mahalo to ke Akua, nā Akua, nā ‘Āumākua, nā Kūpuna, the staff and haumāna of King David Kalākaua Middle School, Principal Lorilei Aiwohi, Brian Simon, Natalie Lum, Kailihiwa Vaughan-Darval and the family of Palani Vaughan, Kamanaopono Aweau Agres, Mālia Melemai of DOE, the community of Kalihi, our lead and support artists of Nicole Makaahinaalohilohi Jack, Luke Pomai DeKneef, Joe Aragon, Eukarezt, Jesse Valasquez, Beethoven Villarmino, Elton Huynh, Kristie Okimoto, Nainoa Alefaio, Cherisse Yamada. Thanks also to our sponsors of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Montana Cans, Glidden Paint and the Hawai‘i Department of Education.

[gmw_single_location map_width=100% map_height=450px elements=address,map post_title=0 user_map_icon=0 additional_info=0]

Mural Name

ʻImi ʻike e nā ʻōpio (Seek knowledge, young people of Hawai‘i)

Date Completed

December 20, 2017

Schools Served

King David Kalākaua Middle School

Lead Artists

Estria Miyashiro, Nicole Makaahinaalohilohi Jack, Luke Pomai DeKneef, Eugene Eukarezt Kristoff

Cultural Practitioners, Kūpuna, Community Orgs

Hoʻoulu ʻĀina, Kailihiwa Vaughan-Darval, Mālia Melemai, Kamanaopono Aweau Agres, and Jenn Gonsalves

Sponsors & Supporters

Principal Lori Aiwohi, Vice Principal Bryan Fukuda, and Natalie Lum of Kalākaua Middle School, Hawai‘i Toursim Authority, Glidden Paint, Montana Cans

We Need Your Help

Your tax deductible Annual Membership provides much needed support for arts education in Hawaiʻi.

Help purchasing much needed supplies for our wall murals.

Assist in funding cultural advisers for our youth workshops.

Help stage events surrounding our public mural unveilings.

We Need Your Help

Your tax deductible Annual Membership provides much needed support for arts education in Hawaiʻi.

Help purchasing much needed supplies for our wall murals.

Assist in funding cultural advisers for our youth workshops.

Help stage events surrounding our public mural unveilings.

Pin It on Pinterest