From Graffiti to Mele Murals

Honolulu is famous for its golden sands, Waikiki and its tourist boulevard. In contrast, the campus district of the city is famous for a different kind of attraction. Here you will not find gaudy Hawaiian souvenir shops or hordes of tourists unless they’ve gotten lost, but you’ll find a thriving urban art scene with colorful street scenes that are so large they stretch across walls and sometimes entire sides of buildings. I like to stroll around with Shana in this harbor and industrial district of Honolulu to see the amazing, oversized colorful art paintings that adorn the old halls and commercial buildings. This area has an exceptional characterizing flair! I love this lodging with the graffiti! In Europe one usually only encounters writings on house walls, where in the USA, San Francisco, New York already speaks of paintings, is spoken here in Hawai’i with their special peculiarity of works of art. With the lighting of the sunshine and the contrast of the blue sky, the perfect art also has a striking effect.

Water writes; Honolulu ©Foto Gérard Koch-2012

Graffiti existed in ancient times as in ancient Egypt, Greece, the Roman Empire, the Aztecs, Mayans and many other rich on this earth. Graffiti is used to decorate the walls or other surfaces with painted fonts or drawings with an artistic expression without permission and audience.

Conversely, it is in Hawai’i, where the expressive creations will be presented to the public and the public after major public events. Behind these works of art, up to a year of hard sensitive work, development and preparatory work, collection of ideas take place, until literally the first paint spray cans can be shaken and opened. Some discussions take place not only among the artists as the story is to be told in the picture, also with schools, communities and the contractor. All of the paintings include Hawaiian culture and ancient history to exhort us to think and think about a time-relevant topic that occupies society on the ground. The Hawaiians are very strongly associated with nature which is reflected in the pictures.

Kaimuki High School, Honolulu ©Fotot Gérard Koch – 2017

To learn more about this work and the artwork, Shana and I were invited to an interview at Kaimuki High School, Honolulu, with world-renowned artist Estria Miyashiro.

In 2012, where I spent my holidays in Hawaii, this artist was still completely unknown to me. By coincidence, when Shana and I made our purchases in this industrial district, I saw parking by the car, a huge painting on a whole house wall. Immediately I had to pull the camera out of the bag to capture this experience. In order to photograph the entire work, I would have to step on the sealed company premises, if there would not be a security guard there. Without further ado, I went to this guard and asked him if I could go to the grounds. He just waved to me to go in and snap my photos, turned around at the same time and ran away from me. I took the time to look at the painted wall of the house.

Water writes, Honolulu ©Foto Gérard Koch – 2012

Back home in Switzerland, I looked at the photos, which gave me no peace to learn more about it. So I started my research, watched Hawaiian music videos on YouTube and saw more and more such artworks until Shana sent me the breakthrough with a web link.

Estria Miyashiro is an internationally recognized muralist, co-founder and creative director of the Estria Foundation (TEF), a non-profit organization that uses public art to transform communities and raise awareness of important local issues. TEF creates innovative public art projects and educational programs that use public art as a catalyst for community engagement.
Along with numerous mural paintings, Estria has recently launched the international mural series WaterWrites and directed the Estria Battle, the leading US graffiti contest. His latest project, MeleMurals, is a series of 20 murals on the Hawaiian Islands about stories, places and people.
Estria began painting in Hawaii in 1984 and has completed nearly 1,000 murals worldwide. He was an influential leader of the „Golden Age“ of writing (1980s) in San Francisco, was a pioneer of painting techniques and is one of the originators of the stencil top.
Since 1993, he teaches graffiti courses and teaches at universities about the social and political effects of graffiti. He gained national attention with his graffiti arrest in 1994 when he joined CNN and the National Enquirer.
Estria’s clients include President Clinton, Vodaphone, Gansevoort Hotel, the Oakland Museum in California, Toyota, MTV, McDonald’s, Sega, McKesson, Nokia, Mills Corporation, the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, and County Alameda.
He has served the community for over 25 years through his cultural work.




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