Prime mentors at-risk youth through street art and cultural education. - Photo: KWO File

In November, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs published Mana Lāhui Kānaka, a multidimensional study of mana: what it is, how to articulate it, and how to access and cultivate it in order to uplift our lāhui. The book shares mana‘o from community contributors, such as John “Prime” Hina, on using culture and traditional knowledge as a foundation for how we advance in the world today.

Photo: John Hina
John “Prime” Hina
Community artist

“In our mural making process, one of the beginning steps of that process is mana lima. And with this mana lima, we’ll invite the community to come out and paint using all of the colors of the rainbow, ke ānuenue.

“With this you see a transformation: If our hands are conductors of mana, if our bodies are conductors of mana, we see this when they put their hands into the paint and onto the wall. It’s a transfer of mana, a deposit of mana. What you end up seeing is layers and layers of hands going onto the wall, people holding hands together as a community, and then the images start to come out.

“My thought behind that whole thing is that in the future our people can look back and see the different handprints and the different genealogies that have been at that place. It brings the community together so we put our mana onto the wall, and then the mana of the place, which is the water. What is the water of that place? What is the water of the people? All of that goes on to our mural and we see a change in energy with the people. We see them become happy. They weren’t smiling when they came and all of a sudden the space becomes sacred and the people partake in this sacredness, in this journey we’re about to embark on to learn the story of that place.

“In order for us to learn the story of that place, the foundation has to be set, and the foundation is the people, it comes from them. They grew up in that place that we’re in, we’re just the visitors learning their story. When they share their story with us, it becomes more and more sacred, it becomes more and more infused with mana as the paints and the layers go on to the wall and we start to see the collective energy start rising. That’s what mana means to me.

“I get to see it daily, weekly, every project that we’re on, I get to witness mana, people giving mana and leaving mana on the wall so our future archaeologists can look back and study the wall and see the genealogy of the people and find their DNA on the wall.”

To download a free copy of Mana Lāhui Kānaka and read more community contributors’ mana‘o on mana, visit

John “Prime” Hina has been working on Ke Kanakolu, a mural project celebrating 30 years of Hawaiian language immersion education. See the story here.