Using the past to paint the future

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Photo: Mural
Mo‘olelo from kūpuna helped to bring the images to life. – Photo: Kawena Lei Carvalho-Mattos

Tucked away in the heart of Kāne‘ohe lies Pū‘ōhala Elementary School, a unique learning community where ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i and English programs thrive together. Recently the elementary school had a vibrant makeover as the students worked with Native Hawaiian Artist Hailey Kailiehu and their community to create a mural.

Kailiehu’s unique style of mural-making starts with a storytelling day, where kūpuna from the community told mo‘olelo of the ahupua‘a of Kāne‘ohe. The students then drew pictures of some of the most memorable stories shared, including drawings of mango trees and kalo patches. Kailiehu then wove each of the images into a complete piece and worked with the students to paint their images into the mural that now stretches over two large buildings on the campus.

“I think when they see their ‘āina around them, through art that is highlighting things that are from our kūpuna and things that are very old and has always been there, they respect and they appreciate where they’re from more,” said Kailiehu.

The students of Pū‘ōhala unveiled the finished mural during a cultural day, at the end of the school year.