If you have been to Paʻauilo School since Spring Break this past March, you may have noticed a new addition to the school’s campus. If you haven’t, then it’s definitely worth making a visit. Between March 19-26, 2016, members of Hui Mālama i ke Ala ʻŪlili (huiMAU), a grassroots community organization based in Paʻauilo, worked with the help of other members of our community, including Monty Miranda of MWM Construction, to mount a large mural on the front, ma kai side of the Paʻauilo School Gym.
The mural depicts various scenes from the moʻolelo (story) of one of the most important chiefs in the history of Hawaiʻi, ʻUmi-a-Līloa, which has been featured in the Hāmākua Times over the past year and a half in the column entitled, “He Moʻolelo no ʻUmi.” ʻUmi-a-Līloa was born and raised near Paʻauilo in Kealakaha, Hāmākua, and his reign established a unified, highly abundant, and self-sustaining society on this island approximately 17 generations ago—an important model for us to strive towards today. According to one famous historian of Hawaiʻi, Samuel M. Kamakau, “When the government of Hawaiʻi was united by ʻUmi-a-Līloa, his name became famous from Hawaiʻi to Kauaʻi. There was no aliʻi who reigned as he did. He cared for the old men and women and the parentless children; he cared for the common people; there was no killing and no theft…and therefore ʻUmi-a-Līloa became an ancestor of chiefs and an ancestor of common people. There is no commoner of Hawaiʻi who could say that ʻUmi-a-Līloa is not an ancestor of theirs. And if there is a Hawaiian who denies this, it is simply because they do not know who all of their ancestors are.”
Between January and November 2015, ʻŌiwi (Native Hawaiian) artist and huiMAU leader, Haley Kailiehu, worked with approximately 250 Paʻauilo School students and members of our local community, in collaboration with huiMAU and the Paʻauilo Boys & Girls Club, to collectively create the ʻUmi-a-Līloa Mural. The mural project was the vision of huiMAU members and leaders, Haley Kailiehu, Loke Alpiche, and Noʻeau Peralto, intended to “bring together people around a moʻolelo through the use of art.” In the words of lead artist, Haley Kailiehu, “Art has the power to transform people and communities. It’s not so much about the art itself, for me, but it’s the coming together, the convergence of generations, ideas, knowledge. Through these experiences, we share stories and create new ones together.”
“I think this venue is perfect—the art and the storytelling to the children,” added project organizer and Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Paʻauilo, Loke Alpiche, “I would like it to grow, especially from Kealakaha and Waipunalei side, going over to the keiki of Waipiʻo. I think it’s important that this area especially knows [ʻUmi], because this is our roots.” These roots, that Aunty Loke speaks of, extend back over 18 generations to the ʻohana of ʻUmi-a-Līloa’s mother, ʻAkahi-a-Kuleana, who was a kamaʻāina of Kealakaha—a place most people know today for its formerly narrow, curving, “banana” bridge. ʻUmi’s father was, Līloa, the high chief of Hawaiʻi at the time, whose famous royal residence was in the sacred valley of Waipiʻo.