Saturday, February 18, 2012

Just for a Day 2012

“Just for a Day”
Estria and Prime
Kalauokalani Way off of Kapi‘olani Boulevard, Honolulu, O‘ahu
January 2012


For this project, Estria wanted to experiment with creating a full-sized character that would cover the entire surface of one wall. He wanted the character to be painted completely with a paint sprayer, as opposed to spray paint. It turned out that a 22’ tall wall wasn’t big enough for the paint sprayer method, though he did spray the entire base coats, which took one day.

In this mural, the angry he‘e holds up King Kamehameha’s skull above the waterline so he can see how the development on our islands has desecrated sacred land, and forever destroyed natural ground water flows.


After painting this, Estria’s mother suggested he research the he‘e’s significance in Hawaiian lore. Kanaloa is known as the great he‘e. A line from a pule/prayer, says: “E Kanaloa, ke akua o ka he'e.” In ancient days people would pray to Kanaloa when they were sick. It is fitting that Kanaloa, the god of sea-farers/ocean/destruction, is protecting Kamehameha, and is summoned to heal the sick islands.


"In the mythology of old Hawaii, Kanaloa was the god of the ocean, a healer god, and the close companion of Kane, the god of creation. They would journey together, share the sacred drink of 'awa, and use their staves to strike the ground and cause springs of fresh water to burst forth. Rare statues of Kanaloa feature him with round eyes, unlike those of any other representations of the gods. In the Hawaiian language, "kanaloa" is also used as a word that means "a sea shell; the young stage of a certain fish; an alternate name for Kaho'olawe Island; and secure, firm, immovable, established, unconquerable." A root translation of the word, ka-na-loa, means "the great peace, or the great stillness." The word also has the connotation of total confidence. In the esoteric tradition of Huna Kupua, Kanaloa represents the Core Self, or the center of the universe within oneself."

In Hawaiian tradition, the number eight is symbolic of great power.

Kamehameha is missing his two front teeth, which in those days represented mourning—people removed their teeth to mourn the loss of loved ones.

'Onipa'a Oakland 2011

Estria, Prime, Bam
Youth Empowerment School, Oakland, California
October 2011


Surprisingly, this public school in Oakland has a number of Hawaiian and Samoan youth, and Estria wanted them to be represented in the mural. Estria painted the word, ‘Onipa’a, and Prime, a Rasta Tiki. They put the 8 major Hawaiian islands in the letter, ‘O’.


‘Onipa’a is a combination of two words: ‘oni means ‘movement,’ and pa’a means ‘to stand firm, still, steadfast.’ ‘Onipa‘a was a word often used by Kamehameha and Lili‘uokalani. The Queen spoke of ‘Onipa‘a as the way our kingdom would survive.



“‘Onipa’a” was the last command of our Queen to her people to avoid bloodshed…
Hawai‘i is illegally occupied by the U.S.!
‘Onipa’a means “to hold steadfast”
“Hold on to your culture, and progress forward!!!”
--Prime, October 2011

Malama e,
Prime and Estria


'Onipa'a Kaka'ako 2011

Estria, Prime, Katch, Evolve, Look, Bieste, Beak
Pohukaina Street at Koula Street, Honolulu, O‘ahu
September 2011


Pow Wow founder, Jasper Wong, and Kamehameha Schools invited Prime and I to paint a mural in the Kaka'ako district of Honolulu. The mural inaugurates the Pow Wow Hawai'i event and what will become an arts destination in 2012. Here is our interpretation of the Hawaiian Coat of Arms. We decided to put as much culture as possible into the mural to give the people a gift they can call their own.

Kamanawa by Prime

Prime’s initial idea was to paint King Kamehameha, but without any photos to work from, this proved difficult. Shortly before this mural, 808Urban and The Estria Foundation had produced The Estria Invitational Graffiti Battle at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Brook Kapukunuahi Parker met Prime and Estria there. He had painted the Hawaiian Coat of Arms twice. During a phone call with Prime, Estria came up with the idea of painting the Kingdom of Hawai‘i Coat of Arms. In hindsight, there were signs leading to the mural: a patch Estria had bought from the ‘Iolani Palace lay on his desk. Estria’s friend, Kimmie Ganade, had recently told him she had a vision of the Coat of Arms.

The two ali’i on the Coat of Arms were twin advisors to King Kamehameha. According to Brook Kapukuniahi Parker, “When Kame'eiamoku and Kamanawa were living on Maui, their older brother Kahahekili, made them kapu and sent them to Hawaii to stay by Kamehameha's side and be his "kahu" (guardians). Kahekili is recognized as one po'olua father to Kamehameha. His other po'olua father was Keoua (half brother of Kalaniopu'u with the same mother) of Hawaii. The twins were instructed by Kahekili to protect, advise, guide and teach Kamehameha. They remained faithful to their young charge during the reign of Alapa'i, and after his death, Kalaniopu'u's that followed. They continued serving well into Kamehameha's own rise to power. They were by his side until their own deaths preceded the culmination of his conquests.”


Prime and Estria wanted to connect this piece of history to the modern day. Artists Katch, Evolve, Look, and Beak were invited to add their influences to both sides of the image.

This mural offers deep respect for our kupuna in the historically strife-laden land section of Kaka‘ako.


Kame'eiamoku by me



Lei o Mano, shark tooth warclub


Warriors by Katch One


Beak's bird surfing


Character by Bieste EV


My he'e (octopus) guarding King Kamehameha's bones

Ola ka Wai, Ola ka Honua 2011

“Ola ka Wai, Ola ka Honua” As the Water Lives, the Earth Thrives
Prime, Estria, Vogue, Katch, Krush BS, Krush TWS, Evolve, Look, Ohana, Noize22, Ckaweeks, Quest
Kokea Street between Dillingham and King Streets, Kalihi, O‘ahu
July 2011


Number three in the international #WaterWrites mural series, Ola ka Wai is possibly the largest aerosol mural in Hawai‘i. A league of 19 talented local artists spent five weeks creating the mural with nearly 50 gallons of house paint and 350 cans of spray paint.

Initially, Estria thought the mural would be about trash in the ocean, but Prime had spoken with Auntie Terry Keko‘olani of DMZ Hawai‘i/Aloha ‘Aina and convinced Estria it had to be about the (continued) illegal theft of Hawai‘i’s water by the big corporations. This put the two on a journey of learning.

Kapua‘ala Sproat and Isaac Moriake, two of Earth Justice’s lawyers leading the David and Goliath charge against the big corporations in Hawai‘i, took Prime and Estria to spend a day with Uncle Charlie and Uncle Paul Reppun in Waiāhole Valley. The Reppun’s are legendary for their successful battles with developers, and for regaining control of the stream waters in their valley.


Estria and Prime learned that the best way to conserve fresh stream water was not to hoard it, rather, to let it flow out to sea. Increased stream flow increases ogo and limu growth, which in turn increases the quantity and size of o‘opu and o‘ama. These fish thrive in brackish water. The o‘opu is an amazing little fish that can scale waterfalls. In ancient times, the Kanaka Maoli ate them as a delicacy. As the o‘opu and o‘ama populations increase, fish up to 25 miles out to sea come in to eat them.


In addition, stream water can be diverted to a kalo lo‘i (taro patch). Kalo likes cold water and low nutrients. The water can then go to a tilapia fish pond. Tilapia likes warmer, brackish water. The same water can then go to water another crop of food, with the runoff returning back to the stream. This entire system nurtures sustainable food sources on land, in the stream, and in the ocean.

Why should we conserve water? As Paul Reppun said, “the more water you conserve, then two of you sleep in that bed.” The real issue is what is a sustainable population size that the islands can support without depleting her resources?

IMG_0947 IMG_0937 IMG_0932 IMG_0926
IMG_0920 IMG_0915 IMG_0904 IMG_0899

We cannot talk about water sustainability in Hawai‘i without talking about sovereignty. During the plantation era, when sugar plantations came to be in Hawai‘i (eventually turning into the large corporations that we know today in Hawai‘i), the first thing they did was divert the fresh water for their plantations. Whoever controls the water, controls the land. With the streams cut off, lo‘i died, and the Hawaiian lifestyle was quickly overrun by the greed of capitalism and the sugar industry. As a result, the islands themselves began to be sick--water was not flowing where it should; into aquifers and flowing underground to the ocean. A land that is sick ultimately affects her people in negative ways.


Now that plantations are no longer in operation, it is just, right, and fair that water should be returned to the streams, according to the Hawai‘i Supreme Court. Yet, these companies refuse to return the water, and in several cases, are hoarding and hiding the water, even letting it run off into the land in places where it should not be flowing, and wasting it. By holding the water, they try to retain their claim to the water (and therefore the land). The truth is they want to develop the land for homes, and homes need lots of water. Once homes are built, it is damn near impossible for the Kanaka Maoli to reclaim their crown lands.


Painting the mural was a life-changing experience for Prime and Estria. Nearly every day was filled with chicken-skin moments.


Photos © Banzai Media

Kahu at Honolulu Museum of Art 2009

Honolulu Academy of Arts, Linekona Building
Estria and Prime
December 2009


Prime and Estria were invited by the Honolulu Academy of Arts to paint a refrigerated container located in the back of the Linekona building. The two embraced the opportunity as a chance to share a part of their Hawaiian culture. Ikaika Hussey of The Hawaii Independent gave them the idea to paint Ka‘ahupahau ("Well-cared for Feather Cloak"), the shark woman of Pu’uloa (Pearl Harbor) and her brother, Kahi‘uka (“Smiting Tail”). Ka’ahupahau, a female guardian shark, would protect Pu‘uloa and the surrounding waters by keeping the man-eating sharks out.


In this mural, Ka‘ahupahau’s body forms the word, Kahu, or guardian. She faces off against the intruder sharks. In the background are pristine streams flowing down and sustaining kalo lo‘i (taro patches), which was Prime’s interpretation and imagination of the natural beauty of the land in pre-contact times.


“Where once there was Ka’ahupahau…is now homeless
Where once there was Kanekua’ana…has now left
Where once there were chiefs…have since vanished”


Read more about Ka’ahupahau and Kahi’uka:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pawa'a Lane 2009

Pawa‘a Lane, Honolulu, O‘ahu
Estria, Prime, Bam, Dmize, Pest3
December 2009


Estria’s lifelong buddy, Cory Kimura, turned him onto the VBS television series, Toxic Garbage Island. This set off a fire within Estria and sparked his desire to paint a mural about the pollution in the ocean. The concept, developed by Estria and Mike Bam, emulated the beauty of Wyland’s whale murals, yet added the crucial message about the reality of the effect of ‘opala (trash) on the sea and its life. Disguising the trash by rendering it in the calming blue hues of the ocean, the team hoped to slowly pull the public into the message: Beauty first, message second.


Prime added the image of the Kanaka Maoli god, Kanaloa, rising out of the ocean, here gaining strength because of the opala’s destruction. The moon goddess, Hina, in her form as the ‘elepaio bird, sits atop the tiki with a plastic fork in her mouth.


Some highlights: This mural became the impetus for The Estria Foundation’s #WaterWrites international mural series. Dmize officially overcame his fear of heights. Thanks to Pest3, Estria fell in love with painting he‘e (octopus). This was the first major project of the 808 Urban team.


"Ua mau ke ea o ka āina i ka pono o Hawai‘i
Tears would come from each other’s eyes
As they would stop to realize
That our land is in great, great danger now"
--“Hawai‘i 78,” Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole
originally written by Micky Ioane, Abe Keala, Cleyton Kua, and David Crowley

Watch the Toxic Garbage Island series.





About Prime and Estria

Kanaka Maoli graffiti Writers Prime and Estria have been creating public art in Hawai‘i spaces and beyond, since the 1980s. They use the medium of public art as a way to preserve the stories and culture of their Kanaka Maoli heritage, so that as a people, the Kanaka Maoli can learn from the past to shape the future. Prime and Estria hope to engage more artists in this movement of creating awareness about the history, culture, and issues facing Kanaka Maoli and their land and ocean today. They also hope to serve as an inspiration for future artists in the same way that Herb Kawainui Kāne inspired Prime and Estria, and their generation.

Prime and Estria were among the very first generation of graffiti writers on O‘ahu. Beginning in 1983, Prime began painting hip-hop style graffiti pieces and characters with a crew called Design Masters. He retired in the late ‘80s to raise a family, and came back to the Writing culture in 2007 with a vengeance. Estria began Writing in 1984. Two years later he moved to San Francisco and made a name for himself in the golden age of the Bay Area scene. In 2007 Susan Farrell of introduced Prime and Estria  and thus began a journey of wonder, fun, and especially growth and transformation.


Note: the historical information contained herein may not be completely accurate. Hawaiian history is mostly oral, and much of the research was conducted online. We also have admittedly been poor at documenting our references. Aloha and apologies to those whose work has informed ours, and have not been credited here.

Mahalo nui loa to Susan Farrell for introducing us! Many thanks to Trish Tolentino for her help with the writing. Special mahalo to those who helped us along the way: Kahu Kamana‘o, Vernon Viernes, Brook Kapukuniahi Parker, Jen and Auli‘i, Aunty Lei, Aunty Vicky Holt Takamine, Aunty Terry, Palani Vaughan, and all our supporters. Thank you to the 808 Urban crew and the EV crew for the support. Most importantly, mahalo nui to our families and friends, who hardly get to see us while we're painting.

For more of our work, visit and We are both on Twitter and Instagram as @808urban and @estria.

Mahalo for visiting!