“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
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?
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