Last week, I traveled to Honolulu for a fun (obviously!) assignment. Happily, the itinerary for this trip included a fair amount of down time, which gave me a chance to explore the city a bit. As you might already have seen on Instagram, I fell in love with a Honolulu neighborhood called Kaka’ako, an area between Waikiki and downtown that’s filled with warehouses, body shops, and other industrial buildings.
My first peek at Kaka’ako came while I was en route to lunch with my host when we drove by a long, low building close to downtown whose whole street-facing side was covered by a massive mural. “Wow! What was that?” I asked her. She explained that an art cooperative comes to Honolulu for a week each year, during which local, national, and international artists come to paint murals on the sides of the neighborhood’s big warehouses and other industrial buildings. Satisfied with her answer, I didn’t think any more of it—until we arrived at our downtown lunch destination, Fresh Cafe. While waiting for our food to arrive, I stepped outside the dining room to take a few pictures, when I saw this neon sign hanging above a doorway.
Back at the table, I asked her what Pow Wow Hawaii was, and she explained that it’s the organization behind the mural we’d seen earlier in the day. I was hooked. Back at the hotel, I got online to find out more about Pow! Wow! Hawaii, and I was smitten by what I saw. So, the next afternoon, with a few free hours to spend as we pleased, we hopped back in the car and headed for Kaka’ako, this time to park the car and explore the neighborhood on foot. I can’t say for certain whether all of these pieces are products of Pow! Wow! Hawaii (if you know, tell me!), but even if some aren’t, they’re still staggeringly beautiful and astonishingly well done.
I immediately loved how this portrait was etched into the building’s facade, with some of the crumbly edges painted black for definition. Also, that chartreuse door!
One thing I particularly enjoyed was the confluence of multiple murals on the same building. They were often vastly different in style and color palette, and the corners where they joined were chaotic in the best kind of way.
Some of the murals were purely geometric. Others were painted in homage to muses and past Hawaiian kings, and yet others were trippy mash-ups of make-believe characters and creatures. I loved the one below for its blend of colors and its mixture of perfect lines and imperfect runs.
I was pretty excited to round a corner in an alleyway and find this Pow! Wow! Hawaii truck parked and vacant.
I probably had some nightmares thanks to this one, but you can’t deny the skill and imagination that went into creating it.
Below, my favorite—a depiction of local girl Shanna Hulme by artists Kamea Hadar and Rone, located on the corner of Cooke and Pohukaina streets.
Every now and then, when you’re on the road, you stumble onto a place or event that just totally takes your breath away, and for me, this was one of them. If you’d like to know more about Pow! Wow! Hawaii yourself (the event has expanded into Japan and Taiwan, too), head over here, here, here, and here, and check out the org’s own mural archive for a look at past and present works. (A simiple “Kakaako murals” Google search will turn up lots of great info, too.)
And if you’re lucky enough to be heading there yourself, hop on Honolulu city buses 19, 20, and 42—they go west down Ala Moana Boulevard and stop at Coral Street—and use a map of the murals so you don’t miss anything.
Mahalo and enjoy!