Maui Public Art Corps partners with Queen Kaʻahumanu Center for new Kahului mural
Maui Public Art Corps will begin a 2-week process of installing a large-scale mural on the exterior of Queen Ka’ahumanu Center’s west wing at the former home of Sears.
Selected by a community panel from a pool of 23 applicants, the work will be led by Fathima Mohiuddin (@fatspatrol), an Indian, UAE-born and raised, Canadian immigrant artist, who spent six weeks working with Kahului community members to co-design the mural under the leadership of Maui Public Art Corps and Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House / Maui Historical Society.
Project talks began in July 2021, soon after Maui Public Art Corps was first established to expand the work of Wailuku Town’s SMALL TOWN * BIG ART (ST*BA) initiative into new neighborhoods countywide.
“We were so excited to hear about this initiative to celebrate the history, culture, and pride of Maui,” said QKC general manager Kauwela Bisquera in a project press release. “As a focal point for innumerable community gatherings over the generations, we knew that Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center would be a perfect match to showcase our commitment to celebrating commerce, culture, and community. What a great way to culminate our 50th anniversary this year.”
“Because ST*BA is, and will always be, a Wailuku initiative, we needed to identify a more inclusive organizational name to meet the demand of piloting this work in other, distinct parts of Maui,” shares ST*BA lead and Maui Public Art Corps Chair Kelly McHugh-White, “The invitation to partner with Queen Ka’ahumanu Center for our first mural beyond Wailuku came at the perfect moment, as we were just pivoting to a new approach for our public art projects that could engage their team in a deeply meaningful way.”
That approach begins with a series of virtual storytelling workshops led by kumu hula Leilehua Yuen (Hilo, HI). Hale Hōʻikeʻike Executive Director Sissy Lake-Farm then pairs workshop students with kūpuna to share their stories. Upon completion of the workshop series and the talk-story recording sessions, resulting audio excerpts become the basis for annual requests for artist proposals. After an artist is selected by a community panel, they begin an intensive learning and cultural exchange that results in a revised artist proposal, or blueprint, that is steeped in the sense of place where the art will be unveiled.
“This is an opportunity for us to pair wonderful artists – from our shores and beyond – with the beautiful stories of our kūpuna,” shares Sissy Lake-Farm, “and so with that aspect of bringing the storytelling to life, we started to understand that that needed to be a pillar of the work.”
Queen Kaʻahumanu Center General Manager Kauwela Bisquera participated in the workshop series – known as Hui Mo‘olelo – with kumu Leilehua Yuen in April 2022. In June, she was paired with Aunty Kekoa Enomoto, ʻAhahui Kaʻahumanu and Chairwoman, Paʻupena Community Development Corporation, for a recorded talk-story session. After two rounds of applications proposing how to interpret this story in mural form, artist Fathima Mohiuddin was selected by a community panel.
“What grabbed me the most reading about the past work of SMALL TOWN * BIG ART was this idea of public art creating an intersection between the past, present and future,” shares Mohiuddin, “I really enjoyed listening to the dialogue between Kekoa Enomoto and Kauwela Bisquera: Intriguing stories about brave women and themes of identity, journey, love, migration, honoring history and celebration of the human spirit. I thought about women warriors; the resilience and ambition of women who persevere through adversity, stand for what they believe, act as vessels of love and kindness and move the world forward. Community engagement will be key to really bringing to the surface stories and messages important to the people of Kahului.”
Through community consultations with public policy analyst Kauanoe Batangan, Tamara Sherrill of Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Jocelyn Romero Demirbag of Maui Nui at The University of Hawaiʻi Foundation, Aunty Kekoa Enomoto and Kauwela Bisquera, Nohe U‘u-Hodgins of Maui Public Art Corps, and Lisa & Halemanu Villiarimo, as well as a community survey, Fathima’s design has been refined to not only interpret the story between Kauwela and Aunty Kekoa, but to additionally be rooted in a Kahului sense of place. To reinforce this connection, Sissy Lake-Farm will offer ‘ōlelo from Mary Kawena Pukui’s ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings that aligns with the artist statement – to be released upon the mural unveiling in mid-December.
Stay tuned for additional details, invitations to connect with the project and results of an upcoming artist-led mini mural project with Imua Inclusion Preschool, Kahului.
To view the Kahului community consultations, artist samples, listen to the story between Aunty Kekoa and Kauwela, and more, visit the project page at mauipublicart.org/fathima.