When delving into the study of Hawaiian history, one will not get far without hearing the word moʻolelo. A conjunction of two Hawaiian words, moʻo (succession, series) and ʻōlelo (language, speech, talk) moʻolelo is a term often used to describe the history of place and the stories of the people and events that have made that place what it is today. While most students are familiar with the portrayals of Hawaiian history found in textbooks, moʻolelo can also refer to portrayals of history that can’t be found in any books.
“I think of history as a kind of culture, something that is living and grows, what I call the culture of history,” said University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa History Professor John Rosa. “The culture of history certainly includes art.”
In a general sense, history is often thought of as the study of people and events of the past. Rosa believes that the study of history also includes looking into the ways in which individuals and groups interpret these events, one medium of interpretation being through the creation of murals.
A collaborative program brought together Rosa and muralist John “Prime” Hina of 808 Urban for “Murals in Hawaiʻi: Storytelling through Place”, a presentation on the history of murals in Hawaiʻi and the importance of storytelling through this large-scale art form. Participants heard from Rosa and Hina as well as youth from 808 Urban and others involved in recent mural projects around Hawaiʻi.
Annie Koh, a PhD candidate at UH Mānoa’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning, and organizer of the event said, “In towns and cities across the globe, murals represent local identity and community stories. Mural-making is a highly collaborative process that not only honors the stories and people of place but helps students and community members build relationships. I think this kind of process is key in mural-making that challenges participants and passers-by to deepen their sense of place and love for the land that feeds us.”