Enomoto Murals

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Isami Enomoto Labor Murals

When the Bank of Hawaii closed its Kapahulu Branch, it offered to donate the five large ceramic murals created in 1961 by famed Hilo-born artist and ceramicist Isami Enomoto to the Center for Labor Education and Research at the University of Hawaiʻi - West Oʻahu in Kapolei.

Enomoto, who passed away before the project could be completed, was a noted mid-century ceramicist who produced the abstract design wall tiles for the International Concourse at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, and was the ceramicist who worked with artist Jean Charlot on several projects, including, most notably, the murals on the United Public Workers building on School Street.

The five ceramic murals (as shown above) represent (left to right) Kapahulu at Work, agriculture, building & Construction, commerce, and transportation and were designed to depict in bas-relief collages local workers with the tools of their trades, who lived and worked in the East Honolulu working-class neighborhood rendered in a style reminiscent of Depression Era public works art projects. One of the oldest neighborhoods on Oʻahu, wedged between Waikiki and Kaimuki, Kapahulu was home to some of Hawaiʻi's most iconic shops and businesses. Among others, the murals depict sscenes from Leonard's Bakery and Himuro Store.

They are mounted on five separate plywood panels of different dimensons and shapes about 6 feet tall each, but ranging from 6 feet to 11 feet wide.

Urgency prevented UHWO from accepting this generous donation in 2015, but thanks to the intervention of the Hawaii Chapter of Docomomo US (Documentation and Conservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the Modern Movement), the priceless murals were saved, carefully preserved and stored until they could be brought to UHWO CLEAR.

Since UHWO CLEAR was unable to afford the $48,000 cost to move, install and restore the murals, the Hawaii Chapter of Docomomo graciously agreed to facilitate the project to bring these treasures to CLEAR for display at its award-winning labor history archive on the second floor of the campus library.

Through Docomomo US, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, after two years, sufficient funds were raised to complete installation & restoration in December 2017 with no state money used.


Mahalo nui loa to the following donors for their kōkua:

All donors were gratefully acknowledged at the dedication ceremony in February of 2018 and by memorial plaques hung on the wall next to the murals and the entrance to CLEAR's Hawaiʻi Labor History Archive.

Money donated to Docomomo for the Enomoto Labor Murals Project has been used exclusively to make this happen. CLEAR is forever grateful to friends and organizations who supported this project and therefore preserved Hawaiʻi's unique legacy of Labor History and culture!

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