Nakanelua paints a new foundation


This senior project mural by Pololū Nakanelua, while widely liked, has also created some controversy because it is painted over a mural done by 2006 graduate Preston Gannon. This photo also shows a blank white space to the left of the mural, where another mural by a pair of 2010 graduates, was also painted over.

By Reid Cairme, Sports Editor

Much of the KSM high school student body was surprised to see that over the summer the two murals painted on the wall leading to the high school gym had been painted over and replaced with a new mural by senior Pololū Nakanelua for his Hōʻike Nui product.

“The wall’s purpose was originally to represent the school,” said Ms. Angie Abe, art teacher and adviser to Nakanelua. “It would tell the KS Maui Warriors’ story.”

“When I was brainstorming with Pololū, we were trying to find how his idea would fit into the ‘line.’  What we began to realize is that the murals, being legend-based, were moving away from the initial intent of the wall to tell ‘our’ story,” she said.

The original mural, by Preston Gannon (’06), depicted the demigod Maui capturing the sun. Alumni Ainoa Shaw and Sarah Ing (’10) painted the second mural of the Battle of ʻAʻapueo.

While many students agree that the new artwork is good, they feel as if painting over the other two was disrespectful to those artists.

“I think that this mural is a great improvement to the originals, and it will relate more to the attitude that our students should have,” senior Kaiea Hokoana said. “But just because it is a great improvement, they should’ve kept the others because the artists worked hard.”

“I like this one, but I miss the other murals,” Coach Chad Kalehuawehe said. “It’s student artwork that should stay preserved.” Coach Kalehuawehe’s classroom and the gym are adjacent to the mural wall.

Nakanelua spent part of his summer painting the large mural.

“I feel for those people who painted the two murals,” Nakanelua said. “I came every day in the hot sun to paint this over the summer. But I got permission from the two artists to paint over their work.”

Aside from the controversy, the artwork itself has been generally well received.

“I prefer this mural to the two old ones,” Junior Rusty Hue Sing said. “It really shows our Hawaiian pride and culture compared to the others.”

Nakanelua’s original cooncept for a senior project was to paint a “tattoo” on each of the academy buildings based on what is taught in each building. He said he spent hours researching ways to symbolize their work.

But his idea was ultimately declined by the administration when he was unable to provide a plan for future maintenance of the building graphics.

Ms. Abe suggested had also suggested putting his design on ceramic tiles for better preservation, but Nakanelua said that it would have been too small, and he thought his work would be taken too lightly.

After receiving permission from Ms. Abe and the artists, the idea was also approved by Academies Principal Ms. Jay-R Kaawa, then Headmaster Ms. Lee Ann DeLima, and finally Head of Operations Mr. Charles Alexander.

Nakanelua was quick to begin work creating a mural that best represented Kamehameha Schools Maui and its students.

“I think that if you look at what the design represents, what comes after has a strong foundation,” Ms. Abe said. “Despite all opposition, we Warriors still hold our spears up and finish strong.”