Mahalo for your interest in the Kaelepulu Mural! I am honored to be a part of this process that has taught me so much about my home.
A big challenge for this mural in the mural process for me was patience. I wanted to have all the answers right away. I wanted to know all the facts and stories. I wanted to have the design appear on my sketch pad as soon as I put the first stroke down. It was not like that at all. As I navigated through the process, I was given pieces, one at a time, until I had the whole picture. I am confident that by trusting the process and listening to my kupuna, community, and mentors that the mural I present to you has my whole heart and soul and is a true tribute to my onehanau of Kailua.
Sketches of the mural design have been included and will be updated throughout the process.
The story of Kaulu Compiled by Kaulumaika with the help and illustratrations of the second grade class of Kaelepulu, Class of 2026. You can watch and listen to the story below or read through it at your own pace here: (glossary for the Hawaiian words in the story can be found at the end of the sideshow)
List of Sources:
- Kaleo Wong of Kauluakalana
- Mark Ellis
The Design Process
We visited each class to share the story of the land under the school and get their help in the design. We learned about patterns and stamps and each student made a stamp to represent an element of the story. The students were asked to sketch pictures of what stood out to them in the story and then make stamps from those pictures. Here is what they came up with:
There are 4 main elements of the mural (4 being a very significant number in Hawaiian Culture):
Ka Lani - The Heavens but also the darkness of night. The name "Kaelepulu" means "the moist darkness". Po and darkness is part of the Hawaiians origin story as much as it is a part of all of our origins since we all emerge from the darkness of the womb.
Ke Ao - Light, Enlightenment. The realm of learning and searching for truth and knowledge.
Ka Wai - Water. The blood of life. As with sailing, water carries us through our journeys and connects us no matter where we are in the world.
Ka Lepo - Earth. Our center and where we are grounded.
These 4 elements are represented as follows:
1. Ka Lani: The starry night background
2. Ke Ao - A yellow ripple, the native birds found at Kawainui and Kaelepulu, the sun, the clouds, the air we breath. In the center of this ripple is a makua teaching a keiki about navigation and how to read the stars.
3. Ka Wai - A Blue ripple, the native fish found at Kawainui and Kaelepulu, the ripples of the water, the waves, the limu.
4. Ka Lepo - A pink ripple (tribute to the reddish/pinkish mud brought back by Kaulu), the native plants that were grown by Kawainui and Kaelepulu for food specifically kalo, uala, ko, and I added in pia because the lepo ai that Kaulu brought back was said to be similar to the taste and consistency of pia.
There are 4 additional illustrations:
1. The Hoku Kapakapa - a symbol of the land that Kaelepulu is on.
2. The Waa Kaulua - a symbol of Kaulu and his travels. Also a symbol of the significance and importance of navigation and exploration for any community. The connection of Kaelepulu to the organization Kauluakalana, Ulupo, and modern day navigators like Kumu Kaleo Wong. The image of the next generation of navigators represented by the child on the waa. This is also a tie into the illustration of makua teaching keiki in the ao realm - that as our kumu teach our keiki (at home, at school, and in the community), they will be prepared to lead us to the future. (This is an element that was brought to light by Jillian of Kauluakalana - I am very grateful for her insight into this additional illustration and how it brings kanaka more front and center into this piece).
3. The oha of the Kalo - a symbol of the keiki of the school and community. The oha will be illustrated as moving in the wind as our keiki are always in motion, but also very much alive!
4. The Aeo bird - I was going to paint an iwa bird at first, but the more time I spent at Kaelepulu Elementary School the more I saw the prevalence of this beautiful native bird. I felt drawn to this bird and loved watching it walk around the field on it's long graceful legs, constantly reaching down to reach for something in the ground. It was like it was reminding me to look at the land beneath us and search for the treasures therin.
The mural as a whole depicts the heavens engulfing our community. Anciently the community of Kailua relied heavily on ao, wai, and lepo. Today there are many in the community who are working hard to restore that connection with the people living in Kailua today. The ripples signify the effect that one drop, one story, one word, one action, one choice can have.
Each child that attends Kaelepulu can influence the community of Kailua in great ways. Each child painted a star of their own on the mural. The land that Kaelepulu Elementary School sits on is named after the star, Kapakapa, and likewise each star represents the student who painted it and their potential to lead the future.
Mahalo to Kaleo Wong at Kauluakalana for inviting me to be a part of this creative and instructional journey.
Mahalo to Cherilyn Inouye and her vision of bringing together school, community, and aina.
Mahalo to all the students of Kaelepulu for their help in designing this mural and teaching the community about the story of the land.
Mahalo to Kihei de Silva and Hikaalani for the wonderful research and essays on Kailua.
Mahalo to the staff at Kaelepulu Elementary School for their flexibility in working with me and my team to get the mural painted safely and successfully.
Mahalo to Haley Kailiehu for her guidance in how to create a mural with the school.
Mahalo to Madison Moser for her help in coordinating time with the students to learn about Kaulu and in making the stamps with the students.
Mahalo to Jillian Luis from Kauluakalana and her insights into the design and what could make it even more meaningful to the community.
Mahalo to Aloe Corry for her partnership in painting the mural and seeing me through the process of creation.