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Estria’s Water Writes

June 30th, 2011

Text by Aoloa Patao

Images by Riana Stellburg

The third mural of the Water Writes project is an overwhelming experience for its creator Estria Miyashiro. It’s not unfathomable though because Hawai‘i is his birthplace, where he found a love for graffiti. The mural– which is a collaboration with Estria and 808 Urban– is set on the makai side of the JBL Building on Kokea St. in Kalihi where the dimensions are about 22’X185’—that’s two stories tall and a ridiculous 18.5 stories wide.

“This has been the most spiritual project I’ve worked on with all the things that have been happening while we were working,” says Estria. “When I set myself on a course of action, if it’s the right course, then resources will literally fall in my way. This mural has been one of those projects where [for example] we don’t have money, but people will give us paint or they can volunteer.”

When Estria was working on Queen Lili‘uokalani, which is the centered-piece of the mural, nature met with history.

“There were these two yellow butterflies flapping around my head, and it turned out that the queen loved butterflies. Later on, my mom told me that she found out on Wikipedia that the queen’s favorite color was yellow, and it was the color of the rule,” says Estria as he then points out the yellow hibiscus and lettering on the mural they did prior to discovering this fact. “Like it was meant to be.”

Estria doesn’t believe in coincidences. There is a public hearing on water-related issues in Kaneohe on July 7—the same day the mural will be officially unveiled to the public. According to the Hawai‘i Government website, this hearing will specifically pertain to adding and amendments to Chapter 256, which would allow DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) to “effectively manage State small boat harbors and related facilities as well as ocean activities in State waters.”

Although this is not related to what Estria and 808 Urban have in mind, it is a little odd that out 356 days, a public hearing associated with water is on July 7.

There is a specific water issue at hand in the 10 cities where murals will be created. Estria’s dear friend, Nancy Hernandez, was hired because she has built relationships with water and youth organizations through her travels around the world, and that’s how these ten cities were chosen.

“[In the Philippines] there’s trash in the rivers,” says Estria. “The kids there will have to fish up recyclable bottles, take them in to get coins so that they can buy fish to eat. What’s wrong with that picture?”

Or like in Palestine, where Israel has taken over the water system. “As they’ve built their walls, they’ve taken all their water sources, so they turn on the water at their good will, so to speak,” explains Estria. “So if they’re cool with it, they’ll turn it on for two hours a day, they don’t say when, they don’t say for how long.”

As a way to bring these water issues forth locally and globally, these murals will induce discussion not by someone speaking about them or someone writing about them, but by allowing people to visually see what’s happening and how they can find solutions to these problems.

“We decided to shift the dialogue from attacking and villianizing to how can this be a future vision that we’re all accountable for,” says Estria on the route they took for the mural’s concept. “What will that look like?”

Aside from the mural triggering discussion about water rights, the obvious is brought forth. The creative process through graffiti on this magnitude is something that’s never been done in Hawai‘i.

As you’re driving on Dillingham, you can see this gigantic work of art that immediately catches your eye—at one point, it was home to discolored bricks and various taggings.

“Now it’s telling a story,” says Estria.

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