I took to the streets last week to get the scoop inside what’s going down with the POW!WOW! Hawaii crew and what they’re curating for this year's mural renovation in our own Kaka’ako.
Artist: Og Slick
Not sure what POW!WOW! is? No worries. If you’ve ever been to Oahu or if you’re from the island then you might be familiar with the beautiful murals all around Kaka’ako and beyond. If you’re not... no judgment! You’ve probably come across these murals on the ‘gram once or twice when searching for things to do and see on Oahu. However, these walls are more than just your average Instagram background. They have meaning, community, and true beauty behind each and every one of them. Not to mention the number of hours, planning and work each mural involves.
If you still don’t have any idea what I’m talking about then this post is for you! The murals around Kaka’ako, known as Oahu’s arts district, are from the POW!WOW! artist team that comes together in major cities and countries every year to take part in gallery shows, lecture series, music, mural projects, and live art installations.
Here’s the breakdown of what POW!WOW! means:
POW! - The impact that art has on a person.
WOW! - The reaction that art has on a viewer.
Together, they form POW WOW, which is a Native American term that describes a gathering that celebrates culture, music, and art.
Jasper Wong, the founder of POW!WOW! is also an artist, illustrator, curator, and art director. He wears many hats and has his hands in a lot of projects all revolving around creativity, community, and street art. He is the founder of a gallery in Hong Kong called ABOVE SECOND and has been chosen by Monocle Magazine and CNN as one of the best galleries in the city. He also co-founded a community art center, LANA LANE STUDIOS, in Honolulu that is a functioning artist collective that seeks to inspire and maintain creativity within the community. In all of Jasper’s endeavors, he offers unique opportunities for artists to connect and create with each other and their communities. This is no different when it comes to the goal and vision behind POW!WOW!, which is a non-profit organization committed to community enrichment through education programs and engaging the community in the creation and appreciation of art.
Artist: Lauren Ys
Throughout this week's events, I was able to wander around Kaka’ako and see first-hand the artists at work. Being a creative person myself, I know these murals are no easy feat. Being able to experience them drawing, stenciling and measuring out their pieces onto the concrete walls was an amazing experience. I walked around from building to building to watch the progress of a handful of murals in the area. Each one is extremely different and unique than the last, but every one is so beautiful and explodes with vibrant colors. All around me, I noticed tourists, locals, and artists’ families out there supporting and admiring the progress of the amazing work these artists were doing, which of course, was Jasper’s ultimate goal– engaging the community.
One piece, in particular, came from a local artist, Matthew Tapia, who was born and raised in Hawaii. I was able to catch his attention and ask him a few questions while he was picking up his area. Tapia accredits exploration and self-discipline as to how he was able to get started as an artist. His style of hand lettering is clean and diverse. I gathered Matthew is too humble to talk too much about his own work. He mentioned that each piece, no matter the size or project, all start the same way– always by hand with paper and pencil.
Artist: Jaque Fragua
As I was walking around getting my snaps of the murals I stopped and caught myself admiring the work of Jaque Fragua. Jaque is a New Mexico native whose work features traditional Native American ceramics, tattoo designs, blankets, and so much more. In doing some research on Jaque and his background, I learned that the meaning behind his work is to authentically re-purpose the Native American culture of iconography and the over-consumption of misappropriated Native American designs and identity. Knowing some of Jaque’s background, I was able to see his work through this lens. He depicted his heritage and familiarity with what a Pow Wow is in his own culture and was able to put a vibrant and accurate spin on the face of a Native American woman. This was a strong piece with a rich message behind it.
Artist: Jaque Fragua
After I left the streets with my camera in hand I dipped in early to catch the Artists Talk with Shepard Fairey and POW!WOW! founder, Jasper Wong. Now, if you’re at all familiar with Shepard Fairey’s work, then you already know what an icon he is in street art, as well as being a graphic designer, activist, illustrator, and founder of OBEY clothing. His views, beliefs, and outspoken work is popular among millions, (probably an understatement) and loved by just as many. Okay, okay…. It’s more like a posse, a following, a club. A crew? You catch my drift. The talk quickly started off with POW!WOW!’s very own musical young talent to welcome us all in. During the talk, we were able to hear how Fairey got started, what kind of guy he was in art school, what art school actually did for him and why he does what he does. Throughout all of this, his sarcastic, humorous, yet kind personality, gave me a personal insight into the message he’s sharing behind his art. It’s to probe the viewer a little bit, or a lot, depending on your sensitivity level, and always shares a message through art. Fairey’s work is often “political, social, or completely random,” he said. He likes to push the boundary, stand up for what he believes in, and being creative while doing it.
Shepard’s piece during the festival was called, Golden Future and spoke towards the need to preserve the planet for future generations. He mentioned during the talk that Hawaii doesn’t have massive advertisements, or billboards, which is partly why the island is so beautiful. His mural and message was an “advertisement in theory,” he said. He thought a large majority of us could get behind the message and think about future generations. He shares his message in an Instagram caption that reads:
"In Hawaii, such a naturally beautiful place, I think it is important to ask the question: will the future be golden metaphorically, or scorched to a golden brown? It is up to us to decide with our own behaviors and how we vote. Thanks for caring! - Shepard"
Artist: Shepard Fairey
Before having the opportunity to dive deeper into this year’s festival, I admittedly only knew of bits and pieces on the background of POW!WOW!. However, now that I was able to see first-hand and experience the work that each artist does, I definitely have a full appreciation of what they do as creatives, their message behind their work, and what they did for us as a community here in Honolulu in our very own Kaka’ako. This is just another reason why we can all be proud to live in Hawaii and spread aloha among ourselves and to everyone around us.