On almost any day in Hawaii, a spectral palette of tropical hues splash the islands with colors as vibrant as the rainbows we see stretching between valleys. Ahh, beautiful Hawaii nei! From the lush greens of the Koolau mountains to the calming blues of the ocean, the islands shine as bright as diamonds in the Pacific.
And like most diamonds, this Pacific beauty has a few imperfections that give it a little bit of character and a little bit of edge. It’s the writings on the walls that we see on buildings, on street signs and even on cars that often dull our colorful island scene. I’m talking graffiti.
Almost every city has it; some more than others. You’ve probably already noticed that Hawaii’s on the minimal end of such public markings. Whatever we do see is usually repeatedly tagged throughout the islands, like this one for instance:The Love Robot appears in Kaimuki and throughout parts of Oahu.
The Love Robot. It’s a robot with a heart over its right side and a drooping antenna, making this the saddest robot you’ll ever see (not that we see much robots but…). I’ve spotted this little guy as far from town as Wahiawa but as close as Kaimuki. The story behind this graffiti started at a First Friday event in Chinatown, when someone put a bunch of wooden paintings along sidewalks and alleys. The accompanying message read: “You don’t love me.” “Yes I do, and I’m going to show you.” Now whenever he shows up on trash cans, we are reminded of his devout love for the lady-bot of his electronic dreams.
Other graffiti we see throughout Hawaii can almost be called aerosol art. They’re so elaborate it makes me wonder how they did all of that without getting caught by the cops. It must have taken some time and a lot of effort to stay hidden for that long. These people might argue that graffiti has been a style of art since ancient times; take ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, for instance. All they ever wanted back then was some self-expressive mediums.A few Hawaii legends next to the H-1 Freeway on Oahu.
But in modern times, it continues to be an illegal act everywhere, except for a few in Hawaii. Some tags are getting the green light from the local community. It doesn’t actually fall under the vandalism category but rather a beautification one. Non-profits like 808 Urban use spray paint and marker pens to create colorful murals that perpetuate cultural icons and such. They work with at-risk youth here and give them an opportunity to both get artsy and contribute to the community. Look for Michael Jackson on the walls of Kokua Market near the University of Hawaii at Manoa or legendary singers Don Ho and Braddah Isreal Kamakawiwoole on the side of the H-1 Freeway near the Wilder Avenue cut off. Both bring a unique kind of color to the tropical island canvas and hopefully more will follow.