Honolulu Pow!Wow! 2019?

Pow!Wow! Hawaii 2018, an urban contemporary art festival, has again taken over the streets in KaKa’Ako, a revitalized neighbourhood located right next door to Honolulu in Oahu, Hawaii.

I was in the city recently, duty-bound for a month, to walk a little rescue dog four times a day and – thanks to her – I have come to know the streets and the buildings in the area quite well.

kamali edit
Kamalii Park located at the junction of South Beretania Street and the Pali Highway.

To a street art chronicler, the number of disheveled blank walls in Honolulu point to a worrying level of neglect. They tower like shy, ageing, make-up-less wallflowers desperately begging for a PowWow make-over; and in my opinion, the sooner the better.

HTheatre wp
Hawaii Theatre, second floor, Nuuanu Avenue and North Pauahi Street.




Three walls located on North Beretania and Maunakea Streets.

As luck would have it, for the last five years an incredible number of  local and international artists have descended upon Oahu. They have come armed with paintbrushes and aerosol cans and have produced exciting new work. Although it is standard procedure to paint over murals in cities with higher concentrations of artists and increased competition for wall space, Oahu does not suffer from either of these problems. Just the same, murals have disappeared  that should have been allowed to remain for their artistic value.

To an art enthusiast, this unnecessary loss of original artwork is dispiriting – therefore as an obvious solution, how about we lure these world-class urban artists downtown by offering them some highly visible and very naked walls?

Smith Street and North King Street

As a further enticement, the walls that I have selected are not obscure hidden places, they are very visible spaces. Most of them are set in high-traffic areas while others are situated near temples, cultural centres, markets and a charming river.

The Maunakea Marketplace, North Pauahi Street entrance.

As it currently stands, tour buses set out from Waikiki, stop to let passengers browse in the Ala Moana shopping mall and then continue into the recently gentrified street art district of KaKa’Ako. Again tourists disembark to visit the newly fashionable SALT area, enjoy lunch, and take pictures of the murals.

Island Insurance Center building on Bethel Street
The highly visible building on Kekaulike Street at Nimitz Highway

The tour continues on through Honolulu’s municipal and business centre and then veers into the slightly derelict parts of the city.  Even with the amusing hint of a raucous past, visitors cannot fail to notice the degree of neglect from which the buildings suffer.  Many choose to remain safely on the buses.

River Street and North Pauahi Street


There are several buildings situated along those tourist bus routes that for the minimal cost of a mural could change the spirit of the area.

Something must be done to bring about positive engagement with this part of the city, and as we have witnessed in countless urban areas around the world, the addition of street art revitalizes floundering neighbourhoods, and often leads to tremendous increases in tourism.

It is easy to rummage on the internet to  find several examples of inspiring work that are compatible with the  Aloha spirit.

There are simply too many artists whose work I would happily endorse to improve the appearance of Honolulu, so here is a tiny sample and where possible, I have included their sources.




Dale Grimshaw, London
Artist: Skount
Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada
Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada,Buenos Aires
Artist: Noir

Who do we need to convince that contemporary urban art is a very powerful cultural tool that should not be restricted to a one-time annual event?  For the good of Honolulu let’s let the artists loose!


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