Two renowned Hawaiian graffiti artists follow different paths back to their roots while their personal journeys collide with the recent resurgence of native language and tradition in Hawaii.

Estria Miyashiro, who studied art in San Francisco and became an international graffiti star, comes home to reconnect with his culture.

John Hina (aka "Prime"), a local icon of the Honolulu graffiti scene, returns to his art after becoming a family man.

Collaborating with a group of Hawaiian youth from the rural community of Waimea on an ambitious mural project, their journey traces the arc of modern Hawaiian identity, the challenges of connecting with tradition in the face of modernisation, and the transformative power of public art.

In the Mele Murals project, Hawaiian youth work with local graffiti artists to create a series of murals inspired by Hawaiian lyrics that explore the islands' indigenous culture [Evan Loney/Al Jazeera] 

FILMMAKER'S VIEW

By Tadashi Nakamura

I worked on Mele Murals for three years with Oiwi TV - Hawaii's first and only indigenous television network. To the outside world, Hawaii is an idyllic tourist destination with mai tais, hula dancers, and beautiful beaches.

This myopic view of Hawaii promotes the stereotype and tourism-focused branding of a vacationers' paradise, but lacks the depth and authenticity of the true character of Hawaii.

We wanted to create a story that opens the veil for the viewer to get an intimate look into a genuine, modern, native Hawaiian experience: resilience in the face of colonisation, revitalisation of the Hawaiian language and culture, and reconnecting and remembering an identity as native Hawaiians. 

This was my first time working with the native Hawaiian community and I continue to be blown away by the strength and beauty of the people, their traditions, and their land.

At the core of Mele Murals is the resurgence of Hawaiian culture and language that is being led by a new generation of native Hawaiian artists, educators, and youth.

I am still learning how to be an ally to the native Hawaiian community in their struggle to protect their culture and language, and directing this film was an attempt to strengthen my understanding and support of their movement.

Source: Al Jazeera