A Brief Historic Narrative

Nani Ke Ao Nei Kamāmalu Mural

by Kathy Chock – 2010

The Nani Ke Ao Nei mural is not only a unique, excellent mural painted in acrylic by Kathleen Kam, but from the very beginning, it was meant to be a curriculum tool.

Holoua Stender, had seen a beautiful mural of the Hawaiian ecosystem that showed Hawaii’s unique ecosystem juxtaposed with the devastation caused by the introduced rats, pigs, sheep, mongoose, and cattle. This mural, at the Bird Conservatory at Keauhou, was used as a teaching tool for our sixth graders during their huaka‘i.

In fall 2004, he called a meeting to discuss the possibility of having a similar mural at KES, suggesting Kathleen Kam, the artist who painted the Keauhou mural. The KS ‘Ike Hawai‘I Arts Consortium supported and funded this project.

A committee was formed to discuss location and content of the mural. The committee proposed that showing what the Ko‘olau Mountains looked like prior to humans, would be a good contrast to what we see now. Showing the windward side from the beach to mountain, or kai to uka, and the leeward coast from the kai to ‘uka.

Painting started in late April and was finished in June 2005. Mahealani Chang provided mana‘o for a school blessing and dedication. Holoua Stender was instrumental in naming the mural and each of the four panels.

Before the mural was even completed,  environmentalists and scientists came to look at the mural and marveled at the possible learning opportunities.

The ‘Ike Hawai‘i Arts Consortium (IHAC) funded the development of a study guide and activity book to be published by Kamehameha Press. An artist, writer, and photographer were contracted.

Jack Jeffrey, the project photographer and ornithologist, began presentations to grades 4 and 6, using ATP funding. The Waiwai Hawai‘i committee integrated the mana‘o in ‘Ike Hawai‘i to connect with the mural once a year.

We were able to see more clearly how the mural depicted geographic/geologic parts of Oahu  from the Dr. Sam Gon and Jack Jeffrey presentation to the staff at Home Ho‘ona‘auao exactly 2 years ago,  January 2008. A CD was made of this presentation for all staff with the support of IHAC.

From the Hawaiian viewpoint, as documented by the Kumulipo, plants and animals were created before humans. Thus, they are our ancestors. Understanding this and na Akua was shared by Sam Gon when he shared at last January’s home ho‘ona‘auao.

The team contracted to develop the study guide and activity book dissolved when Kamehameha Press no longer existed.  Sam Gon and Jack Jeffrey helped to complete a set of posters with identification keys and text. Ku’ulei,  Māhealani, and Holoua reviewed the material. Alan Takano provided the photography, graphics, layout, and printing. The school also acquired the rights to use Aloha ‘Āina materials, a culturally based integrated program supporting key mālama i ka ‘āina concepts.

Summer study grants to support Nani Ke Ao Nei development and revision began in 2008. The mural depicts the past. How did the early Hawaiians interact with this environment? How does it compare to our environment now? What can we do to make a difference for the future?

As a curriculum tool, it addresses the WEO, integrates subject areas, and supports dynamic collaboration.

At KES, we continue to develop curriculum and resources. Last summer a small group, led by Jack Jeffrey, went to the Hakalau Forest to weed, plant, and witness how reforestation enables the original forest to return. Some things we saw were the carnivorous caterpiller, a native beetle, a nurse log with ‘ohia growth, plants once gone from the forests now thriving, i‘iwi birds.