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Painting a Picture of the Island

Visiting artist completes mural of Hawaiian heritage

Visiting artist Susan Evans paints the iconic Hawaiian goddess Hina on one of eight large panels that will be installed at Coffees of Hawaii. Photo by Eileen Chao.

In a large warehouse behind the Molokai Arts Center (MAC) at Coffees of Hawaii, visiting artist and California native Susan Evans crouches over one of the large panels of her mural, paintbrush in hand, blending white streaks into Hina’s long, flowing hair. Evans had originally painted the Hawaiian goddess, known in legends as the mother of Molokai, as a younger woman. But after local Hawaiians told her that Hina was an older, wiser entity, Evans altered the depiction to paint a culturally accurate representation.

It is this learning process that is the most rewarding part of any project, said Evans.

“For me, it is always interesting to do the research for a project,” said Evans. “By being on this island, [I] meet a lot of locals through the Art Center and [I] feel like [even if] temporarily, [I am] part of the community.”

Photo by Eileen Chao.

Evans was contacted by the Molokai Arts Center to partner with local artists to complete a 240-square-foot mural, consisting of eight panels, that will represent the Friendly Isle to both locals and visitors. While she completed most of the actual painting in the two weeks she has been on Molokai, she has received help from residents like local artist Kala`e Tangonan, as well as MAC members including Charlene Kenward, Kim Markham and Wayne Finley.

The mural is not quite finished, but will be completed by local artists Tangonan and Kenward. Afterwards, it will be installed outside the coffee roasting building at Coffees of Hawaii.

The project was funded by MAC, who supplied $600 worth of artist-grade acrylic paint that will not fade over time. They also provided the large sign boards on which the mural was painted. Coffees of Hawaii provided the housing and space for Evans to stay and work.

Designing the mural alone took five days, said Evans. She formatted it so that a theme of connectedness would run throughout all the panels, connecting the heavens at the top to the people in the middle and finally the sea at the bottom. She said she gathers her research from books she reads, images she finds on the Internet, things she sees on the island and stories she hears from locals.

“All the different artists influenced the work…both as to the content of the symbology and the individual artists’ hands in color expression,” said MAC Treasurer Kim Markham via email. She spoke highly of Evans as a nationally recognized muralist who volunteered her time to complete this project.
“Since I am a visitor, I’m trying to learn all I can about Molokai, [especially] the stories and legends,” said Evans. “I just hope I’ve captured some of the magic of the culture and traditions here, and I hope the mural helps people keep those traditions.”

The finished mural will include depictions of the moon goddess Hina, the island of Molokai, the spirit of paddling, keiki pounding poi, Hawaiian farmers, hula dancers and other images that are essential reflections of Hawaiian culture.


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