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Reflections on the Past, A Vision for the Future

Standing along 888 Ala Moana Boulevard on a windswept January afternoon, Kamea Hadar takes a careful step back from his block-long canvas to examine his latest work. The smell of salt hangs in the air, blown in by the blustery trades. Across the street, onlookers scurry to snap an image of the mural as it takes shape.

According to Kamea, who’s helped catapult Hawai‘i’s contemporary art scene onto the world with his widebody of urban murals, the inspiration for his latest work came from Alia’s relationship with the natural environment. By examining the delicate balance between nature and community—both old and new—along with Ālia’s inspiring sustainability initiatives, the genesis for this piece began to form.

Kamea describes the makai section of the installation as depicting a “Mother Ocean-like character, peacefully sleeping in a clean blue sea, surrounded by healthy, thriving coral reefs. Corals are some of the most sensitive organisms in the world. They are so tuned to temperature and water clarity that their very existence is a sign of a clean healthy ocean.”

To the right of the figure are a set of hands holding salt. Dating back hundreds of years, this swathe of Kaka‘ako was once renowned for its salt ponds, which came to define the coastline. Next to the hands stands a verse describing Ālia’s namesake.

Salt. Our story would not be possible without it. Not only has humanity cultivated this natural element for thousands of years, but it courses through our veins, falls from our eyes, and defines the seas that connect us all. And in the moku where we will lay our cornerstone, salt once covered the earth, creating a natural alia, or salt bed, for countless generations of Hawaiians. Through our namesake, we honor the history of this land.

Beyond the verse, yet another pair of hands can be seen holding kalo, a staple crop intertwined with Hawaiian history and culture. “As the mural rounds the southwest corner and makes its way towards the mountains, the makai blues from the ocean transition into the greens of the mauka,” adds Kamea. “Here, we see more hands, but this time instead of the salt of the sea, they’re holding keiki kalo plants. This plant, like salt, was another cornerstone of the ancient Hawaiian diet and culture.”

For Kelly Sueda, art curator for Ālia, working with Kamea proved to be a reflective and enriching experience. “Kamea is able to capture the essence of what makes our island home so special. Working with him has been wonderful and his project serves a great introduction of what’s to come. We’re committed to bringing an inspirational and far-reaching collection of art to Ālia and I can’t wait for residents to see what we’ve curated.”


From the ancient salt ponds and lo‘i to Ālia’s inspiring environmental goals, Kamea’s mural reminds us of the responsibility we all share to preserve our natural environment. By connecting with the legacy of the land, people, and culture, we’re able to shape a future that preserves our island home for generations to come.