Like most Americans, we Miamians don't know shit about Hawaii. But luckily, we met John "Prime" Hina, a guy who started doing graffiti in Oahu in 1983, and is now in Miami working on a Heineken Mural piece with fellow Hawaiian graffiti pioneer Estria Miyashiro, and Miami's own Trek6. Prime told us about the origins, evolution, and future of street art in his home state, and he also explained the true meaning of Aloha.
Here's some of the heavy knowledge Prime dropped on us: "Waikiki has a lot of buildings. It's like a mini Miami. Graffiti came to us from New York with that dope Uprock cover from the Rocksteady Crew. We got into graffiti from hip hop and the whole New York scene, subway art, Style Wars. There was no Internet, so we just learned from whatever we could get a hold of. Whoever traveled to the mainland would bring info back for everybody."
"We added salt and pepper on the East Coast meat (of graffiti) and put our own flavors of creativity. In the '80s, Hawaii came with its own style. We use the East Coast letter foundations, but our fills are different. Like, instead of using the arrow symbol to protect our pieces, we use the tongue. The Maoris of New Zealand, when they do the Haka to prepare for war -- they stick out their tongues at the opponent to intimidate them. The same is true for all Pacific Islanders, so I use my language and my culture to protect my piece."
"Thanks to the elders, the Hawaiian language is making a comeback. Do you know what Aloha means? Alo means "face to face," or "to be in the presence of," and Ha means "the breath of life." From our first to our last breath we own nothing but the moment that we're in, so we say Aloha for the moment that we share. Right now we are in the practice of Aloha. It is the state law and the mission statement of Hawaii to be nice and live in peace."
"I'm just working on this one wall while I'm here. Some people are here to just smash wall after wall. Are they just being reckless? I'm here to tell a story from the creation of time."
Prime mentors at-risk youth in Hawaii on history and culture through visual arts. Check out his site at 808urban.org.
Estria was masked up and spraying, so we didn't get a chance to hear what he had to say, but here are a couple pics of him painting.
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And here is a friendly neighborhood bulldog watching him work: