Manoa Elementary School dedicates 'Kahalaopuna' mural with message of peace


The project aligned with a peace and mindfulness curriculum teachers incorporate in their classrooms.

HONOLULU — Manoa Elementary School students this week dedicated a colorful mural on campus with the message of promoting peace throughout their school and community.

The mural was inspired in part by the olelo noeau, or Hawaiian proverb: E waikahi ka pono i manalo. The proverb means: It is well to be united in thought, that all may have peace.

Students in Chelsey Villamin’s first-grade class and Eileen Carr’s fourth-grade class worked with local artists with the Estria Foundation and the Mele Murals public art movement to depict the Hawaiian legend of Kahalaopuna, the rainbow princess of Manoa Valley, and her aumakua, or family god, the pueo.

The project aligned with a peace and mindfulness curriculum the teachers incorporate in their classrooms.

To help spread the mural's message, Carr's fourth-graders designed a presentation to explain its significance to the entire school and to community partners.

“They brainstormed all the topics people would need to know about to really understand the mural — like, how did it get there, why is it there, who are the characters you see in it, what is the story of Manoa Valley,” Carr said. 

Some of the lessons the students said they gleaned from the legend are: Don’t blame others until you’ve heard their side of the story; don’t be jealous; and you can’t hurt people just because you’re angry with them.

Students drew inspiration from a book about Kahalaopuna by children's book author James Rumford.

“Once the book is written, it takes on a life of its own, and to see this mural was really a wonderful thing because it showed how these children interpreted that story,” Rumford said. “Seeing the messages that they got from the book, it made me feel very good.”

The mural project was made possible through a grant retired Manoa Elementary librarian Imelda Amano helped secure from the nonprofit Malama Manoa.

“We knew that (this project) was going to fulfill our mission of sustaining the culture of Manoa Valley,” said Malama Manoa board member Audrey Tanaka. “It certainly has proven that with the story and the artistry and the concepts that came from the children.”

For more information on the Estria Foundation and Mele Murals, visit

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