Hawai’i: a land dominated by a stifling tourism industry that sees droves of vacationers crowding up the beaches and restaurants, multi-level hotels blotting out the sun and sky-high prices on almost everything (comparable to the Melbourne cost of living). This is my experience of Hawaii within the tourist area of Waikiki. For many people, this city built for the tourist market is a dream holiday destination and the postcard Hawaii experience they hope for when booking their time off. For me though, not so much. Thankfully, nestled behind the wall of high-rise hotels, and a few blocks back from the beach in the semi-industrial area of Kaka’ako is a different Hawaiian experience, that of the Pow Wow art festival.
In its third year (four if you count the initial Hong Kong event), Pow Wow has grown in scale with each incarnation and is testament to the vision and passion of event founder Jasper Wong and his team of hard working board members (and let’s not forget the interns). Somehow they have brought together over 100 artists from all over the world for this year’s event which means that countless walls throughout the Kaka’ako district have been negotiated and secured for live art installations.
The vibe here is awesome, which is to be expected really. Great artists all hanging out and planning artworks together, new friendships being made and a giant exchange of creativity taking place each day. The locals are all super-friendly, but in a genuine, down-to-earth way, rather than the forced “I work on tips” friendliness you may experience in Waikiki.
Most of the Pow Wow artists stay together at a mansion in the idyllic North Shore area of Oahu and are ferried into town each morning to paint. The daily rendezvous is Fresh Café which is adjoined by the gallery Loft In Space, host to the opening party and group exhibition on Saturday evening. Once it gets too dark to paint there are dinners and drinks or official Pow Wow side events going down most nights.
Today marks the fourth day of painting and the art is really starting to take form. You can spend literally all day wondering from wall to wall, chatting with the artists and snapping photos of works in progress. And, if like me you’re not a participating artist, there is time between event commitments to discover the true beauty of Hawaii away from the tourist trap side of town.
Check the gallery for an overview of some of the work going up so far.
More to follow as things develop.
Photography by Melissa Findley.