Heroes come in many shapes and sizes. Some are decked out in skin tight spandex suits while others have the uncanny ability to hit home runs. Along the spectrum, there are also those that defy social injustice by sitting at the front of buses and those that do forbidden art in the face of an oppressive government. In my hometown of Hawaii, there are two figures that have grown to become rallying forces for an art form that has been marginalized by social misconceptions. They are considered heroes in my book and many others that reside on the islands. They are champions for social consciousness and youth education through art. Their names are Prime and Estria.
To shed light on who they individually are as both educators and social change advocates, Prime is considered to be one of the most influential and prolific graffiti writers in Hawaii’s history. His active role towards enlightening the public about Polynesian culture and its diverse history has had a lasting and positive impact on Hawaii’s community. Through his educational initiative called 808 Urban, his work on both the artistic and educational fronts has created environments that advocate for progressive social change while promoting sustainability for low-income communities through self-determination, cultural awareness, and leadership development. While, Estria has been painting murals since 1984. Since his inception in the art form, his work has populated hundreds of walls that dot every corner of the globe. He has been an influential leader during the Golden Age of graffiti during the 80′s and has pioneered painting techniques that are still widely used to this day. Since 1993, he has taught graffiti classes and lectured at universities on graffiti’s social and political impact. Together they are changing the world one wall at a time through the act of graffiti.
We caught up with the artists as they painted a new mural as a prelude to the upcoming POW WOW Hawai’i art event in 2012.
Lets start this interview on a more lighthearted note. How did you two meet?
Prime: We met through a mutual friend who runs the website graffiti.org. I reached out and said that I’m offering free luaus to visiting artists. She mentioned a fellow local artist who was now residing in the Bay area by the name of Estria.
Estria: Her name was Susan Farrell and she started the first graffiti based website. She told me about this guy that gave free luaus to any writers that came to Hawaii. I said that I wanted a free luau! (laughs)
E: A luau is Hawaiian for barbecue.
P: …and beer. (laughs)
Hawaii is considered to be one of the most isolated places on Earth. A grouping of islands smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s American, but also culturally distinct due to its vast Polynesian history and melting pot of immigrant influences. Growing up in the islands creates variables that lead to a unique upbringing. Can you talk to me more about your connection to Hawaii and how it has led to your perspectives on art and life?