The mural on the Agasa Furniture building pictured on the front page (Tribune-Herald, April 5) introduces several points of community interest worthy of discussion. Among these are: censorship, public vs. private art, private property rights and citizens’ responsibility to local history, among other hefty issues.
Censoring the image of a hula dancer carrying an AK-47 is shocking and frightening. It connotes only one thing and that is the reality of the monster world out there. So, the gun is censored in a fashion that destroys the mural but transforms it into a teaching device for the community — should we choose to utilize it to our advantage.
Freedom of expression saves a free people from tyranny, but irresponsibility necessitates limitations upon freedom. And here we are.
As an artist and mural painter in days past, I think the mural, in very fine craftsmanship, tells a story that ought not be told to the community of Hilo, which I have come to love in my 45 years here.
The mural faces Nawahi Street, named for Joseph K. Nawahi, one of the Hawaiian kingdom’s most charismatic, educated and enlightened citizens of Queen Lili‘uokalani’s late independent nation.
Nawahi was her representative from Hawaii Island and one of the queen’s most trusted advisers. He was a modern man, a legislator and loyalist. He and his wife, Emma, started the Aloha ‘Aina newspaper dedicated to making Hawaii pono (righteous).
The mural with the gun is an affront to Nawahi’s memory and meaning. In reality, the entire corner lot should become Nawahi Plaza — in honor of that great local couple, their vision and mission.
Hilo is growing up fast now, and we must protect its proud history.
Do not destroy the mural. Use it to teach us about life’s vicissitudes. The artist has the responsibility for the story told; in this, it is a most effective mural. Scary, but effective. Tomas Belsky Hilo