The brainchild of Wailuku Coffee Company owner Jackie Goring and Wailuku Artist Tamara Li, First Friday will be adorned with festive street decorations, a street procession, as well as participatory art installations and an altar at Kipuka Square. Back by popular demand, SMALL TOWN * BIG ART artist Andy Behrle will present his piece lost & found projected at the Square, as Grupo Cañamon and Natalie Nicole and Friends perform on the main stage. Face painting by donation with artists Melissa Bruck and Serena Garretts will be available at Wailuku Coffee Company.
A multi-day Mexican holiday that festively gathers friends and family to remember those that have passed before us, Día de los Muertos was inscribed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2008. The holiday is rooted in Aztec tradition of honoring the goddess Mictēcacihuātl, whose role is to watch over the bones of the dead and preside over the ancient festivals of the dead. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas, honoring the deceased using calaveras, aztec marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts.
Wailuku First Friday’s Día de los Muertos event invites the public to come with offerings – photos, food, flowers, etc. – for a communal shrine to be created at Kipuka Square with Goring and Li.
“In many traditions, this time of year is considered to be when the veil is thin between the worlds of the living and the dead,” shares Li, “we want the community to be able to remember loved ones who have already passed on with shared art and ritual. We love the celebratory nature of the Mexican Dia de Muertos, and also recognize the varied traditions practiced by many cultures in Hawai‘i.”
“Every culture has their own unique traditions in honoring its ancestors,” remarks Mayor Michael Victorino. “In Hawaii, Obon, a Japanese Buddhist custom, is celebrated to honor and welcome back the spirits of one's ancestors during summer months. In the Hawaiian culture, Na 'Aumakua honors our ancestors who have passed from the physical body into the realm of spirit, known through the telling of their legacies, or in the winds, in animals and in nature.”
“I love how Dia de los Muertos transforms something which is otherwise often perceived as fearful or sad, into a celebration of life and remembrance,” said Goring. “Every culture honors the departed and its ancestors. I hope by bringing this celebration to an event such as Wailuku First Friday, it will create an awareness of the holiday and to this common thread in all cultures.”
“Wailuku feels like the right place for an event like this with such old town charm and a bit of an artsy edge. But most importantly, it has a rich recent and ancient cultural heritage. In Wailuku we live with the spirits of the old and the new, and I feel they watch over us and this place. We would like to honor them and invite everyone to join in this reverence and celebration,” said Li.
“SMALL TOWN * BIG ART is about creative placemaking; inviting the community to identify and distinguish places throughout Wailuku through the visual or performing arts,” says ST*BA project manager Kelly McHugh-White, “By ensuring each component of the event is an interaction rather than a completed performance, Jackie and Tamara have envisioned a true spirit of creativity, inclusivity and community.”
A chant will be offered at 7 PM in Kipuka Square Square (near the corner of Vineyard and Market Street) to officially begin the event, by Uncle William "Bill" Garcia.
“Uncle Bill is a member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha and also a Kakalaleo, or Kumu in the art of chant, for hālau Nā Hanona Kūlike O Pi`ilani,” shares SMALL TOWN * BIG ART partner Sissy Lake-Farm, who is the Executive Director of Hale Hō'ikeʻike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society, “He is also a member of the Bailey Family here at the Hale Hō'ikeʻike, and serves as our resident kahuna pule/ kahu for the museum. He helps to bless and do the opening pule for all our important events and annual meetings. We are so honored and lucky to have him as a valued resource.”
Wailuku First Friday’s Día de los Muertos opening procession gathers at 7 PM in Kipuka Square, with the event ending at 9 PM. All are encouraged to dress up, join the candlelight procession, and interact with the public altars and installations. Those interested in joining the procession are asked to only bring flameless tea lights or candles, as fire is not permitted. Come ready to eat, dance, play and celebrate: What is remembered, lives.
SMALL TOWN * BIG ART is a County of Maui creative placemaking grant project funded by the National Endowment of the Arts that supports partnerships of the arts, nonprofit and municipal government sectors to help revitalize historic Wailuku Town. The project is led by County of Maui Redevelopment Program Planner Erin Wade and Public Art Specialist Kelly McHugh, with guidance and support by Sissy Lake-Farm, Director of Hale Ho'ike'ike at The Bailey House Museum/ Maui Historical Society. Learn more at smalltownbig.org or at facebook.com/smalltownbigart and on Instagram: @smalltownbigart.