Right now two Hawaiian canoes are floating in the Pacific Ocean, guided by navigators who use the stars and waves to take them around the world. It's a worldwide voyage called "Malama Honua," or "to care for the Earth," and crews of the Hokulea and Hikianalia canoes want to show us that, whether we're on a small canoe, a continent or a planet, we're all a part of the same community.
But on land, Honolulu-based artist Kamea Hadar and students of the Pow! Wow! School of Art and 808 Urban painted a mural on the side of a warehouse in Honolulu to commemorate the launch of the worldwide voyage, and to honor one of its earliest advisors (Mau Piailug, who died in 2010).
This monumental voyage wouldn’t have happened if not for Master Navigator Piailug, who, at a certain point in the early 1970s, was on his way to becoming the last navigator in the world who navigated his voyages by traditional techniques of using stars and waves as a compass.
With the renaissance of Hawaiian culture in the 1970s and the emergence of the Polynesian Voyaging Society that had a mission to keep these traditions alive, Piailug, a Micronesian from the small island of Satawal, was asked to sail Hokulea canoe’s first voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976, as no Hawaiian knew how.
In the above documentary, directed by Vincent Ricafort and titled “Talk Of The Sea,” Piailug’s story unfolds as the mural is painted and the canoes prepare for their embarkment on such an arduous journey.
Polynesian navigators believed in the "talk of the sea," as the video shows, “that if you listened and watched, you would be guided.”
Storytelling is vital in the preservation of Hawaiian culture, and Hadar’s mural, as well as this video, tells Piailug’s and Hokulea’s stories beautifully.
Correction: This article was updated to reflect Mau Piailug's Micronesian heritage.