Painted 2017, ‘This Square of Land…’ appears around Thomas Square (nearly one mile long), a park centrally located in Honolulu. The mural comprises of a series of free-painted hands, gesturing in American Sign Language against an indigo background.
Translated into English, the message reads:
“This square of land is a story about an Admiral who made right from wrong with compassion. Moral: righteousness cultivates pricelessness.”
This message refers to the Square’s commemoration of Admiral Thomas’ actions in 1843, when he restored the Kingdom of Hawai‘i from a foreign occupation. The restoration reflected the prevailing international position at the time, which generally acknowledged the Kingdom’s sovereignty. For Solomon Enos, the message imparts an important lesson moving forward: When we prioritize doing what’s right over what’s profitable, we produce an immeasurable, exponential sort of wealth.
That sign language is used in the mural references an impaired “voice,” and symbolically refers to the act of giving voice to the voiceless. Enos hopes that the cryptic nature of the message will also compel viewers to contemplate the mural as a form of communication and decode it for deeper layers of meaning.
The English-language translation of the mural’s statement is a tweetable 137 characters (including spaces and punctuation) in a direct nod to Twitter and a broader reference to the way in which we communicate and disseminate information today. The brevity and immediacy of social media shape and constrain messages, undermining our acquisition of knowledge. Can a tweet truly encapsulate the complexity of history and its underlying values and motivations?
The mural’s commentary encompasses the past, present, and future of Hawai‘i. The historical importance of Thomas Square (past), the reference to medium and the way we digest information (present), and the moral righteousness (future) form a continuum of knowledge around Thomas Square.
Photos by Christopher Rohrer