“It’s the most natural path for me to understand the world, to understand my culture, and to understand myself.”

By: Koloikeao Anthony, Native Hawaiian, Generation Indigenous Census Organizer

Talking to many of the grown-ups in my life today, I’m always asked “why do you still do art and why haven’t you moved on to a more real-world, money-making trade?” Always, my answer to this question is that I create because I have to; it’s just the way my brain works. I remember early in high school, still doing art in my free time, I thought I wanted to be a coder or some type of computer engineer because it seemed like a viable and lucrative career path. I was hesitant to pursue any way of life where I wouldn’t be able to express myself to my fullest capability. I thought that I couldn’t become an artist.  

While it may seem a bit cliché, it wasn’t until a summer start-up business camp for young people in Hawaii that I realized I could create for a living. I met local artists, studied their paths in life, and began an understanding of how they made art their vocation. After this camp, I made a conscious choice to lean into figuring out ways to create more, leaving the idea of profit aside in the pursuit of understanding how best to express myself.  

After this camp, I stumbled through different mediums. Having always been interested in street art, I ended up bonding with pigment in the form of spray paint. I was connected with a muralist and street artist by the name of Kamehanaokala, from whom I found a groove in the up and coming scene of big murals on legal walls. Entranced by Kamehanaokala’s way of doing art, I mirrored his style and started to practice graphic design, paint walls (legally and illegally), and explore all things art with Hawaiian Culture as the base for creation. This time in my life gave birth to my brand “Poi Dawg” and a few side hustles like crafting traditional instruments for making food, surfboard ding repairs, and Hawaiian-inspired canvas painting. Through multiple means of inspiration, I found the crafts which speak to me as an artist and bring me individual and cultural fulfilment. 

Ultimately, that’s why I create. It’s the most natural path for me to understand the world, to understand my culture, and to understand myself. Whether it’s using spray paint to lay-up a mural, dragging a mouse around Illustrator to make album covers for local bands, swinging a hammer at a nail to frame the walls for houses, or centering clay on a wheel to make pottery, I never feel more at home then when I’m art-ing. 

Keao Anthony, Hawaiian