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Convention center mural back on display following controversy

  • Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts
    An artist’s depiction of ancient bones

A 16-year-old mural that was covered up for two weeks after a complaint about its contents is back on display at the Hawaii Convention Center.

Hawaii Tourism Authority President Mike McCartney had authorized the draping of the artwork on Sept. 4 after receiving a complaint from Paulette Kaleikini, a native Hawaiian who was offended by it. She objected to the portrayal of bones in the sand at the far edge of the panorama.

The mural, "Forgotten Inheritance," was unveiled again on Thursday night, according to a spokeswoman for the Tourism Authority. The decision followed discussions with the artist’s attorney, the state attorney general and the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

The 10-by-25-foot sculpture, built into the wall on the third floor of the center, was designed to reflect the artist’s concern that Hawaii’s people are losing touch with their heritage. It is an abstract work of concrete, plaster and bronze, incorporating a map of the island chain and various symbols.

Traditionally, Hawaiians believed the bones of their ancestors had spiritual power and hid them from public view.

McCartney’s decision to cover the artwork provoked an outcry over censorship of public art and violation of the artist’s rights. The mural was commissioned by the State Foundation and went through a rigorous selection process and careful review at each stage by art experts, including native Hawaiians.

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