Alumni’s Artistic Talent Displayed on Aloha Traffic Boxes


Emma Seeya

Recently, the “Making Dreams Come True, Valley of Rainbows-Waianae Coast Visions of Aloha Traffic Box Project, gave numerous artists along the coast the opportunity to paint traffic boxes along the Waianae Coast. 

1997 NHIS alumni Emily Abad and Edina Marfil, along with Sheldon Abad and Bryson Abad were part of a team that helped carry out the project. With the approval of the Valley of Rainbows Executive Director, Denice Keliikoa, they were able to display their art painting three traffic boxes; one located by Hakimo Road and two located by Nanakuli Avenue.

“The week the Waianae Coast Visions of Aloha Traffic Box Project was to start, Angie Aipoalani and Aunty Merrie Aipoalani asked me if I would be interested in submitting artwork. I submitted one with a sunset background with silhouettes representing the tree at Nanakuli Beach park,” said Emily Abad.

These traffic boxes are not only meant for visual aesthetics but the boxes include artwork that embraces the culture that surrounds them.

“The first box I did is at Hakimo Road. I painted a few local fishes. My family goes fishing all the time and it’s a hobby my husband is slowly passing on to our son. My husband recently caught a seven-pound Omilu and so I wanted to use that fish on the box. That box Is dedicated to them,” said Emily Abad.

The second box is the ‘N’ pride design. I was told they wanted Nānākuli alumni to paint the dual box by Nānākuli Avenue. The main picture is a hawk on the block ‘N.’ At first it was just that, then I added the Nānākuli valley mountain range behind it and decided to add the ocean at the bottom and the clouds on top,” said Emily Abad.

For the second traffic box with the ‘N’ design, the team faced some design challenges when it came to picking what to put on different sides of the box.

“The reviewers also suggested adding the logos for the other schools in the Nanakuli area. I added Nanakuli Elementary and Nanaikapono Elementary’s Logo on one side and Ka Waihona charter school on the other side. This box is dedicated to the alumni and current students of the schools represented on the box,” said Emily Abad.

The third box was inspired by the community and the special place that the Nānākuli Beach Park represents. 

“The third box, which was the first design I came up with, is just the sunset at Nānākuli Beach Park with the silhouette of that iconic tree. Anyone who lives on this side would recognize that tree and the people who hang out at the beach all day long. This box is for our Nānākuli families and friends.”

A project like this took time to be executed correctly. 

“I did the Hakimo box first, it took 2 days. I worked from 8:30 am to 3 pm.  It’s a smaller box compared to the 2 on Nanakuli Ave.  I used this box as a test run for the bigger boxes.  I tried to do this one by myself, but it took too long. I had to ask my husband to paint.  He did good! The N Pride box took 2.5 days and the Sunset box took 5.5 hours,” said Emily Abad.

The sunset box took about five and a half hours and the “‘N’ Pride” box took two and a half days to complete.

Painting the traffic boxes did have a set of its own challenges. Emily Abad said, “The first box on Hakimo had old paint on it.  It took most of my time, in the beginning, trying to clean and prep the box for painting.”

Emily Abad also had some creativity blocks due to the time crunch. “I felt so rushed I couldn’t come up with anything, it stressed me out, I didn’t want to do it. I even DM’m Donald Kapaku if he could throw some ideas my way for the Nanakuli pride design.”

Fellow Alumni and team member Edina Marfil said, “The sun was so hot it made the metal hot.  Hot to the touch and dried the paint really fast.” She also explained the struggle of painting on a main road. “Wind gusts were coming from cars and the boxes were too close to the road.”

Emily Abad hopes that the project brings light to the community and “To always be proud of where you grew up, where you’re from.” 

All photos courtesy of Emily Abad.