Leave your preconceived notions of Honolulu behind for a moment. We want to introduce you to a neighborhood cast in brick and built on sweat, culture, commerce and creativity. Situated just beyond the touristy glitz of Waikiki, just past the harbor and adjacent to Downtown, stands Chinatown. Here, amidst the century-old architecture, our story unfolds.

Our store butts up against a structure that houses dumpsters that our building and Rangoon (a delicious Burmese restaurant on the corner of Nuuanu Ave and Pauahi) use to dispose of trash. Three weeks ago, a million rusty staples riddled the entirely boarded façade of our “dumpster room,” tombstones of a million and one flyers from decades past. However, there’s so much more to this building than meets the eye.

The stand-alone structure, known as the Pantheon Building, is rooted in lore. It was once home to the oldest bar in Honolulu and one of King Kalakaua’s favorite watering holes. How many buildings can lay claim to something like that?

On Saturday, July 11, 2020, Chinatown held a city-sponsored “open street” event where sections of Hotel Street and Nu’uanu Avenue we blocked off to traffic and patrons were encouraged to walk and ride their bikes in the streets and visit some of the bars and retail spaces in the area. Local artist Duende took to the streets with a bit of a different approach and installed a huge mural that spread over the entire face of the boarded-up Pantheon Saloon building.

The installation of the mural along with Single Double’s artist in residency, Cody Anderson, rendering a drawing of a Chinatown boba drink menu for an art raffle, were the sole display of art happenings in a neighborhood that once prided itself on its artists’ lofts and their inhabitants. People gathered and commented amongst themselves while watching Duende dunk his mop in bucket and slather wheat paste on the boards that have been used to cover up a forgotten relic and over the printed strips of the mural to secure them in place and with them new hope of inspiration; a cover up of a cover up.

Let the new art act as a reminder that we can never really just cover things up. History doesn’t just disappear if you don’t look at it. Most times the beauty in things rests in a second glance, a different angle. A deep breath and a more inspired perspective. Banks Journal along with Single Double are working to bring a more inspired style of living to the streets of Chinatown and Honolulu at large.

In these uncertain times, even as pandemic seeps into our neighborhoods again, it is important to remain true and steady. History may repeat itself, but it’s never quite the same and in uncertainty rests opportunity. Every day is a journey.

About the artist: 

 Duende is a self-taught artist residing in Honolulu, Hawaii whose focus is creating collage to inspire and raise awareness about issues dealing with ocean conservation. This love for the ocean is apparent in his collages which consist of salvaged material found on the coastlines, film/iPhone photography, magazine clippings, acrylic and spray paint. His thirst for personal development took him to Austin, Texas in 2016 where he resided for nine months assisting SprATX (a local artists collective) in mural sales, business development and art installations such as a two-story mural house for Austin X-Games. He has six years volunteering experience with POW! WOW! HAWAII where he’s gained most of his knowledge and experience as an artist and has even assisted world renowned artist Daniel Arsham with his first ever street art mural in Honolulu. Duende has showcased in art exhibitions such as Art Palm Beach in Florida, an exhibition in Tokyo and is currently working on a solo exhibition in Honolulu. 

Photos: Christian Richard Cook  IG: @christianrichardcook
Artist: Duende IG: @sflorescortes
Words: Justin Nakasone with edits and additional words by Jeff Mull


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