“Local Traffic Only” by Martin Charlot

In 1985, McDonald’s commissioned Martin Charlot to paint a mural for their Kaneoherestaurant on Oahu. The result was the 5’ x 24’ mural “Hawaiian Folkways,” depicting daily life in Waiahole Valley. There are over 100 scenes, each illustrating a Bible proverb, Hawaiian saying, or quotations. When the Kaneohe McDonald’s was remodeled in 2010, the mural was carefully preserved.

Artist Martin Charlot offers a keepsake edition of “Hawaiian Folkways” and a glimpse into the creation of the mural in his book “Local Traffic Only: Proverbs Hawaiian-Style” (2007). The title of the book comes from a small sign hanging on a telephone pole in the mural. Charlot reveals that the mural was inspired by letters he wrote to his children, containing sketched vignettes of “proverbs with the hope of amusing and teaching my precious audience of four” (page 6).

“An interesting benefit to using local models is that everyone is sure that it is their aunty or their cousin in the mural, Charlot muses. “The archetypes of some of the characters are so familiar that many people are sure they know them personally” (page 8).

My favorite scenes are of the man sitting reading a book, with the maxim “A wise man is mightier than a strong man, wisdom is mightier than strength and a man of knowledge increases power” (actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger posed for it); the mischievous smile on the face of a girl who is just about to trip her older, stuck-up sister and the warning that “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall”; and a laughing upside-down boy with the reminder, “Hang loose!”

There is always something new to discover. There are humorous illustrations, like a hand emerging from waves to toss a coin, two girls pinching each other’s noses, and a banana man in a banana stand. There are strange illustrations, like a giant bug looming over a sleeping woman, a two-faced man, and a swine-headed woman tempting a swine-headed man. There are thoughtful illustrations, like an angel shyly holding a cup out to a man, a man floating in the ocean with a golden heart and golden breath, and a woman uncovering a pearl in her vegetable garden.

If you can’t make it to the Kaneohe McDonald’s to see the mural for yourself, or if you need more time to let it all soak in, I highly recommend that you read “Local Traffic Only” or visit Charlot’s website at http://martincharlot.com/hfstill.htm.

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