So essential was the ocean to the survival of ka poʻe Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian people) that they divided and named it with beautiful intricacy. Mary Kawena Pukui used the term "nā papakū o ka moana" when talking with kūpuna about how Hawaiians had names for so many different parts or depths of the sea, each one having its own unique function in their lives. Many of the divisions are named for what is done there (surfing, catching crabs, netting uhu, etc.). Some are named for their unique color or character. Others have connections to akua and the Hawaiian view of the physical world. On this garment you will find one or more of the ocean divisions we chose to depict, based on the descriptions of Samuel Kamakau: kuaʻau ("surf-riding sea"), kai kea ("white sea" beyond the surf break), kai hī aku (the dark blue sea where aku are pulled in and mālolo are also caught), and kai pōpolohua mea a Kāne ("the purplish-blue reddish-brown sea of Kāne" - the deep ocean). Wiliau refers to the currents that move through the ocean. These traditional divisions give us a valuable window into the worldview and lifestyle of our kūpuna. They also provide us with an opportunity to reflect on the many ways this vast realm of Kanaloa still sustains us today.
Species that are some of the first to grow on barren lava have to be hearty and drought tolerant. Pāʻūohiʻiaka (Jacquemontia ovalifolia, subsp. sandwicensis) is one such plant. This endemic subspecies is a coastal dwelling herbaceous vine found on all the islands. It is very attractive with its small oval leaves and star-shaped pale blue to white flowers. The color and shape of these delicate blossoms is reminiscent of its cousins, the ʻuala and the koali (other members of the family Convulvulaceae). The fine hairs on its leaves help to retain moisture in the harsh, high exposure environments it calls home. It can form dense mats that cover large areas. Maybe that is why it was the perfect plant to grow over young Hiʻiaka and protect her from the sun as she slept on the beach while her older sister, Pele, was out surfing (or fishing, as other versions of the story go), earning it the name "skirt of Hiʻiaka" (also kākuaohiʻiaka and kaupoʻo). This story is the impetus behind the ʻōlelo Hīkākā mai nō ā malu kuʻu ʻili - Spread like vines over me till my skin is shaded/protected. Hawaiians made medicine from the leaves and stems of this plant to treat thrush in babies among other conditions. Today, it is popular in landscaping, as it is easy to propagate from cuttings, requires little water, and grows quickly.
Like the resounding peal of thunder in the heavens, the full and rich hiliu a ka pū (sound of the conch) is the voice of Lono. It resonates deeply with us because of its ancient history. It heralded Lono's arrival in a district during his circle-island journey each Makahiki. It generally called people to assemble for ceremony, the arrival of a vessel, the start of a battle, etc. Ka pū ʻai kaua a Lono (the war conch of Lono) was a well-known signal of war. Before the battle at ʻĪao, Maui folk from Waiheʻe to Māʻalaea heard the call of Hinamakanui, the war conch sounded by Kamehameha's forces. Kihapū and Kapūmaeolani (also Pūmaleolani) were two other famous pū blown only by chiefs. Accompanying Pāʻao on his journey to Hawaiʻi was a conch blower (puhi pū) named Pūʻolēʻolē. This design honors "Triton's trumpet" (Charonia tritonis), one of two shells Hawaiians used as wind instruments. This large ocean snail grows a magnificent spiraled shell up to 16 inches long, patterned in tones of brown and white. It lives at depths of 10-130 feet and feeds on the invasive "crown of thorns," a killer of Hawaiian corals. Popular among shell collectors, its populations are rapidly declining in Hawaiʻi. Ka hale hiliu o ka ʻāpapa - The resonant vessel that comes from the reef.
There are over 600 species of cone shells in the world, most found in the warm seas of the tropics. Known for their fabulous patterns and geometrically pleasing shape, cone shells are popular and heavily collected. Featured in this design is one of our favorite species, Conus textile. Pūpū ʻalā is a generic term for cone shells, but a Hawaiian name for this particular species is unknown. This shell has a yellowish brown color with undulating lines of chocolate brown and clusters of small white triangular shapes that look like families of puʻu (hills). Textile cones are not so easy to find, so consider yourself lucky if you find one of the beauties rolling around at the ʻae kai (water's edge). Cone shells range in size (the biggest types reach 9 inches!), but all are predatory carnivores capable of delivering a venomous sting with a harpoon-like structure. Some can be dangerous or even fatal to humans, yet many collectors are willing to risk a sting to harvest them live. We do not advocate this practice. Instead, we enjoy looking for cones that have no resident animal. Many avid shellers in Hawaiʻi have special love for puka shells - the broken off spires (tops) of cone shells that usually have a puka (hole) worn in them, or drilled in them by a hungry heʻe (octopus).
Almost every kid from Hawaiʻi has had the experience of being stung by the infamous Portuguese Man o' war, or paʻimalau in Hawaiian. The searing tendrils that leave the skin red and welted are not just put there to torture you. These venomous tentacles are used to trap and paralyze prey (small fish and plankton) or fend off attackers. They are one of four "polyps" that come together as a colony (the other polyps handle functions like movement and reproduction) to form a single individual. The funny blue bubble we quickly identify on windward beaches is a gas-filled bladder called a pneumatophore. It acts like a sail to catch the wind, helping them to move (along with tides and currents). Paʻimalau stings can be anywhere from annoying to life threatening (in the case of a serious allergic reaction), depending on the person. There are two species of paʻimalau that occur in Hawaiian waters: Physalia utriculus (found in the Indian and Pacific oceans) and P. physalis (occurs throughout the world's oceans). The
pololia (jellyfish) on this shirt is a member of the genus Thysanostoma and is native to the Hawaiian Islands. It is a true jellyfish, or Scyphozoan, meaning it is bell or saucer shaped and has tentacles and/or oral arms that deliver a sting. The bell is used for self-propulsion and the oral arms for feeding (it eats basically the same kine stuff as the paʻimalau). These elusive, deep-water jellyfish are rarely seen, so consider yourself lucky if you spot one. The ʻōlelo below speaks to the stinging ability of both the paʻimalau and the pololia - an experience you are likely to remember. Ka ʻiniki welawela kuni i ka ʻili - The piercing hot pinch that brands the skin.
This gorgeous endemic fern is one of many endangered plant species in Hawaiʻi. It's Latin name is Microsorum spectrum. Spectrum means vision or apparition, recalling the frond's unassuming beauty. Catching a glimpse of one is not easy, as they are very rare. Should you be out in the wet to mesic forests on any of the major islands looking for these elusive beauties, keep in mind that they tend to spread in a creeping, vine-like fashion, or grow as a ground cover. Called lauaʻe on Kauaʻi, this species is often confused with an introduced fern (Phymatosorus grossus) used commonly in lei and for other purposes, and called by the same name. The true lauaʻe (peʻahi on other islands) is sweetly scented and was used in lei making. The Makana area of Kauaʻi is famous for the luxuriant growth and softly sweet scent of lauaʻe. One of the meanings of peʻahi is to wave or beckon, as these exquisite emeralds of the forest do. Ke ani peʻahi maila me he ipo lā - Beckoning like a lover.
Hawaiʻi has roughly 25 species of endemic damselflies (Megalagrion sp.). The beautiful red pinao ʻula is the one shown on this shirt. These delicate little damselflies breed in streams, pools, waterfall spaces, damp fern litter and in the leaf axils of some plants. Their immature form is aquatic and is heavily impacted by introduced stream species. They are predatory feeders whose like to grind other small insects. The largest pinao are roughly 60 millimeters in length. Their presence is a sign of a healthy Hawaiian ecosystem. ʻUla nōweo kuʻu pinao lā - My little pinao is a bright scarlet red.
He pua aloalo ʻaʻala ē - A fragrant hibiscus flower. One of few fragrant species of its genus in the world, Hibiscus arnottianus is found chiefly on Oʻahu in both the Koʻolau and Waiʻanae ranges. Flowers from this tree, also called pua aloalo, have elegant white petals and sexual parts that are an attractive and unmistakable bright pink. When in full bloom, it is hard not to notice these incredible blossoms as they decorate both the lofty branches of their trees and the forest floor, shamelessly attracting the eye and captivating the thoughts. If that isn't enough, their sweet scent is like that of no other flower - ʻaʻohe ona lua. Unfortunately the mesic to wet forest habitats that are home to this species are disappearing rapidly. Encroached upon by alien plants and animals, these habitats are highly threatened. Supporting conservation efforts in these habitats will help to ensure the survival of this species, one of Hawaiʻi's precious jewels.
Like many Hawaiian words, the term pua has several meanings. Although most people know it to be a flower, it is also used poetically to refer to the offspring or descendants of humans, as in the popular expression "kuʻu pua" (my dear child) heard in so many Hawaiian songs. Elen Prendegast's well known anti-annexation mele "Kaulana Nā Pua" (Famous are the descendants), also known as "Mele ʻAi Pōhaku" makes use of this beautiful metaphor. Pua is also a term used for the young of several fish species, especially ʻanae (mullet). The schools of pua on this shirt swim in formation as the changing tide pulls them in one direction and then another. Their strength and success lies in their togetherness.
Nā pua makamae i ke kō a ke au - The treasured descendants in the pull of the tide.
One of two butterflies endemic to Hawaiʻi, the Kamehameha butterfly, or lepelepe o Hina (Vanessa tameamea) is found from Hawaiʻi to Kauaʻi. Its host plants are the native nettles (like māmaki and olonā). These little guys weave a chrysalis (cocoon) that looks like a dried māmaki leaf. The young caterpillars are "leaf-rollers," which means they cut a crescent-shaped flap into the leaf of the host plant and roll themselves in it for protection. Fond of sunny days, these creatures are most active when its nice out.
Ka ʻōnohi kau maka - The beloved one.