Hardcover Journal | Kūpe'e - blue - ALL SALES FINAL
printed cloth cover |160 pages | approx measurements 5" x 8.25" x .75"
This unassumingly beautiful shell bears the Latin name Nerita polita and is found throughout Hawaiʻi and other tropical areas. Preferring a discreet lifestyle, they stay nestled down in the sand between the rocks at the high tide line during the day. At night, they emerge and crawl onto the rocks to feed. A special structure with rows of curved teeth is used to rasp and scrape diatoms and other yummy microscopic algae from the rocks. Hawaiians have always collected these shells to eat and make adornments from. Ornaments for both the wrists and ankles are called kūpeʻe and are often made from the shells (who was named after who?). They draw the eye to the hands and feet of the hula dancer and make a beautiful sound when the body moves. Lei ʻāʻī, or strung objects worn about the neck, are also made from these shells. In times past they were worn when mourning the death of an aliʻi (chief). A very famous lei kūpeʻe that once belonged to Kapiʻolani can now be found at the Bishop Museum. This lei was made from shells gifted to her when she traveled the islands. Found within each shell was a small scrap of paper bearing the name of the place it came from and the type of shell it is. Charcoal colored shells are most common and, according to Mary Kawena Pukui, rainbow colored shells or ones with a red stripe were not for makaʻāinana (everyday people). Today, high levels of harvesting are having an impact on kūpeʻe populations throughout Hawaiʻi. Because the largest shells produce the most babies, collecting those of medium size may help to preserve this precious resource.
Kū i ka pō, peʻe i ka lā - Come out at night, hide during the day.