An avid canoe paddler, Manaola was inspired to create the ‘Āko‘ako‘a print one day as he sat in his wa‘a (canoe) and peered into the blue waters near his home in Kohala. As the wa‘a gently moved on the water, Manaola noticed the complexity and beauty of the intricate coral formations visible below him. As he continued to gaze into the sea, the endless variation of the flourishing coral bed opened up before his eyes. The Kumulipo—an ancient Hawaiian creation chant that demonstrates a unique Hawaiian acknowledgement and interpretation of evolution—tells us that coral organisms were some of the earliest creatures to come into existence, marking their importance in Hawai‘i’s ancestral history.
The small shapes of coral species also represent the act of creation itself, symbolically representing the kohe, or the birthing canal of a woman, which is the literal avenue through which new life comes into the world. The ‘Āko‘ako‘a print also honors Haumea, the goddess of fertility, who gives birth to new lands and new life.