As its name denotes, the Nīʻau pattern mimics the literal mid rib frond of the coconut leaf. From this sturdy spine or stem, narrow leaflets form clean geometric lines represented in this print as an homage to the profound niu or coconut tree. Hawaiians, like many Polynesian cultures, hold the coconut tree in high regard for its sustainability and multi-purpose usage, utilizing all parts of the tree which yield materials for medicine, fuel, food and shelter.
Hawaiian mythology also refers to niu as a kinolau or earthly manifestation of the god Kū, who represents fishing, farming and war. This staple canoe plant is key for survival, and wai niu (coconut water) is considered sacred, used in ceremony and special occasions because it exists in the elevation of the gods. Wai niu is also the only water that can be offered to the gods as it is the only water that is not touched by human hands.