MANAOLA honors kapa tradition with the Hoʻoniʻoniʻo print, created as an homage to the guild of women known as wāhine hoʻoniʻoniʻo as well as the goddess Laʻahana. The wāhine were talented graphic artists who worked in the hale kua (the womens beating house where kapa was produced) and were in charge of the final stages of kapa decoration.
Hoʻoniʻoniʻo means “to spot or streak,” a simple geometric style used in ancient prints and often seen in archaic kapa fragments. The 3 center lines of this pattern were created using a lapa tool, or a kapa liner often made of kauila wood, ‘ohe (bamboo) or tortoise shell sewn onto laths. This modern offering is MANAOLA’s interpretation of reimagined Hawaiian stripes.
The simplicity of Hoʻoniʻoniʻo showcases the designer’s affinity for ancient artistry as well as the foundation of kapa design. Through this print, MANAOLA celebrates the women of this tradition as well as the goddess who guided and inspired their creativity, Laʻahana (laʻa meaning sacred, hana meaning work), the patron diety of the sacred arts.
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.
In Hawaiian culture, Mauna a Wākea—the tallest mountain on Hawai‘i Island, more commonly referred to today as Maunakea—is revered as a sacred place. In mo‘olelo (stories), the mauna (mountain) is considered to be the child of Wākea, the sky father, and Papawalinu‘u, the earth mother. Upon the mountain summit, Wākea charged the creation god Kāne with custodianship over the mauna. Kāne gave birth to four fully-formed water goddess: Poli‘ahu, the goddess of the snow, Waiau the guardian of the lake, Kahoupōkāne, the guardian of both the summit of Mauna a Wākea and the summit of its sister, Maunaloa, and Lilinoe, the goddess of the mists.
MANAOLA honors the four sacred goddesses of the mountain through the Mauna print, which features four different mauna shapes. At the top is the shape representing Poli‘ahu. Waiau’s is placed at the bottom. Lilinoe’s is on the left and Kahoupōkāne’s on the right side of the pattern which, symbolically, is closest to Maunaloa and the older Mount Hualālai.
The foundation of MANAOLA’s designs begin with the cultural values of nature and Hawaiian art traditions. As a designer, Manaola Yap seeks inspiration for his original carvings from repetitious patterns found in nature.
The Kapa print transforms simple geometric shapes representing Hale Kua, the womenʻs beating house where the final stages of kapa beating and adornment were completed and hung to dry. The line of negative space between the hale represents water, an essential element used in processing kapa.
By placing the Kapa in repetition, it forms a symmetrical reflection of the hale, a mirror of the indigenous art form and its modern-day reflection in contemporary Hawaiian designs. This print was created as an homage to the time-honored tradition of kapa making and the many kapa masters who have inspired Yapʻs career.
The ‘Upena print is based on another classic pattern found in native Hawaiian design. The art of creating an ‘upena (net) was an important craft in Hawai‘i used in everyday practice to catch both ﬁsh and fowl. The traditional ‘aho (cord) was knotted and tied in different sizes depending on the target catch. Manaola’s interpretation of this design was inspired by the carved, wooden anvils used to pound watermark designs into raw kapa. He pays special attention to the pattern, which features detailed pūpū, or hollow depressions forming circular shapes, inside each eye of the pattern.
MANAOLA’s ‘Upena print represents the retainment of love, knowledge and good karma, while also directing the release of energies that do not serve us well. As the purpose of the upena is to gather necessities, he hopes to inspire the wearer to practice mindfulness, to catch hold of positive energy in your net and to let the rest ﬂow through the eyes of the ‘upena.
The Nanaka print mimics the rough skin of the ‘ulu (breadfruit), a staple crop of Hawai‘i and symbol for growth. Though the literal meaning of nanaka refers to the unique texture of its skin, MANAOLA’s interpretation also honors the ‘ulu as a means of nourishment.
In Hawaiian folklore, the ‘ulu tree is revered as a kinolau (earthly embodiment of a god) of Haumea, the goddess of fertility. The designer pays homage to Haumea as well as the beloved breadfruit through the Nanaka print to encourage abundance and growth for those who wear this print.
The skill of of weaving has been revered as one of the most prominent art forms in Hawaiʻi. Manaola honors the tradition of ulana (to weave) with this bold pattern depicting traditional lauhala (woven hala leaves) with intricate design work. The significant woven pattern is symbolizes the weaving of the Hawaiian islands into a tight knit community. Manaola intends to connect the wearer of the Ulana print to the land in the same way that the Hawaiian community is deeply connected with it—woven into the very foundation of the islands.
At sunset, looking out across the waters at Pebble Beach on Hawai‘i Island, one can often see the ominous silhouette of a shark’s dorsal ﬁn circling in the sea. This striking visual was the inspiration for the Lālani Kalalea print. The linear, kalalea (prominent) pattern evokes the harsh, sharp edge of the shark’s teeth, the acute angle of its fins and the aggressive nature of the manō itself. To balance these strong angles, Manaola evokes the gentle grace and elegance of the shark’s swimming pattern to create an unexpectedly sensual and profound design that accentuates not only the fluid motions of the shark but also flatters the figure of those who wear this print.
The Kaimana (diamond) print transforms the simple shape of its namesake into a powerful geometric design that captures the essence of the beautiful, starry Hawaiian sky. The Kaimana print honors the ancient Pacific art of wayﬁnding, a navigation system employed by Native Hawaiians and other Pacific cultures who navigated their ocean travels using the stars as a guide.
One of the most profound MANAOLA prints, the Hina engages with aspects of sacred feminine energy, and with creation itself, through connections with the eponymous ultimate feminine deity. As a singular pattern, the carving depicts the full form of a woman standing in the traditional birthing pose found in many ancient ki‘i (petroglyphs). Patterns of line emanate from the figure, representing the powerful vibrations of feminine energy that connect her to creation.
To further represent feminine power, Manaola patterns the Hina print in repetition to form a circle. In doing so, the pattern reflects the cycle of creation and a woman’s unique ability to create life. Hina is also the goddess of the moon and, thus, the cycles of pregnancy are connected to the cycles of the moon, embodied by this circular print.
Manaola’s Pewa design is his take on a classic wedge pattern found on many traditional Hawaiian textiles. The design is based on the fishtail repair found in traditional Hawaiian woodworking, which was used to prevent wood from splitting or to patch holes in broken calabashes.
For Manaola, this wedge-shaped pattern is symbolic of healing and the mending of wounds of the heart and mind. He places the Pewa print in a fluid, ﬂowing formation as a visual metaphor for the passage of time, which is necessary for growth, understanding and wisdom.
The print takes on even a deeper meaning for Manaola, who believes that by mending one’s cultural past, one can shape an empowered future. Hawaiians, like many other indigenous peoples around the world, have endured spiritual, physical, political and cultural disruptions during the course of their history, making the symbolic healing of the pewa of paramount importance to reconnecting with the past to survive in the modern world.
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.
Inspired by the harbor flats from Pāhonu to Māhukona on the Kohala coast of Hawai‘i Island, the Niho Kū pattern is comprised of a set of prints based on the jagged lava rock formations that jut from the sea. As a child, Manaola would paddle along this coastline, and the rugged landscape was a familiar site for the emerging artist. The receding tide displays tooth-shaped rocks, eroded through time by the power of the ocean, reminding Manaola of the sharp teeth of the manō (shark).
The first print in the pattern is called Niho ‘Ai Kalakala, and represents the constant sharpening of a shark’s teeth during the course of its long life. The second print, Nihomanō, refers to the shark-infested waters of Pelekane Bay. The final print, Niho Kū, or “standing shark tooth,” is based on a traditional design found in Hawaiian artwork. Though it may appear to be a basic triangular formation, its essence is tied to a deeper significance within the sacred geometry of traditional Hawaiian thought.
In ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i, “manaola” means “life force.” The designer represents the ‘ūwila, or lightning bolt, as a physical representation of this life force, embodying the strength and raw power of nature. When printed in repetition, the ‘Ūwila print serves as a Hawaiian take on the houndstooth motif.
Manaola created the ‘Ūwila design as a symbol of protection for the wearer. In Hawaiian folklore, the goddess Pele possessed a magic pāʻū ‘ūwila (lightning skirt), which could shield the wearer from dark or negative forces, and leant the skirt to her sister, Hi‘iakaikapoliopele, so that she might journey safely. The designer intended this print to provide the wearer with symbolic protection and the strength to face life’s challenges.
The Peʻahi Niu is a primitive print honoring the crescent-shaped fans reserved for Hawaiian Royalty. Made of intricately woven coconut and pandanus leaves, these fans are often depicted in lithographs by high-ranking monarchs for both practical and ornamental use.
Denoted by the sophisticated twisting and braiding of leaves and fibers such as human hair, Peʻahi Niu showcased the finest weaving skills of Hawaiian artisans. These native artifacts are highly revered for their royal association and preserved in the likes of Hawaiʻi Bishop Museum as well as a special collection in the British Museum.
The crescent shape of these woven fans are recognized as an icon in various Polynesian cultures and often represented in native tattooing throughout Hawaiʻi, New Zealand, Samoa and throughout the South Pacific. Within these cultures, tattoos inked the genealogy and life experiences of the individual upon the skin, thus the Peʻahi Niu was utilized as a mark of distinction for high ranking Chiefs to wear this symbol of pride.
In his Niho Manō print, designer Manaola returns to the sacred geometry of repetitious pattern found in nature that connects people to art, no matter the culture. Niho Manō literally translated means sharkʻs teeth. Manaola presents the design in geometric rows of teeth moving in ocean wave patterns across the textile.
In Hawaiian culture, the shark, a fierce species that includes Lālākea (Great White shark) and Niuhi (Man-eating shark) inhabiting our living ocean, is revered as an ʻAumakua, an ancestral guardian spirit. When the manō (shark) clenches its jaw – we witness its strength, determination and laser focus.
Rows of niho (teeth) are used in Hawaiian weapon clubs and in ʻihe laumeki barbed spears. Ancient warrior ancestors wielded these weapons and, then as now, they still protect and guide us today. The Niho Manō print represents and imparts strength, protection and being steadfast in purpose and intention.
One of the many classic relationships that exist in the nahele (forest) of Hawaiʻi is that of the ʻŌhiʻa Lehua tree and the Iʻiwi bird. In Hawaiian culture, this scene is an allusion of sensuality between male and female, as the ʻōhiʻa represents the femininity while the Iʻiwi, who sips nectar from the lehua blossom, is the male counterpart. The designer uses artistic license to bring two oppositely placed entities into the same scene as a provocative gesture challenging the symbiotic relationship of the forest.
The designer drew inspiration for this print from the two traditional mele maʻi, Pūnana ka Manu, and Tū Oe, which represents the sacred act of love making through images in nature. Hula traditions practice mele maʻi to encourage procreation amongst royal bloodlines to further the native population. MANAOLA’s Lehua graphic reflects the playful nature of the Hawaiian people, ancient expressions of hoʻoulu lāhui Hawaiʻi (propagation of the Hawaiian Race) and the landscape of sensuality in the modern world.
In Hawaiian mythology, twin-tailed Iwa birds are acknowledged for their connection to Kaiona, a merciful Goddess who resides in Kaala and Waiʻanae mountain ranges. When travelers were lost in the dense forests of these mauna (mountains), they would call upon Kaiona for guidance. Known for her kind-hearted and benevolent nature, Kaiona would send high-soaring Iwa birds to navigate their path to safety. Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop is said to have exhibited similar virtues of compassion and was often referenced as ka wāhine hele lā o Kaiona, the lady who walks in the sunshine of Kaiona.
During an afternoon of reflection, the designer found himself at the namesake of the Goddess, Kaiona Beach Park, welcomed by the sight of a rainbow and flight of Iwa birds circling above. He believes that these hōʻailona (signs) were sent by Kaiona to guide his journey and inspired him to create the Iwa print.