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Kū i ka pō, pe’e i ka ao (rises at night, hides by dawn)
KŪPEʻE Shells can be found throughout the islands on both rocky and sandy shorelines. Their ability to store water in their shell allows them to sink and move with the tide. Its name Kūpeʻe refers to its nocturnal nature in which it Kū (Rises) to feed on algae at night, and Peʻe (hides) by burrowing in the sand during the day. Native seaside gathering rituals to collect these treasured shells are still practiced by Hālau Hula (Hula Schools) today. Manaola recalls such evening adventures on the Kohala coast with his ʻohana (family). His Kupuna (elders) told him that these pūpū (shells) are sensitive to light and sound so they must be gathered in silence when the moon is not at its brightest lest they get frightened and peʻe (hide) back into the sand. These polished like shells come in a variety of colors and markings that allow them to disappear to the eye in their intertidal habitats.
Kūpeʻe made good eating for Hawaiian families. In ancient times they were prepared by boiling them in salt water and pulling them out of the shell to eat. They are also prized in Hawaiian ornamental culture for their use in traditional hula (dance) adornments, a hole was drilled on its underside and cordage strung through the mouth of the shell to form an interlocking pattern as it is presented in this lei motif.
Kūpeʻe hold a deep spiritual meaning for hula dancers as it represents the peʻe hiding of knowledge within the ʻOlapa (dancer) thus the mana (spiritual energy) of the Hālau (school) is preserved. Designer Manaola continues this translation into the tides of time in this artistic art print. He shares “like the Kūpeʻe in the sea, we move with the changing tides of time. Each of us hold the deep wisdom of our ancestors, teachers, mentors, elders, and life experiences from which we’ve gained knowledge. It is important that we understand when to Kū, rise and reveal our strengths, and when to Peʻe, keep hidden, our wisdom and mana safe within us.”
The Kūpeʻe teaches us these lessons as we continue to move through life’s journeys, as each strand resembles such beauty and strength when worn.