Our latest installment of “SonS : Featuring” brings us back to the Hāmākua coast of Moku O Keawe with muralist and painter, Haley Kailiehu. Her generational roots offer her a unique lens on ʻāina based cultural practice and her craft allows her to continue the rich stories of her environment into intricate and meaningful illustrations. An active energy in the Hawaiian art community, we are excited to share our classic canvas of the “Aloha Shirt” with Haley for a limited print run of her “Koholā” artwork. Proceeds from sales will benefit Hui Mālama i ke Ala ʻŪlili.
“Kuʻu iʻa, nona ka lā.” (My fish, possessor of the sun.)
The koholā, or humpback whales, are one of Hawaiʻi’s most iconic symbols, and yet, we often fail to understand them and their function in our universe with the level of depth that they represent for us as Kānaka ʻŌiwi. As their name suggests, koholā share an intimate relationship with the lā (sun), following the its movement on a cyclical journey each year between the earth’s northern and southern hemispheres. Our kūpuna revered the koholā, as a kinolau of Kanaloa, for their ability to dive to the deep depths of the ocean—gathering nutrients and knowledge from the Pō realm—and then return to the surface where they lele (leap) into the Ao, the realm of Kānaka, making that deep ancestral knoweldge accessible to us.
Throughout Hawaiʻi, a number of places were named for the koholā and their function in the ocean. One of these places is the ahupuaʻa of Koholālele in Hāmākua, Hawaiʻi. This design, created by one of Koholālele’s living descendants, Haley Kailiehu, honors the koholā’s relationship to Koholālele and their function in all of Oceania as cultivators of abundance and recollections of deep ancestral memories. It also honors the ʻohana and caretakers of the ʻāina of Koholālele today, Hui Mālama i ke Ala ʻŪlili (@kealaulili), a non-profit organization who seeks to restore the abundance of this ʻāina and community, today, and in the future.