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.