Unfolded by the water are the faces of the flowers.
-ʻŌlelo Noʻeau #2178
By Hiʻilani Shibata
NaHHA would like to share an article from one of our Lamakū Hoʻokipa, our Beacons of Hospitality, who are making a positive impact through the value of mālama and as a contributing member of the Native Hawaiian community.
“Mōhala i ka wai ka maka o ka pua” conveys the idea that water is the essential catalyst for life and growth. Just as water nurtures and sustains the blossoming of flowers so, too, does it nurture and sustain our people. This wisdom resonates deeply, as our islands’ very existence depends on the abundance and purity of wai (fresh water). It is a reminder of the profound connection between the ʻāina (the land; that which feeds) and the people.
Water is more than just a physical necessity; it is a spiritual force. Native Hawaiians have a rich tradition of connecting with the spiritual world through water. Sacred sites often revolve around water sources, such as ponds and springs, where rituals and ceremonies are performed to seek blessings and guidance from our ancestors and gods. Water, in this context, is seen as a bridge between the earthly and the divine.
Furthermore, water is an integral part of Hawaiian storytelling and mythology. Many legends and chants highlight the transformative power of water. Water is depicted as a life-giving force capable of shaping the landscape and the destiny of the islands. The islands’ names, themselves, often contain references to water, emphasizing its fundamental role in Native Hawaiian identity and cultural heritage.
The ʻōlelo noʻeau “Mōhala i ka wai ka maka o ka pua,” not only teaches us about the physical necessity of water but also about the importance of nurturing and preserving the cultural and spiritual roots that bind Native Hawaiians to their land and traditions. It serves as a reminder of the responsibility we all share in protecting and sustaining our environment to ensure our water resources continue to thrive for future generations.
E hoʻi i ka wai, let us all call for the return of the wai, the water, the abundance, the blood of the ʻāina to all of our sacred places, including Lahaina (orthography and pronunciation vary) so that our Hawaiʻi thrives with us as it’s caretaker. E ola Hawaiʻi!
Hiʻilani Shibata has spent last last 25 years in both formal and informal education. She has a BA in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi from UH and is a K-5 educator at Ka Waihona o ka Naʻauao teaching sustainability through cultural practices and executing this curriculum in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. Hiʻilani is graduate of NaHHA’s Ola Hawaiʻi program, a hoʻoponopono practitioner, and the voice behind Ka Mahina Project which shares daily manaʻo through intentional reflection guided by the cicles of the moon. A sought after keynote speaker, cultural educator and active Native Hawaiian community member, Hiʻilani continues to raise her children in the language, values and traditions of her Native Hawaiian heritage.