Guided by the Moon

0
338

Watch the Mahina Moments video for Mahina o Akua that will rise on November 27, 2020.

In the time before, there was a woman called Hina.

She was a kapa maker and deeply unhappy because her husband was cruel. One evening, as she was working, the full moon rose. Hina whispered a prayer to her akua, and a moonbow appeared. Hina began climbing, feeling herself change as she ascended.

Suddenly Hina felt a hand grasping her ankle. She turned to see her husband pulling her back. In that moment, Hina understood that to be free, one more sacrifice was required. So she released her leg, and her husband fell with it to the earth. Hina crawled the rest of the way and, upon reaching the moon, she transformed, becoming the goddess of the moon.

It was then that she found peace.

Hina, also known as Hinahānaiakamalama, is the inspiration for Ka Mahina Project, an innovative start up tech business by two mana wāhine, Talia Cardines and Hiʻilani Shibata.

For years, and with various organizations, Cardines had been working with women transitioning out of prison and back into society. One activity, a gardening project that taught the women to use the moon to guide their planting, was especially fruitful.

Cardines and several others also involved in this work began collaborating to seek new ways to uplift the women in their care. Calling themselves Hale o Hina their hui was birthed in Maunalaha in upper Makiki.

“From that point forward, we embarked on a journey to learn about Hina,” Cardines shared. “It took us to Uluhaimalama to watch the moon rise in Pauoa with Uncle Kaipo Hale, and to ʻIolani Palace to sing Hawaiʻi Ponoʻï with Aunty Haunani Apoliona.”

In 2017, Cardines invited Shibata to become involved as a cultural consultant. At the time, Shibata, who is the lead cultural trainer for the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, was teaching at a public charter school.

Kaulana Mahina Book Cover
Every incarcerated woman in the State of Hawaiʻi received a copy of Kaulana Mahina 2019.

Shibata began facilitating Hina Circles for the women, teaching them about the names, moʻolelo and ʻike related to each phase of the moon. “Connecting to the mahina, and then to Hina and Hina stories, allowed them to understand their self-worth,” Shibata said. “They began to believe that they had the power to become puʻuhonua for themselves.”

Their work attracted the attention of the Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council (WPRFMC), who offered them the opportunity to make a moon calendar for the women.

So, funded by WPRFMC, they created an 18-month calendar, overlaying a standard Gregorian style calendar with moon phases. Then they gathered moʻolelo about Hina and incorporated those stories into the calendar. Called Kaulana Mahina 2019, a copy of the calendar was given to every woman incarcerated in the State of Hawaiʻi.

And then something magical happened.

Women who received the calendar reached out to say that they loved the stories and were reading them every day. The connections they were making to the moon through the stories in the calendar were affecting them emotionally; and it was healing.

“When they’re in prison they look at the moon and they think about their family and their children; and they know that they are all looking at the same moon,” Shibata explained.

December 2019 marked the final month of their moon calendar, so Cardines and Shibata traveled to Molokaʻi, a child of Hina, to mahalo her. “It was there on Molokaʻi that the intention to sustain this learning was birthed,” Cardines recalled.

But they weren’t sure how to do it.

Then in February, Cardines’ son asked her to text him some information about the moon. His request gave Cardines and Shibata the idea to establish a text platform that would not only enable them to stay connected to the women, but also create a mahina community that could include men and women of all ages and backgrounds, from keiki to kūpuna.

The idea began to take shape, and in June they began to send daily Mahina Manaʻo through simple text messages sharing useful information (fishing, farming, health) and stories about that day’s moon phase to a handful of people. In just three months the text messages morphed into 40-second videos and their users numbered over 200.

This led to another idea – the creation of an app. A mentor connected Cardines and Shibata to two UX Design students in Singapore. Ka Mahina Project became the students’ design project and the result was the development of a high fidelity prototype app. This prototype, along with their daily Mahina Manaʻo, was crucial to their successful bid in September for a coveted Purple Prize award.

Established by Purple Maiʻa, a nonprofit that focuses on teaching technology and entrepreneurship, the Purple Prize is an innovation competition for technology solutions that create value for the land and for people, transform the status quo, and encourage an Indigenous technology sector.

Cardines and Shibata are now finalizing their business plan and building their app.

Their daily Mahina Manaʻo is now housed on their private YouTube channel so subscribers receive a link instead of a file. And their website, kamahina.com, launches on November 1.

Overall, the experience of applying for and being awarded a Purple Prize, and everything they have learned in that process, has been eye-opening. Most notably, the challenge of balancing ʻike kūpuna and business.

“You can’t really walk in both worlds. It’s almost impossible,” Shibata declared. “We’re creating a new path that will hopefully empower more women to create businesses that affect social change, include ʻike kūpuna, and are financially stable.”

Ultimately, the women see Ka Mahina Project as a vehicle for using ʻike kūpuna to improve our mental health, our physical health, and the health of our honua (earth).

Moʻolelo about the moon exist within every culture, and so Ka Mahina Project’s app has the potential to make a global impact and help people around the world find peace, healing and connection to their own ʻike kūpuna.

“There is only one mahina, and there are so many stories that have yet to be told. This is bringing us all together,” Cardines said.