Kamaka Pili's MALO Collection is a project that is dedicated to bringing attention to the simple things in life that I feel we take for granted in todayʻs world compared to the world our ancestors lived in. All the designs in this collection talks about different activities that our kūpuna did while wearing malo (loin cloth). This was everyday wear in old Hawaiʻi, however today people think wearing a malo is only for hula shows or ceremonies. From personal experience, wearing a malo in public attracts a lot of comments, both positive and negative. But it is the negative comments that was directed to me while wearing my malo in public that really pushed me to put this collection together. Why should we feel ashamed and shy to wear a malo in public? Should we allow other peopleʻs opinion change what we do? We shouldn't. Through this collection, I challenge every kāne (gentleman) out there to wear a malo while doing these activities instead of regular everyday wear. For example, when you cleaning your yard, why wear regular shorts with no meaning when you can wear a Farming (Mahiʻai) malo and follow the footsteps of our kūpuna? By doing this, you will be more conscious of your work and become more connection. You will also help share the look of a malo, and if people start asking questions what you are wearing, then you can start a conversation and share the messages of why you wearing it, what it means, how it connects to traditional Hawaiʻi, and at the end of the day, you are perpetuating Hawaiian culture and our kūpuna!
**My intention with this collection is that each malo is sold as a malo, not a table cloth, not a bed runner, not a drape. Also, my intention and request to each customer is that each malo should be worn for that particular activity only. For example, if you are cleaning your yard and you want to wear a malo, please use the Farming malo only. I humbly request that you do no use the fishing malo or hiking malo while farming or cleaning your yard. The reason being is that our kūpuna were very disciplined in making sure that everything has its own purpose. Everything had its own home. They wouldn't use one thing for something else if thats not what it was made for. So I want to share that story and share that level of discipline. Again, its my request and intention. Mahalo!
You know when they say "Try step into their shoes"? Well this is "Try step into their malos!"
This design was inspired by my visit to the Forbidden City in China last year. On the visit, I learned that the ground within the city was made up of opposite layers of bricks, the exact number of layer I can't remember, but I know was choke. The reason being was that the emperor was paranoid that someone who break into the city from underground.
This inspired my design because I thought about the steps it took for those ancestors to do that job, to building a Forbidden City, to create that best for their Ali'i, their kūpuna.
This design, for me, represents the footsteps you take when hiking the mountains, harvesting your food or lā'au. Each foot step we take in the first is a foot step into connecting with it kūpuna in the mountains. For me, hiking is not just a way to get out the house. It's a way for me to spend time with my ancestors and connect with the 'Āina around me. My passion is to connect to my kūpuna and Akua in the same amount of layers as the Forbidden City ground. I want to be "that deep".
My hopes is that people will wear this malo when going into the mountains, from hiking to harvesting plants.
LAWAIʻA (FISHING) (to be released later)
This design represents the lifestyle that some of Hawaiʻiʻs ancestors lived. For some, fishing was an everyday practice, making sure that food was provided and put on the table for the whole family. Even in bad weather and rough ocean conditions, people would have to feed their families so they would go fishing anyways. Unfortunately, sometimes fisherman wouldn't come back home because something happened and the ocean took their lives. So fishing was a livelihood and something that life depended on. Today, we can easily go to the store right down the street to buy fish. A poke bowl is so easy to get, and ho, poke bowl is mean! But back in the day, our kūpuna never have that kind of luxury. This is how I think we take fishing for granted. We don't see and experience the struggles and challenges our ancestors went through. But I think we should respect that and be more appreciative for what we have.
The darker design represents a petroglyph of a fish. If you look closely, the black lines represent fishing poles. The dark grey lives represent the fishing lines. The background light grey design represents a fishnet. But it also represents the heavy rains that would make this simple practice a challenge. These rains represent the lives that were lost while trying to provide food for their families.
My hopes is that people will wear this malo when they go fishing.
This design is representing what happens under the water when a wave swells up and breaks. When you are caught in this spot when a wave breaks, you realize that you get tossed and pulled and tumbled all over the place. You canʻt see, not knowing if you will hit reef, holding your breath waiting till you reach the surface to be able to breathe again. A lot of people, including myself, try to fight being tossed around. We try to control where we go, we tense up and try not get pushed all over. What my na'au is talking about here is that urge to fight what is happening. When we fight against the wave and the currents, we lose a lot of energy, lose a lot of focus, and holding our breath becomes more of a struggle. My dad always would tell me to never fight it. In his words, "Eating shit on a wave is part of surfing. It's part of the experience. So just relax and go with the ocean." That's what this design really talks about...that we really don't have control over our lives. We can fight and fight to try make our lives into what we want it to be. But really, we need to just relax and have faith in Ke Akua that everything will be all right. That's what the black dot in the center represents. We might hit reef along the way sometimes; we might fall down along the way in our lives. But that's part of life. We will always fall, hit reef, and get hurt once in a while. But don't fight it. Just relax, and go where Ke Akua takes you. You will find life will go by much more easier.
My hopes is that people will wear this malo when going surfing.
This design represents the lashings of a canoe, bringing attention to working as a team. Every part of a canoe is bound together with lashings. Everyone needs to work together and be as tight as the lashings of the canoe. Once the team starts to become "loose", then everything starts to fall apart. The whole point of this malo is to bring attention and respect to navigation and this lifestyle that our kūpuna lived while wearing a malo. Today, we can easily drive our car or catch a boat or even fly on an airplane. Our travel time can easily be couple mins to few hours. That is luxury compared to the times of our kūpuna, when their lives depended on their simple canoe and a trip could last weeks or months. This is how I think we take our transportation for granted. We don't realize how easy we got it.
My hopes is that people will wear this malo when they are paddling in a canoe or sailing on the ocean.
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This design talks about our land and our food. Our kūpuna would spend their lives in the Kalo patch, raising and harvesting food to provide for their family. Today, we take food for granted. Living in an island in the middle of the ocean, we are too dependant on imports. We don't get our get in the mud as much as we should, myself included. The goal with this design is to spread the message of Aloha and respect for your lands and what it provides... To understand that we take a lot for granted in today's western world. Our kūpuna were 100% reliant on the land. We should strive to self sufficient like them.
Within the design, there are diamonds. Each diamond represents Kalo. The white ones represent the new generation of Hawaiians, yearning to learn. The dark ones represent our kūpuna, full of knowledge and experience. The rainbow petroglyph inside represents perpetuating of knowledge from one generation to the next.
My hopes is that people would wear this malo when they are working in the yard, in the Kalo patch, in the garden, etc.