The Long and Thoughtful Journey of the Hawaiian Rainbow Bees Tiki Vessel
When Hawaiian Rainbow Bees first started their family honey business in the Hawaiian Islands they gained an appreciation for the Islands’ natural beauty and a deep respect for the native plants and animals. While working together with the bees they could see the abundance all around them in nature. Over time they were able to appreciate and understand the rich and intricate history of its people and their culture, and feel the industrious spirit of its people.
They had a resolute goal in their mind that would continue to be at the forefront of their business’s mission as it grew: they wanted to create a product that was authentically Hawaiian, and that would honor and celebrate the spirit of “Aloha” and share it with the world. They already had the product: pure, raw, unprocessed Hawaiian honey they harvested from island fields and small farm locations. But they didn’t want to sell it in the typical bear-shaped bottles one might find in a grocery store. As they put it, they wanted this pure, natural product of Hawaiʻi to be carried in a vessel that also represented the Islands, its people, and their rich culture and history. They wanted an image to represent the Hawaiian industrial spirit of hard work and working together, because, like their bees, the Hawaiian culture celebrates cooperation and industriousness.
Hawaiian Rainbow Bees didn’t want something that might be taken as kitschy; respect is a huge component of their philosophy. It was critical to them that whatever image they chose would be chosen and designed with the utmost care, thought, and sensitivity to the Hawaiian people and culture. So they set forth on a mission to find the perfect representation of Hawaiʻi that would end up taking them three years to complete. After brainstorming what kind of image would best represent Hawaiʻi’s people and history, they decided that one of the island nation’s gods was the perfect emissary to help educate people around the world about Hawaiʻi. After an immense search, they found that the god Kū was the representation they’d been seeking. Kū, one of the four main gods, is the god of war, fishing, farming, and politics. They wanted to create an image to represent Hawaiian farming [Kū-kuila (Kū of dry farming)] of honey, and to share the industrial spirit of hard work and working together of bees (nature) and humans to create a beautiful product. While also holding up the (politics) “industry” side of Kū. This was what the company endeavored to honor. The aspect that Kū is also a fierce and determined god were also traits they wanted to incorporate.
Once they decided on Kū to be the imagery to represent Hawaiʻi and that of Hawaiian Rainbow Bees, they had to create an original vessel image that would best represent Kū’s determined and industrious spirit. There are many tiki representations of each god in Hawaiian culture, and the team wanted to create one that was an honest and accurate version of Kū to be the vessel of his honey.
They read through mountains of historic texts, documents, and Hawaiian literature, and visited the Bishop Museum, which houses its own statues of Kū. The team also took a trip to the Big Island’s Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, (The Place of Refuge) where ki'i (carved wooden images) stand on this historic site. They also hired a number of artists to create the version of Kū that they were looking for, but none of them were able to be true to what they were trying to achieve.
Luckily, they were able to find artistic support in designing a representation of Kū that had the right feeling and mana (energy) from of one of the students at Halau Na Mamo O Kahalelelua (a hula school) run by Gina Jingao, a well-respected Kumu Hula who studied under the masterful Sonny Ching. This halau and Kumu Hula Gina truly honors Hawaiian culture, and embraced the created vessel’s design. At last, after years of research and scrapped designs, the spiritual energy at the Halau Na Mamo O Kahalelelua had helped to create a vessel that was a perfect representation of the traits of Kū that Hawaiian Rainbow Bees wanted to showcase: determination, ferocity, and farming industry.
With the design in hand, they found Gina Holt, a clay artist on the Mainland. She was able to make the dream a reality, and mold for Hawaiian Rainbow Bees’ new Hawaiian vessel was born, ready to send the spirit of Aloha out to the world, carrying history, culture, spirituality, and of course the raw, pure, natural Hawaiian honey to be shared with people around the globe.
Hawaiians are great storytellers. By creating and using this tiki vessel they found method by which Hawaiian Rainbow Bees could tell one of the many moʻolelo (stories) of Hawaiʻi. They hope that when a person receives the gift of Hawaiian honey from Hawaiian Rainbow Bees, they also would receive a bit of Hawaiian history, and some of Kū’s spirit of industry and determination.