Kukui Lei Mo’olelo

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Aleurites moluccana, also known as the Kukui tree or Candlenut tree in Hawaii, is the source of the shiny black seed leis (necklaces), tourists frequently see when the come to Hawaii. Because of its versatility and many uses, the Kukui tree was made the State emblem of Hawaii in 1959.

Different parts of the kukui tree including the bark, leaves, and roots were utilized in a variety of ways from the medicinal to food, dyes, canoes, and tattoo ink to name a few. Historically, the oily nuts were used for torches and lights and so the tree is considered a symbol of enlightenment. Even today the nuts are roasted and made into a kind of relish called ‘inamona. And the nut shells are made into highly polished leis.

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Kukui nuts come in colors of brown, beige, mottled tan and very light tan – almost white. When I moved to Hawaii, I applied my artistic skills to putting designs on these lighter kukui nuts and stringing them into leis. Some of these leis told the story of a traditional Hawaiian legend through their symbology. Beyond the leis I found other ways to use kukui nuts in my art. The pictures are just a sampling of some of the work I produced. I am currently working on a book detailing the techniques I used to create these works of art.

 

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Kukui Nut Earrings

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Maile Design Lei

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Kukui Nut Chalices

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Close up of Lei Mo’olelo – story lei.

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Kukui Nut Masks

© N. Lawrence 2016