Celebrating 40 years of TNC in Hawai’i
The Nature Conservancy has been active in Hawaiʻi since the late 1960s and opened a local office in 1980. Since then, it has managed and restored some of Hawaiʻi’s best natural lands, and created partnerships to manage over 2,000,000 acres of forests and watersheds. TNC utilizes the best science, traditional knowledge and innovative technologies to preserve the lands and waters upon which all life in these islands depend.
How did this project come about?
With a history of creating designs featuring native Hawaiian species, Kahala reached out to TNC, wanting to tell a story about the plants and animals they help protect in the islands through a custom-designed print. Kahala artists worked closely with TNC experts and the result is a striking piece of artwork that weaves together an assemblage of wildlife and evokes a call to preserve the nature and culture of these islands.
Why were these species chosen?
The native plants and animals featured on this shirt celebrate the signature biocultural diversity to be found on land and sea, in TNC’s preserves and partnership management areas. They are the foundation of what makes Hawai’i Hawai’i, and there is a story to be told about every one of them, which provides for plenty of conversations when enjoying the images on the shirt with others!
How does traditional knowledge and Hawaiian culture inform TNC’s work?
In the Kumulipo, the great Hawaiian chant of creation and relatedness of all living things, there is a persistent theme of pairing creatures on the land and in the sea. This is a deeply cultural Hawaiian element, and it means that as we work to protect the living heritage of Hawai’i, we do so with the knowledge that what we do on the land affects the life of the sea. So in the design of the shirt, the lines between land and sea are not clearly delineated, but woven throughout, reflecting that intimate connection.
Traditional Hawaiian management divided the lands and seas into units called ahupuaʻa, which typically ran from summit down to shoreline, and then out to the edge of the outer reefs. Within each ahupuaʻa, people could generally find all the resources they needed for daily life. When managed properly — considering the needs of both the people and the ‘āina — both humans and nature could thrive.