The Origins of ‘A‘ali‘i

Native Hawaiians believe nā inoa (Hawaiian names) are infused with mana, or divine life energy. Names honor ancestors, remember acts of heroism, and foretell good or bad fortune. That’s why in Hawai‘i, respect and care is always given when selecting a name for a person, object, or place. That responsibility wasn’t taken lightly by the Howard Hughes Corporation when it was time to select an appropriate name for their new residential project in Ward Village.

To honor Hawaiian cultural naming practices and traditions, the Howard Hughes Corporation consulted respected, cultural experts Hinaleimoana Wong and Sig Zane’s design firm, Sig Zane Kaiao. Sig Zane is best known for his signature, culturally-inspired fashion line, while Hinaleimoana Wong is admired as a kumu hula, cultural practitioner and community leader.

Zane and Wong took their inspiration from the ‘āina (land) on which Ward Village occupies. When the Ward family acquired Kukuluāe’o (the area where Ward Village now stands) between 1870 and 1875, it was known for its salt ponds and fishponds. One of the plants believed to inhabit the area was the ‘a‘ali‘i, a hardwood shrub used by Native Hawaiians for canoe building, making weapons, and house posts. Known to be present on every island but Kaho‘olawe, the fruit and leaves of the ‘a‘ali‘i were used medicinally, for making lei, and to make dyes for designing kapa.

The sturdy ‘a‘ali‘i also grows abundantly in Kā‘u on Hawai‘i Island, the ancestral home of Victoria Ward’s ‘ohana. In Kā‘u the ‘A‘ali‘i earned a reputation for being resilient and hardy.

"‘A‘ali‘i ‘Alo Ehuehu," says Hinaleimoana Wong. “The ‘A‘ali‘i resilient in the fury of the storm.”

As a “pioneer plant” the ‘a‘ali‘i is responsible for a host of ecological benefits that leads to greater eco-system biodiversity. It can survive both fire and drought, and is capable of standing up to harsh winds and arid temperatures.

“‘A‘ali‘i growing in profusion and abundance become much more hardy and resilient to weather and the elements. Much like our kanaka (Native Hawaiians) of times past, success was not commonly found by standing alone, but instead found in standing together.”

Like the plant that inspired its name, ‘A‘ali‘i brings strength, resilience, and diversity to Ward Village. In recognizing the cultural significance of its setting and history, ‘A‘ali‘i provides a strong foundation for new homeowners who can take pride in knowing that they reside in a place rooted in culture, and which respects and honors the past.

“To wear a lei ‘a‘ali‘i is to adorn oneself in the finery of the land representative of strength, resilience, fortitude, and survival. Trial and tribulation, challenge and strife, the storms of life cannot bend the ever standing ‘A‘ali‘i.”


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