“NANI KE KALO!” “Beautiful the taro!” This is an essential phrase for us here at Kapalai and our work as Hoʻokuaʻāina. This saying is weaved into everything we do. It is the strong foundation upon which we stand. This phrase is usually the first lesson we like to share with those who visit.
Did you know kalo is one of the most complex carbs in the world? That means it does not spike our insulin levels, leaving them even, and keeping us full for a long time. Kalo is important to us as Hawaiians because it is our staple food. It is our main carbohydrate, eaten at almost every meal. Poi can even be watered down as a substitute for mothers’ milk. We revere kalo as our older sibling, by the name of Hāloa. And he takes care of us by providing an abundance of healthy food to eat.
In turn, as younger siblings, we take care of Hāloa not only by cultivating kalo but we are mindful of our words, feelings, thoughts and actions around any kind of form of kalo. There are no arguments to be had around the table if kalo is there. There are also only positive thoughts, words, and actions in the loʻi kalo itself. We encourage this outlook on life in all areas, not only in the presence of Hāloa. But the loʻi kalo is definitely a good place to start.
When we say “Nani Ke Kalo,” we do not only mean the kalo itself is beautiful for all the reasons stated above but because we recognize ourselves as younger siblings of this plant, we are, thus, included in what we consider beautiful. That is why we hold ourselves, and all those to come to visit us, to a standard of respect, honor, and reverence. We would not treat poorly something we deem beautiful, we would only treat it with respect and love. Therefore, this phrase is an important reminder for us; not only treat others, the ʻāina, and Akua with love and respect but ourselves as well. If there was ever friction or an argument in the loʻi, instead of reacting out of anger, we must keep our cool and remember, “Nani Ke Kalo.” The taro is beautiful, so is all of life, and we must be loving and respectful.
As Hoʻokuaʻāina at Kapalai, we host visitors from all over the world, as well as kamaʻāina. We aim to make the loʻi at Kapalai a place of refuge for the reverence and sanctity of all life. We also hope this is an inspiration and example for us as kānaka of our Earth to allow this attitude to permeate in all we do. I personally, do envision a near future where all life is respected, valued and deemed beautiful in its own unique way, and valued for its unique contributions. At Kapalai we aim to serve as an example and template for this way of life. So when we may be frustrated or upset and tempted to react or lash out, remember that “Nani Ke Kalo!” “The taro is beautiful!” And thus, so are we all, and we treat ourselves and each other with love and respect.
Written By: Pomai Stone, Education & Research Assistant