The Naupaka Flower: Notes on a Symbol

Abstract Naupaka Flower

My supportive and talented brother, Richie, designed this logo for me. He has a way of simplifying lines and clearing out the clutter that is utterly beyond me. I’m more of an ideas person.

The design is based on the naupaka flower, found throughout the Hawaiian islands. There are several varieties of this shrub-like plant, some of which grow near the beach and some up in the mountains. Despite subtle differences, they all share the characteristic “half-flowers” which have inspired legends to explain their unusual appearance.

The most widely recounted version begins in a time when the flowers were “complete” and tells the story of a princess named Naupaka. She was hopelessly in love with man named Kaui, but they were forbidden to marry as he was not of noble birth. When the gods passed their judgement, Naupaka took the flower from her hair and tore it in half. They each kept a piece when they separated, and the flowers have not been whole since.

I have an enduring fascination for myths, legends, and folktales, but something has always nagged at me about this one. A lot of reading and thirty-some-odd years later I figured it out. The basic premise is wrong. The flowers are perfectly complete and any designation of “half-ness” has been imposed from the outside based solely on appearance.

The problem is in the eye of the beholder.


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