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In many of my Hawaii-inspired paintings I use the small, red kahelelani shells. They are very rare, and can be found washed upon the shores of the little known Hawaiian island of Ni'ihau.


Niihau, also known as “The Forbidden Island”, can only be inhabited by native Ni’ihauans and has highly restricted visitations from outsiders. Ni’ihau remains relatively untouched by the outside world, with no roads, hotels, restaurants or even running water. Safely tucked away in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Ni’ihau has been able to preserve and maintain their native culture and wildlife. It quite possibly is one of the last places left untouched by the influences of the outside world.

Since the island is off limits to outsiders, I could not collect these shells myself. They were gifted to me by a native Ni’ihauan friend to be used in my artwork. Collected on the secluded shores of Ni’ihau, they hold the purity, mystery and loving Aloha of this rare and untouched island.

These treasured shells are collected one at a time, and a day of gathering may produce only a small handful of shells at best. Collecting them is a spiritual endeavor requiring endless patience. Ni’ihauans pray for the shells to wash up on the beaches, acknowledging their magic and beauty, and realizing their integral part in the circle of life on this planet.

These highly sought after shells are the tiniest and most prized of the Hawaiian shells, ranging in colors from tan to light pinks to deep reds.  They often are sewn into intricate leis, and in ancient Hawaiian culture, the leis made from these shells were used exclusively for the Royal Family.  Kahelelani shells are so extremely rare and beautiful, that they are the only shells in the world that are officially considered a precious gem.

Their presence in these paintings symbolize the magnificent beauty and power of Hawaii’s nature, people, spirit and culture.  They also hold the purity and Aloha of the rare and untouched island of Ni’ihau. I am so grateful to have these sacred shells shared with me, and it is with this intention that Aloha is carried through the shells, into my artwork, and to the people who receive them.








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