About us

We are an inspired ʻohana committed to reestablishing niu practices within Hawai’inuiākea. Kuʻu ʻāina aloha, our beloved natural world, ignites our passion for coconuts as food, art, mo’olelo, and cultural rejuvenation. Our ʻohana volunteers comprise niu knowledge holders, farmers, researchers, and aloha ʻāina practitioners. Cultural renewal matters for everyone! We welcome all students dedicated to perpetuating a better niu-world for future generations.

HISTORY:

NiU NOW! started as the Uluniu Project at the University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu in January 2017. The University Office of Sustainability grant supported the Uluniu Poject to grow ten ʻulu and ten niu trees on the UHWO campus. Tree planting at UHWO began January, 2021. Community supporters linked to the Uluniu Project include Mālama Learning Center, MAʻO Oraganic Farms, Kahumana Organic Farms, Kaʻala Farm, the Hakipu’u Learning Center, Kaulunani Community and Urban Forestry Advisory Council, and the UHWO Aloha ʻĀina Student Service Club, along with Sustainable Community Food Systems students (SCFS). 

NiU NOW!

The founders of NiU NOW! are Indrajit Gunasekara, Manulani Aluli Meyer and Ngahiraka Mason. Gunesekara is from Matara, Southern Sri Lanka, where the perpetuation of niu cultural practices is living.  Indrajit creates niu nurseries throughout the Hawaiian Islands.  He made Hawaiʻi his home in 2004. Ensuring the perpetuation of the many varieties of coconut trees is indrajitʻs passion.  Aluli-Meyer is the philosophical cheerleader for niu. Recognizing niu to its full potential as the Tree of Life is Manu’s goal!  Manulani is a community connector, an inspiring teacher, and an advocate for food sovereignty. Albie Miles (UHWO SCFS) coined the term nuinate (a person youthful in their passion for coconuts!), and we borrowed it for NiU NOW! Ngahiraka Mason is the team ideator and gave the name NiU NOW! for this movement, so it would be inspiring to remember. What makes a niunate?  Have a relationship with the natural world, soil, water, plants, trees; relate to niu as the Tree of Life, and joy in the learning and sharing niu practices!

Niunates have joined in the NiU NOW! movement since December 2019. The founders planned to participate in the Pacific Arts Festival (FestPAC) in Hawaiʻi, June 2020, with a NiU NOW! Festival. FestPAC organizers canceled the festival in April 2020 due to COVID-19. 

Along with the Uluniu/NiU NOW! founders, Indrajit Gunasekara and Manulani Aluli Meyer, Ngahiraka Mason, Kaui Sana, Chelsie Onaga, Vilsoni Hereniko, and Jessie Keali’inohomoku represent the organizing team for Niu NOW! Our Webinar Series was fun to do and generated interest in the niu. Hoʻoulu niu!

FOUNDER BIOS 

Indrajit Gunasekara

Gunasekara believes the niu in all its manifestations is a metaphor for the strength and resilience found in humanity. The Tree of Life is a mirror for all we need to sustain life: water and food, building materials (shelter), creative practice (weaving & implements), cultural, social, and spiritual practices that exhibit reverence for life.

Indrajit is a niu knowledge holder. He has committed his life to this endeavor and we are instructed and inspired by his depth and excellence.

The Uluniu Project is Indrajit’s commitment to the UH West Oʻahu mission as an Indigenous-serving institution.

Indrajit Gunasekara holding a compact green dwarf seed nut from Laʻie while organizing 24 varieties of 264 seed nuts for UH West O’ahu Niu Nursery placed in the nursery on December 26, 2020. Photo by Manulani Meyer

Manulani Aluli Meyer

Manulani Aluli Meyer is an educator, collaborator, and orator.  She is passionate about the role Indigenous epistemology plays in healing the world and is grateful for mentors, beloveds, and ʻohana who live this pono.  Manu held a dream decades ago and spoke about it often: “If Hawaiʻi get coconuts back in the coconut trees, weʻll be OK!”  She now sees this as I-Thou relationality with kuʻu ʻāina aloha, with our beloved natural world.  Manu is committed to helping regain her sensibilities around ke kumu ola – our Tree of Life! It is more than a metaphor that we remember our way back into niu knowledge, niu relationships, niu logic! Time to heal by healing ourselves, and time to drink wainiu and joy in each otherʻs ahua.

Manulani Aluli Meyer with her favorite niu face! Photo by Indrajit Gunasekara.
Ngahiraka Mason

Born in Ruatoki, Aotearoa New Zealand, Ngahiraka Mason (Tūhoe, Te Arawa, Ngāti Pango) is an international independent curator, art critic, thought leader, supporter, and advocate for artists and communities in the global south. Based in the Hawaiian Islands since 2015 and connected to Hawaii since 1982, she is a student of the writings of Māori anthropologist Te Rangi Hiroa, Sir Peter Buck (Ngāti Mutunga), who created historical niu research in the Cook Islands, Tonga, and Samoa beginning in the 1920s. As the third Director of the Bishop Pauahi Museum (1936-1951) Buck’s legacy in the sciences and material culture are inspirational to Mason’s research on niu contemporary art practices and culture.

NiuNOW! founders (l-r) Manulani Aluli Meyer, Ngahiraka Mason, Indrajit Gunasekara.

Acknowledgements