Native Intelligence is a store on North Market Street in Wailuku. When you walk in, you see a store that sells native Hawaiian handicrafts, clothing and books, but there’s much more to it than meets the eye. In actual fact, it’s a store dedicated the the preservation and evolution of Hawaiian culture.
Kumu Hula and founder, Kapono‘ai Molitau, refers to it as a “cultural resource center disguised as a retail shop.” It’s a shop dedicated to the Hawaiian practitioner—probably the only one of its kind on the island. You won’t find any factory items shipped in from China here. Every item is exquisitely handcrafted by an artisan or craftsman based in Hawai‘i, and carries part of a story about the history and culture.
“We’re very sensory driven,” says Kapono‘ai. “Everything we see, touch and smell is infused into the shop.”
After hours, the displays are moved aside and the store becomes a classroom, where practitioners come in and give workshops. It’s a unique opportunity to learn about crafting a particular item from a master of the trade while making one of your own, which you get to take home when you’re done.
Kapono‘ai also participated in the Celebration of the Arts at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua this year, where he hosted the ‘awa bar. ‘Awa is a beverage with roots deep in the Hawaiian culture, and is also known as the “water of life.”
If you happen to be in Wailuku Town, stop in and see Kapono‘ai at his store. It’s a unique and profound cultural retail experience.