Noni grew up in the midst of Hawaii’s tropical edible and floral surroundings. In 1959 her family moved to the island Oahu and the town of Kailua, which was imbedded with tropical trees such as Ulu or breadfruit, mango, coconut and papaya. Lilikoi vines draped on fences. Mango season meant those with mango trees would leave you with bags of ripe or almost ripe fruits. Papaya trees and hibiscus grew in yards. Night Blooming cereus blossoms opened up on the mountain.
Hawaiian fruits combine the senses and transport one to the Pacific and the Hawaiian islands; to warmth, and mouth-watering sweetness. Some of these tropical fruits were introduced through the original Polynesian navigators, such as Ulu or breadfruit, and Niu or coconut. Some are considered native such as Mountain Apple. Others were brought in with settlers and dishes were created from these fruits. Missionaries made their version of tapioca from coconut and still today Haupia is a standard in Hawaiian local foods. Lilikoi, or Passion Fruit, a wonderful tangy flavor is used in ice cream, butters, cakes, even martinis. Mango can be pickled, made into breads, sorbets, shredded and dried. Of course you can’t beat mango lassis and smoothies.
Hawaii’an Flowers, some with amazing and unique scents, were a huge part of the local culture. Each May Day Noni would follow the tradition of picking and stringing perfectly half opened plumeria to wear to school and would keep through the day. The entire classrooms smelled of plumeria. Going to a music concert meant hunting for yellow or white ginger to make a lei to wear. Graduates were gifted with piles of leis. With Noni’s unique painting style, she has combined Hawaiian fruits and flowers in a somewhat formal and Asian style, which shows her love for Asian art and botanicals.