Through the Eyes of Ancestors

Through the Eyes of Ancestors

“The kiʻi is an effigy of this generation taking hold of an ancient murmur.”

Bound tight to Hōkūleʻa’s two manu hope are wooden figures or kiʻi symbolic of a long standing tradition among ancient Hawaiian canoe builders. On the starboard side is a male kiʻi “Kāne o Hōkūleʻa Ka Lani,” and on the port side is a female kiʻi “Kiha Wahine Ka Moʻo o Malu Ulu o Lele.” They are the creations of master carver Sam Kaʻai.

“Kiʻi means pictures. Photographs you take along, if you call upon ancestors you need to have some of them come along and bare witness. They are going to be in the other dimension. They are going to sail in the fluid place called the sea. Here is the place of Kāne and that is the place of Kanaloa. So kiʻi is an effigy of this generation taking hold of an ancient murmur,” said master carver Sam Kaʻai.

As the waʻa and its crew go out into the vast ocean, the kiʻi reminds them of the past and their journey to regain forgotten knowledge.

“The male is about people who lost their ways. So that kiʻi is a lost person. Notice he’s blind, except in his ancient murmurs he remembers the true course. So all he does is trust, pray, reach and take hold of a star,” said Kaʻai.

Kaʻai acknowledges that though the kiʻi represents a lost man, Hōkūleʻa’s voyages has proven that one can find their way through traditional navigation.

“We found our way. Us finding the way affirms that it can be done. We made the images, we blessed them, and we used them. It launched at Kualoa until they really stepped off to Tahiti, the female carving wash’t there. It showed up in the goodbye ceremony that I did. There’s no tradition of a female carving on a canoe. Well why did you do that? Because they needed one from the other side of the veil to bare witness if we are courageous, if we are correct, if we are pono. I am a Piʻilani and in the lines of the Piʻilani who becomes very powerful in the late 15th century is Kihaapiʻilani a woman who is deified. I chose her because I have obedience to that bone, to that iwi. So I asked if I would put this as the witness,” said Kaʻai.

“She bares witness if we are courageous, if we are nā koa, courageous, if we are brave, if we are pono who watches man at his best or his worse and who will tell the story. Kiha, clear voice in the heaven, so thatʻs where the female was chosen. She bares witness and will be the communicator if you’re lost. Bares witness and says and this story is told,” said Kaʻai.

The kiʻi are also meant to provide guidance and protection for the waʻa and those aboard. These are essential as Hōkūleʻa makes its way on this long and momentous journey around the world.

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1 Comment

  1. Vanessa Miller 4 years ago

    Aloha e Kumu Sam,

    Mahalo piha nō, no kou mau manaʻo, kou moʻolelo, a me kāu i kālai ai no ka waʻa e kaulana nei, ʻoia hoʻi, ʻo Hōkūleʻa. I kēia wā, piha ka honua i ka poʻe e noho ana ma ka huikau a me ka maopopo ʻole. He hopena paha o ka pili ʻole o ko kākou noho ʻana o nā ʻike, nā makana o ko kākou mau kūpuna. Auē! He mau manaʻo haʻahaʻa wale nō oʻu, nui nā ʻaoʻao like ʻole. Hōʻike maoli mai ʻoe iaʻu e hiki hoʻi ke noho me ka manaʻolana! Mahalo hou e Kumu Sam! E hoʻomau.

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