I have seen all but one statue of Kamehameha. The statue in Kapaʻau, Kohala, Hawaiʻi is the most humble, yet most meaningful to me of the collection, since it is situated in Kohala, his birthplace.
Kamehameha represents, for some people, ancient Hawaiʻi. The literal translation of his name is “the lonely one” and he is credited to unifying the Hawaiian Islands under one rule, a feat documented as never before attempted or accomplished by a chief prior to him.
Kamehameha’s name is synonymous with strength, intelligence, and ambition and he continues to serve as an icon of the Hawaiian spirit. His pose in all of the statues that exist today are the same. He is a strapping man, donning a helmet and cloaked in a yellow cape, while holding a spear. The items represent his status as both a chiefly ruler and an accomplished warrior.
Kamehameha was well-versed in ancient traditions and upheld kapu even after unification, yet he was well aware of external influence and the impending onslaught of foreign interests, so he adapted to function in both worlds. For me, he accomplished what countless Native Hawaiians after him continue to struggle with: perpetuating cultural practices while navigating through a rapidly changing world.
Interestingly, the same conundrum serves as the basis for Native Hawaiian issues throughout modern history, such as the prohibition and eventual reclamation of Hawaiian language and cultural practices such as hula; Hawaiʻi independence and sovereignty; the exhumation of ancient bones; and the devastation and defacement of sacred sites including, but not limited to Kahoʻolawe and Mauna Kea.
I often wonder what Kamehameha’s campaign to unification might’ve looked like, but if given the opportunity to go back in time, I’d spend my few short moments asking him how and why he did it.
Weekly Photo Challenge: One | http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/photo-challenge-one/