What do you know about me?

This image copyright 2007
by 'Ohu Gon and Michael Lothiam
Before you read about the figure at left, try to answer these questions, as a test of your knowledge:

What is the name of the figure at left?
a) kahuna la'au lapa'au
b) mahi'ai
c) ali'i koa
d) maka'ainana
What is he holding in his right hand?
a) pololu
b) ihe
c) 'auamo
d) 'o'o
What is he wearing on his head?
a) makini
b) mahiole
c) maka aniani
d) makuakane
What is he wearing on his shoulders?
a) ahu'ula
b) ahumoku
c) kihei
d) kikepa
What is the lei around his neck called?
a) lei o mano
b) lei popolo hua mea
c) lei niho palaoa
d) lei pikake
What does he hold in his left hand?
a) lei o manō
b) pāhoa
c) both of the above
d) none of the above

The ‘Ahahui M&257;lama i ka Lōkahi is grounded both in the best science that conservation can offer, and in ‘ike Hawai‘i (traditional Hawaiian knowledge). The figure above is a result of research into the traditional aspects of Hawaiian culture. It is a depiction of a warrior chief, an ali‘i koa. Ali‘i designates a member of the ruling class, and koa, the warrior. Symbols of ali‘i status include items of featherwork such as the mahiole (feather helmet) and the ahu‘ula (feather cape) each painstakingly ornamented with hundreds to thousands of feathers of native Hawaiian forest birds such as the yellow feathers of the mamo and ‘o‘o, and the red feathers of ‘i‘iwi. The yellow-feathered birds are today extinct, but probably not as a result of feather harvesting by Hawaiians. The ‘o‘o, for example, was described as common at the turn of the 20th century, but dramatic declines and extinction was reported soon after, associated with introduction of mosquitoes and foreign birds bearing diseases such as avian malaria against which native birds had no resistance.

Another symbol of high status of ali'i is the lei niho palaoa, a neck ornament of many braided strands of human hair, converging on an elegantly carved tooth (niho) of sperm whale (palaoa). Kakau, or tattooing in Hawai‘i was not as developed or ritualized as in Samoa,however, several major tattoo patterns have been documented. In ancient times, leg tattoos most commonly ran down the inside of the leg. The malo (loincloth) of a warrior was often tied high, with the front flap (pola) tucked into the waistband, so an opponent could not easily grab ahold of any part of the malo during a fight.

The weapons of warriors included a wide variety of wooden clubs, daggers, and spears. The short spear was called ihe, and was suitable for throwing, while much longer and heavier spears (pololu) were held and used for organized thrusting advances. Shark's teeth (niho manō) were fastened onto wood daggers (pāhoa) and were called lei o manō.

The ali'i koa figure points to the reliance of ancient Hawaiian culture on the natural world, and on the importance of conservation of native species that are the material foundation of Hawaiian culture. Now return to the quiz questions above and see if you can answer all of them!

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