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) mo'o kū
c) lawai'a
d) kaua
What is he holding in his left hand?
a) akua ka'ai
b) ki'i 'oni'oni
c) la'au ku mana
d) kou hoaaloha
What is he wearing on his head?
a) mākini
b) mahiole
c) pāpale kepau
d) umeke
What is he wearing on his shoulders?
a) ahu'ula
b) ahumoku
c) kihei
d) kapa moe
What are the white strips?
a) lei o pepa
b) kapa 'oloa
c) awe he'e
d) lelo kea
What is my occupation?
a) warrior
b) priest
c) assassin
d) messenger

‘Ahahui Mālama 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 priest in the temple of the major Hawaiian god Kū, a mo‘o Kū. In contrast, the priests responsible for the rites of Lono are called mo‘o Lono. On his head is the gourd mask called mākini that offers not physical protection, but separation from mere human status and establishes symbolic connection to the divinity. The mākini is crested with foliage, which some believe most resembles the flowering clusters of the native sedge 'uki (Machaerina sp.), which grows in the montane forest, considered the realm of the god Kū. From the mākini hangs strips of kapa (bark cloth), derived not from the common wauke (paper mulberry), but from the native nettle ma‘oloa (Neraudia sp.) which produces a particularly brilliant white kapa, called kapa ‘oloa. The strips of kapa might further obscure identity and provide further religious separation of sacred from profane.

The image held in his hand is called an akua ka‘ai, a so-called god-stick, that was carried as a physical manifestation of the god Kū, and which could be driven into the ground as a free standing image as necessary.  

The malo (loincloth) is tied in the typical fashion, with a front flap (pola). This contrasts with the special puali method of malo tying used by warriors 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 Mo‘o Kū 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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