Kamehameha heads list of Hawaii heroes in bronze


HONOLULU--Few states boast the Aloha State's range of heroes immortalized in bronze.

QueenThere are statues of monarchs and adventurers and several of U.S. presidents, found throughout the island. Asian nationalists are prominent, too, reflecting the state's ethnic and plantation heritage, and last year the first statues of Hawaiian performing artists were unveiled. More than half of the statues were installed in the 1990s. A rundown follows:

  • Kamehameha I (Year of birth unknown, died-1819). Any statue tour must begin with Kamehameha I (also called Kamehameha the Great), who was honored by his fourth statue last year.
  • Born a high chief on the Big Island, he had conquered the major islands of Oahu, Maui and the Big Island by 1795; in 1810 Kauai gave in without a fight. He took advantage of Western advisers and guns, was an astute trader and developed the sandalwood industry and a system of laws.

    Sightseeing buses stop by the historic Judiciary Building in downtown Honolulu (now housing the state Supreme Court) to see Hawaii's best-known--and most-photographed--statue. Ironically, the kingdom's Legislature--dominated by missionary families and planters--commissioned the statue in 1878 to celebrate the centennial of Capt. James Cook's discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. King Kalakaua unveiled it in 1883 during his coronation celebrations, which included the opening of his Iolani Palace across the street. It was completed in 1880 by an American artist in Florence, Italy, but the German ship carrying it to the islands caught fire and sank off the Falklands.

    A replica Kamehameha statue fronts the Judiciary Building. The original, retrieved by divers, arrived here a few years later and was installed at Hawi (near Kamehameha's birthplace) on the Big Island's northern tip, where it stands today. Neither statue--plus a replica in the Capitol in Washington--looks like Kamehameha (a model was used).

    Another Kamehameha statue was unveiled last June in Wailoa State Park in Hilo (the site of his headquarters while conquering the Big Island). There is a story behind that one, too. Created in Italy in the 1980s, the 12-foot bronze was commissioned by the Australian owners of Kauai's 2,250-acre Princeville resort. Residents, however, opposed installing it at the resort: Kamehameha had little to do with, and never conquered, Kauai (Kauai's King Kaumualii ceded it to Kamehameha).

    Japanese investors bought Princeville, and the statue remained in a warehouse. In June 1996 it was given to a committee composed of graduates of Kamehameha Schools, a private institution for Hawaiians, who planned the Hilo site. It took a year to raise the $100,000 needed for a pedestal, landscaping and installation.

    Kamehameha was a young chief when Capt. Cook arrived at Kealakekua Bay, south of Kona on the Big Island in early 1779.

  • Captain James Cook (1728-1779). Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay during a skirmish at which Kamehameha is believed to have been present. On his first visit to the bay the previous year, Cook was regarded as a god. On his final visit, problems arose over a stolen ship's boat and a high chief being taken as a hostage for its return.
  • Cook's first landfall in January 1778 was at Waimea on Kauai's south shore. His statue is in the town's center, installed 150 year later, in 1928. It is a replica of one at Witby, England, Cook's birthplace, and a plaque states that it was erected by the people of Kauai to commemorate Cook's "discovery of the Hawaiian Islands."

    (Today, it is incorrect to describe Cook as the discoverer of these islands: Polynesian seafarers discovered and settled them more than 1,000 years before).

  • Queen Kaahumanu (1768-1832). Following the death of Kamehameha in Kona in 1819, the Hawaiian religion was abolished. There were battles, heiau (temples) were destroyed and such taboos as women not eating bananas and eating in the company of men were eliminated. Kaahumanu, the Hana-born queen regent and adviser to succeeding monarchs, spearheaded that change.
  • In 1820, the first New England Protestant missionaries arrived, finding a religious voiid. Kaahumanu later converted Her eight-foot-high statue is the centerpiece of the main courtyard at the Kaahumanu Shopping Center outside Kahului Airport. It was created and installed in 1994 as part of an expansion that doubled the size of the center, which has more than 100 stores and restaurants.

  • King Kalakaua (1836-1891). Kalakaua brought all the pomp and ceremony of a Victorian-era monarchy to the islands, building Iolani Palace in 1882.
  • Known as the Merry Monarch, he was the choice of the planters and merchants for king. Soon after his election, he was off to Washington to negotiate a sugar treaty, making Hawaiian sugar competitive in the U.S.

    He did much to revive the Hawaiian culture, particularly the hula. However, his overspending and his penchants for bringing in overseas adventurers in his cabinet and for expensive and unsuccessful schemes, such as sending a gunboat to take over Samoa, frustrated the business community. In 1887, he was forced to accept what is called the Bayonet Constitution, making him in effect a constitutional monarch.

    His statue can be seen in Waikiki at Gateway Park. The statue and park, with palms and yellow hibiscus, were created in 1991. There also is a statue of him in military uniform in downtown Hilo, unveiled in 1988 (he had a home across the street where the defunct Hilo Hotel stands).

    He died at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco and his sister, Liliuokalani, became queen.

  • Queen Liliuokalani (1837-1917). Her statue, an eight-foot-high bronze figure unveiled in 1982, is located between Iolani Palace and the Capitol. Revered by Hawaiians today, she tried to restore the power to the monarchy that her brother had lost. During one weekend of political intrigue in January 1893, she was overthrown by the merchant and planter community while preparing to introduce a new constitution.
  • U.S. sailors and marines came ashore at the request of the U.S. minister here, an opposition supporter, ostensibly to protect U.S. property and lined up opposite the palace. Believing that the U.S. government would restore her to the throne, Liliuokalani gave in to avoid bloodshed, and the following year Hawaii became a republic. In 1895, following an unsuccessful counterrevolution by her supporters, Liliuokalani was imprisoned for almost eight months in a palace now used as government offices.

    Visitors can see the room, and a quilt she began sewing while incarcerated, on guided palace tours (the 45-minute tours are conducted Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Admission: $8; $3 for guests ages 5 to 12).

  • Robert Kalanihiapo Wilcox (1855-1903). A bronze statue of the man who led the counterrevolution, Wilcox, can be found on Fort Street in downtown Honolulu. A plaque there describes him as "Hawaii's freedom fighter." The statue of Wilcox, in military uniform, was unveiled by the City and County of Honolulu in 1992, a prelude to the commemoration events of the 100th anniversary of the overthrow of the monarchy in January 1993.
  • Born on Maui--his father was a sea captain, his mother a Hawaiian princess--he was a schoolteacher and studied (thanks to Kalakaua's funding) at a military school in Italy. He became a legislator, and led an unsuccessful move to restore Kalakaua's powers following the Bayonet Constitution, giving up after taking the palace. In the 1895 revolt, he led 200 insurrectionists fighting in the valleys behind Honolulu. They were rounded up within two weeks.

    Wilcox spent one year in prison and was elected in 1900 as Hawaii's first delegate to Congress. He died while running for sheriff of Honolulu, some believing from ingesting ground glass put in his drink.

  • U.S. presidents Hawaii has statues of two U.S. presidents--Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) and William McKinley (1843-1901). A statue of a young Lincoln is on the grounds of the Ewa Elementary School in West Oahu, thanks to the organizing efforts of an enterprising teacher in the 1940s. McKinley's is at McKinley High School on King Street in Honolulu.
  • It was during McKinley's administration that the U.S. annexed Hawaii almost 100 years ago, in August 1898, with the islands becoming a territory two years later. After Liliuokalani's overthrow, President Grover Cleveland sent a special envoy to investigate, concluded the overthrow was wrong and was ready to hand the kingdom back to the queen.

    Ironically, visitors will not find a statue--even a street or school--named for Cleveland (Republican Party politicians controlled Hawaii up to the mid-'50s). But Cleveland got sidetracked by events and by a Senate set on imperialism and expansion, leading up to the Spanish-American War. There was support here for annexation.

    In 1993, President Clinton--and Congress through a resolution--formally apologized to the Hawaiian people for U.S. involvement in the 1893 overthrow.

  • Father Damien (1840-1889). The priest served at the Kalaupapa leprosy settlement on Molokai from 1873 until his death from the affliction in 1889.
  • His boxlike bronze fronts the Capitol here and is similar to one located in Washington. Created by Venezuelan-born sculptor Marisol Escobar, who worked from photographs of the dying priest, its design and placement caused controversy at the time.

    Visitors here between mid-August and mid-November last year would have missed it. The statue was taken away for repair. Years of heavy traffic, including slowing sightseeing buses, had damaged the granite base.

    Father Damien de Veuster was born in Tremeloo, Belgium. In 1995, Pope John Paul II presided over Damien beatification ceremonies outside Koelkelberg Basilica in Brussels. Among the more than 100 attending from Hawaii were a dozen former patients who still live at the Kalaupapa settlement, now a national historic park. They returned with a relic (Damien's right hand), which was reinterred at his Kalaupapa church, St. Philomena's (his remains had been returned to Belgium in 1936).

    What will be Hawaii's next statue? One possibility is a monument to Henry Opukahaia, the man responsible for bringing Christianity to the islands.

    His descendants are planning statues to be erected on the Big Island and in Honolulu. Opukahaia, born on the Big Island, inspired the New England missionaries to come here, with the first shipload arriving in 1820.

    Hawaiian music legends honored with statues

    Last year, the Hilton Hawaiian Village unveiled statues of two greats of Hawaiian music and dance--Alfred Aholo Apaka (in March) and Iolani Luahine (in September). The statues are located at the shopping arcade walkway, near the hotel's Tapa Tower Bar. Following are biographical sketches of the honorees:

  • Alfred Apaka (1919-1960). A legendary singer, recording artist and radio and television star, Apaka opened the village's Tapa Room in 1955 and performed there until his death at age 40. In the early 1950s, he went on tour with Bob Hope and performed on Hope's radio and television shows.
  • Iolani Luahine (1915-1978). A legendary hula dancer and teacher, she was instrumental in bringing about a renaissance in Hawaiian culture. She performed at the village in the 1950s and in 1976 was named one of Hawaii's Living Treasures.
  • Following are sketches of other honorees from outside history's mainstream:

  • Duke Kahanamoku (1890-1968). Regarded as the father of modern surfing, he won gold medals for swimming in the 1912 Olympic Games in Sweden and the 1920 Games in Belgium. The DukeHe also finished second in Austria during the Games of 1924. He starred in several Hollywood movies and was honorary Honolulu sheriff for more than 20 years. The nine-foot-high statue, at Waikiki's Kuhio Beach, was unveiled in August 1990, on the 100th anniversary of his birth. However, it was not until the summer of 1995 that enough money had been raised for an identifying plaque.
  • Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925). As a teenager, Sun Yat-Sen, the father of modern China, followed an older brother to Hawaii in 1879. He attended what became Iolani School and later was a doctor, practicing in Kula on Maui. With Hawaii as his base, he at various times returned to China, organizing opposition to the Manchu Dynasty and leading the 1911 revolution. There are two statues--one in Honolulu's Chinatown, at Beretania and River streets; the other, in gardens at Honolulu Airport's central concourse, which was erected on the 100th anniversary of his birth. China also is represented by a statue of Confucius (551-479 B.C.) at the Maunakea Marketplace in Chinatown.
  • Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1940). Born in India and a London-trained lawyer, Gandhi led nonviolent protests against British rule, first in Africa and later in India. He never came to Hawaii. His statue, unveiled in 1990, fronts the Honolulu Zoo in Waikiki. It was presented by the Gandhi Memorial International Foundation.
  • Jose Rizal (1861-1896). A doctor who trained in Europe, Rizal is a Filipino national hero. He led the fight against Spanish rule, was arrested and shot. There are two Rizal statues--one at Beretania and College Walk in downtown Honolulu; the other, in stone, fronting the County Building at Lihue, Kauai, erected by the Kauai Filipino Community Council.
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