Kalani‘opu‘u’s treasures on the screen

HONOLULU – The Office of Hawaiian Affairs will host a series of free public screenings throughout the state in February and March for its film documenting the historic return of Chief Kalani‘opu‘u’s sacred cloak and helmet, which left Hawaii more than two centuries ago.

The first public screenings will be held at Anahola Cafe on Kauai at 6:30 tonight.

“The inspirational film is a way for OHA to promote and share Native Hawaiian culture, as well as highlight the incredible things that can happen when people join together for a common purpose,” said OHA Ka Pouhana Kamana‘opono Crabbe.

In 1779, during the season of Makahiki, Capt. James Cook landed in Kealakekua Bay on the island of Hawaii. In a diplomatic gesture of goodwill, Hawaii chief Kalani‘opu‘u gifted his ‘ahu ‘ula (cloak) and mahiole (helmet) to Cook. While Cook was later killed in Kealakekua on this day (February 14) in 1779, the chief’s cloak and helmet sailed to Europe with Cook’s crew, and ultimately ended up at the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

For 237 years, Kalaniopu‘u’s belongings remained separated from Hawaii. Then, in March 2016, through a partnership between OHA, Te Papa Tongarewa Museum, Bishop Museum and with support from Hawaiian Airlines, these treasured symbols of mana and excellence in Hawaiian artisanship were returned to Hawaii. It was a historic event that captured the attention of millions of people around the world.

Now, nearly a year after the cultural treasures were returned to Hawaii, OHA is sharing a 25-minute documentary film called “Na Hulu Lehua: The Royal Cloak & Helmet of Kalani‘opu‘u. Produced by a team of indigenous filmmakers, the film tells the story of Kalani‘opu‘u and his mea kapu (sacred items), their amazing journey home and the cultural awakening that greeted them.

Na Hulu Lehua chronicles a number of events inspired by the return of the items. At the celebration event at Bishop Museum on March 17, 2016, kumu hula Snowbird Bento and her halau performed the hula mano (shark dance) that is believed to have been last performed more than 200 years ago.

Scholar and kumu hula Pua Kanahele created an original chant for Kalani‘opu‘u to mark his return. And thousands have visited Bishop Museum, where the treasures are on display, to pay homage to the chief.

The public is invited to the free screenings. Each of the film screening events will include a cultural program and a question and answer session.

  1. Allen Ipo Auwae May 22, 2021 8:48 pm Reply

    Many years go I sculpted a hawaiian warrior in bronze, And several others with hawaiian themes. I sculpted him and just called him Chief. Now I renamed him Chief Kalaniopuu. Would you like to see a picture of him. Also have a life size bust of King David Kalakaua at the foundry being casted right now. Be bringing 6 of my hawaiian sculpture pieces to show the ohana in Keaukaha. Big Island, by Puhi bay. You interested? Ipo

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.