WAIMEA — Before unifying with the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810, Kauai and Niihau were unconquered, independent and ruled by a peaceful king.
Friends of King Kaumuali‘i, a nonprofit from Waimea, remains onipa‘a (steadfast) in raising $150,000 to build a statue in the likeness of Kauai’s last ali‘i nui so future generations may be aware of his role in the island’s storied history.
“If you ask children ‘Who is Kaumuali‘i?’ — they don’t know,” said Aletha Kaohi, president of Friends of King Kaumuali‘i. “You ask them ‘Who is Kamehameha?’ — they know. In school, they’re taught about Kamehameha — the conqueror of the islands — but they don’t talk about Kaumuali‘i.”
Kaohi said the nonprofit visited the state Legislature recently and requested a grant-in-aid to the sum of $150,000.
“I came away really feeling they were going to do some funding,” she said. “It’s hard to raise money for a statue. The monies that we’ve had are by donation. We’ve done some fundraising.”
From solicitation letters, Kaohi said the nonprofit has raised about $8,000 so far.
Rep. Dee Morikawa (Niihau, Koloa, Waimea) said this project is among her priorities to receive grant-in-aid.
“In the past, the community adopted the park and maintained Russian Fort,” she said. “This is just an extension of that — the community’s involvement — doing things that perpetuate the culture and the history.”
Artist Saim Caglayan is contracted to complete the 8-foot-tall bronze statue, which is a replica of a 3-foot-tall maquette he created in 2015 and is on display at the West Kauai Visitor Center in Waimea.
“This will add something for the younger generation,” Caglayan said. “They will have something tangible and say, ‘This is our king, our ancestor.’ It will help connect them to their past.”
Caglayan expects the statue to be completed by next year.
“Kauai is a loving island, loving and sweet,” he said, “and I hope people come out and donate to this project.”
There’s so much more to do, Kaohi said.
“There’s money to raise, there’s volunteers to bring to the table,” Kaohi said. “I take it one step at a time.”
Kaohi hopes to have the statue placed at the outside of Russian Fort Elizabeth (also known as Pa‘ula‘ula o Hipo) in early 2018.
“Once the statute is there, my feeling is that more people will come and also see what Kaumuali‘i saw and realize what a profound impact, who he was,” said Maureen Fodale, secretary for Friends of King Kaumuali‘i. “He stood there and he met ships’ captains from all over the world. He was able to greet them in a peaceful way.”
Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. proclaimed 2013 the year of King Kaumuali‘i, and posters with information about the king was distributed by the Department of Education to schools.
Greeting others warmly from different cultures personifies Kauai style, Fodale said.
“Kaumuali‘i was very interested in the rest of the world. That goes from the time he was a young boy,” she said. “He was born when the rest of the world was exposed to Hawaii. It was a mixture of curiosity, interest and welcome.”
Kaohi said she would like everyone in the community to “step up and be part of this project.”
“I think it’s important our Kauai representatives and senator are behind us,” she said. “The statue is for all, everybody. We want everybody to have a hand in it.”
For more information about donating, visit www.kauaikingkaumualii.org or call Aletha Kaohi at (808) 338-1332.