Kiʻi

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Two carved kiʻi images look out over the ocean
Kiei & Hālō, representations of the akua Kāne and Kanaloa, look out over the ocean outside of Hale o Keawe.

NPS Photo

 

What is a Kiʻi?

As defined by Pukuʻi's Hawaiian Dictionary, a kiʻi is an image, statue, or likeness that serves as symbolic representations of the akua, or the multitude of Hawaiian gods, deities, and venerated ancestors. While images most commonly took the form of wooden carvings, they were also formed out of pōhaku (stone), carved into pūnohunohu (sea urchin spines), or as ornate feathered images.

 
A semi-circle of kiʻi images in the inner court of Hale o Keawe

Hawaiian Akua

While there are numerous akua (gods) in the Hawaiian Pantheon, there are four major gods Kū, Kanaloa, Kāne, Lono.

Kāne

Kāne is associated with life and creation. Often seen as a pair with Kanaloa.

Symbols: sun, sunlight, freshwater, kalo (taro), ʻohe (bamboo), pueo (owls)

Kanaloa

Kanaloa is associated with creation, the ocean and long distance voyaging. Often seen as a pair with Kāne.

Symbols: darkness, salt, heʻe (octopus), kohalā (whales), naiʻa (dolphin), maiʻa (banana)

Kū is associated with governance, warfare, industry, building, labor, fishing and farming.

Symbols: ʻio (hawk), ʻīlio (dog), niu (coconut), ʻulu (breadfruit), noni

Lono

Lono is associated with agriculture, growth, fertility, natural weather phenomena, wisdom, enlightenment, healing, music and peace.

Symbols: ipu (gourd), ʻuala (sweet potato), ʻamaʻu (fern), rainbows, clouds, wind

 

Kiʻi at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau

The kiʻi at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park attract visitors from all over the world. While the images seen today are not the original kiʻi, they are carved using the skills and traditions of the Hōnaunau area. During the Hale o Keawe restoration project in the 1960s, the park engaged scholars, artists, and craftsmen who were knowledgeable of cultural traditions to guide and carry out kiʻi reconstruction. Many of the carvers were maintenance workers in the park who brought their skills based on family knowledge to the park. Since these structures are wooden and deteriorate over time, they are periodically replaced. Just as with the original restoration, local carvers (some of whom are family members of the original carvers) bring their skills and knowledge to continue the tradition.

Information about the kiʻi at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau has been gathered by descendants and family members of the original carvers, who wish to bring light to the traditions specific to this wahi pana (sacred place). While regional traditions do not necessarily reflect the entire complexity of the Hawaiian akua and associated traditions, they are definitely a vital piece of the Hawaiian story as well as the story of Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau.

Meet the Kiʻi

Take a journey around the Royal Grounds and meet the kiʻi of Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau. Open the photo gallery below and click through the images to get to know the kiʻi. Make sure to click on each image to read the full description of each kiʻi. The map of the kiʻi at Hale o Keawe identifies the kiʻi and their locations around the heiau.

 
 
A map showing the names of the kiʻi at Hale o Keawe
The kiʻi images at Hale o Keawe represent many aspects of the akua (god) Lono. There are also representations of akua Kāne, Kanaloa, and family ʻaumakua. Use this map to find the location and meaning of each kiʻi at Hale o Keawe.

NPS

 

Last updated: May 2, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO BOX 129
Hōnaunau, HI 96726

Phone:

(808) 328-2326

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