Ka‘ahumanu and a Christian Kingdom
22nd from the series: ‘Ike Ho‘omaopopo
by artist: LeoHone2
She stood there in a black dress – a powerful queen in a plain black dress standing before her God and her people.
Once resplendent in the feather ‘ahu (cape) of King Kamehameha the Great and lei kamoe (the feather head lei worn by the women Ali‘i), the most influential queen in the history of the Hawaiian Kingdom now stood there unadorned (and, at a regal height of 6 feet, still a most imposing figure…).
When she brought bolts of satin, in a variety of rich colors, to give to the missionary women to sew for themselves, the women declined, saying that the beautiful satin material was fit for a queen and, while they were happy to make a dress for her from the satin, they themselves would prefer to dress in their usual black dresses. The Queen then said she wanted her dress to be the same as the ones missionary women wore. They made her one.
Queen Ka‘ahumanu (1768-1832) was the favorite wife of Kamehameha I and, after his death in 1819, was the Kuhina Nui (Co-Ruler) and Regent for the two succeeding kings, Kamehameha II and Kamehameha III. Of her own choosing, this magnificent queen, who effected such a great change in the history of Christianity in Hawaii, stood before God and her people in church— clad simply in the black silk dress made just for her by the missionary women.
In a way, it reminds me of the famous story of King George II of England who rose to his feet during the singing of the “Hallelujah Chorus” at the debut of Handel’s Messiah,” signifying his allegiance to a heavenly King far greater than he– the beginning of a tradition that has endured to this day.
Queen Ka‘ahumanu is the last Hawaiian Ali‘i in my series. This amazing queen is by far my favorite queen— especially dear to my heart because I also am a Christian. I am so humbled and awed by her stand for Christianity amid the great opposition in her day.
Kahuna Nui Hewahewa was a High Priest who served both King Kamehameha the Great and King Kamehameha II. Under Kamehameha the Great, he was responsible for maintaining the ancient Kapu code of conduct. He was the last High Priest to serve the Islands. By the time Kamehameha I died in 1819, Hewahewa had become thoroughly disillusioned with the ancient religion, declaring that, even before the arrival of the missionaries, he had believed there to be only one God. Through the combined courage and determination of Queen Ka‘ahumanu and High Priest Hewahewa to guide and influence King Kamehameha II, the Kapu system was abolished in the same year (1819) resulting in the Hawaiian Kingdom constitutionally becoming a Christian monarchy. Two hundred years ago this year of 2020, the first Kawaiaha‘o Church was founded under the Ka‘ahumanu regime.
The painting depicts the queen standing on the left and in the foreground, with Kahuna Nui Hewahewa standing by the American flag and the kahili. At the highest level of the steps, Kahu John P. C. Makuakäne (great grandson of the Reverend Daniel Makuakäne who became the leader of the Opihikao Congregational Church in Puna in 1853), stands listening to his son in the foreground: Kenneth Makuakäne, present day Kahu of Kawaiaha‘o Church in Honolulu. That wonderful tapestry of history and the legacy of a great queen and a great high priest!
With their backs to the viewer, sit two members of the Ka‘ahumanu Society (Kanoe Cazimero, Leilani Kahoano). The Ka‘ahumanu Society (‘Ahahui Ka‘ahumanu) is the oldest society, founded in 1864 by Princess Victoria Kamämalu, predating the founding of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I in 1865 by her brother, Kamehameha V. This society celebrates the life of Queen Ka‘ahumanu and the preservation of the Hawaiian culture.
On a lighter and more personal note: For me as an artist, this painting comes full circle. Over 60 years ago, when I was a very young child back on the Canadian prairie, I painted a picture of my dad and his church. (My father was a minister.) My mom and I always sat a couple of pews from the front of the church. I painted my dad preaching, the choir sitting behind him, and the backs of the heads of the congregation that sat in the front pews… and won my very first art prize ($2) in the nearby city contest!
– Leohone 2020
LE22: Artist Proofs – 48″ x 60″or 40″ x 50″ – Signed “LeoHone” and numbered 1/75 -75/75
Edition A – 32″ x 40″ – Signed “LeoHone” and numbered 1/288 – 288/288
Edition B – 24″ x 30″ – Signed “LeoHone” and numbered 1/288 – 288/288