Bishop Museum hosts da Shop and Bess Press to launch “Kapaemahu” children’s book
In July 2022, da Shop and Bess Press hosted an exclusive book signing for the newly released children’s book “Kapaemahu” on the campus of Bishop Museum in Atherton Hālau.
Based on the captivating, animated film of the same name, “Kapaemahu” by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, and Joe Wilson, and illustrated by Daniel Sousa, tells the Native Hawaiian legend of four extraordinary individuals of dual male and female spirit, or māhū, who brought healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi.
The publication of “Kapaemahu” marks the first-ever U.S. publication of a picture book in both English and ʻōlelo Niʻihau, the only form of Hawaiian that has been continuously spoken since before the arrival of foreigners.
The event took place following a panel discussion with the exhibition curators to discuss the historical findings and artistic choices behind The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu. The conversation included new details about the first known written version of the moʻolelo, its loss, its rediscovery deep in a library archive, and its restoration—all in the context of the rise of tourism, militarization, and the erosion of Hawaiian cultural identity throughout the 20th century.
“Our survival as indigenous people depends on our ability to know and practice our cultural traditions, to speak and understand our language, and to feel an authentic connection to our own history […] It is our duty as native people to render our narratives from the heart set and mindset of our ancestors and how they saw the world. That is why I wanted to write a bilingual film and book about Kapaemahu using ʻōlelo Niʻihau […] It is not enough to study our language in an American classroom nor to read about our history in an English language textbook. We need to be active participants in telling our own stories in our own way.”
– Kumu Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, author
“We greatly admire the work the “Kapaemahu” team has done in the past and continues to do with the release of their new publication. The participation of filmmakers, cultural practitioners, curators, book publishers, and members of our community coming together to perpetuate native voice, identity, and socioethical history into the present day is admirable and we, at Bess Press, are humbled to be involved. A collective goal we all share is to make stories, histories, and narratives available through media and the arts, particularly for younger generations because they are the future, and the “Kapaemahu” story does just that by sharing story through a visually stunning film, picture book, and engaging exhibition that invigorates native language and creates access to history still relevant in the present for all within our community to interact with and be compelled by.”
– David DeLuca, Publishing Director at Bess Press and co-owner at da Shop: Books + Curiosities
On June 18, 2022, Bishop Museum opened to the public its newest, original exhibition, The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu, showcased in the Museum’s Castle Memorial Building.
The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu exhibition explores the history and contemporary meanings of four large pōhaku (stones) on Waikīkī Beach. These pōhaku were placed long ago as a tribute to four māhū, people of dual male and female spirit, who brought healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi. Although the stones have survived for centuries, the story behind them has been suppressed and the respected role of māhū erased. Using immersive media and innovative storytelling approaches, the exhibition revitalizes this traditional story to help restore this sacred site as a permanent reminder of Hawaiʻi’s history of inclusion and acceptance.