‘Kapaemahu’ Expands with Book, Exhibition and Documentary Film

by Samuel Patrick Bannon – Animation World Network – October 28, 2021:

The acclaimed, award-winning 2D animated short, Kapaemahu, is expanding into multiple mediums to tell the beautiful and traditional Hawaiian story of the four healing stones and the hero’s they are dedicated to. The planned expansion includes a children’s picture book, an interactive museum exhibit at Bishop Museum, and a documentary, all designed to shed light on this suppressed and hidden piece of Hawaiian history.

The indigenous legend recounts how four extraordinary individuals of dual male and female spirit, known as mahu, came to Oahu bringing wisdom and saving many lives with their healing abilities. The people of Oahu then placed four large stones on Waikiki Beach in memorial, and the mahu heroes imbued them with their healing spirits before disappearing. But these stones remained sacred to the people of Oahu for hundreds of years until outside settlers sought to hide the legend, and for a long time this tale of wisdom was forgotten.

Now, Oahu’s Waikiki Beach is one of the most famous spots on the planet, its vibrant white sand, and beautiful turquoise waters make it a destination for millions every year. But this beach holds more than just beauty; it holds an inspiring and ancient history, and hopefully, because of the coming artistic exploration of its ancient legend, people will pay homage to that history, and the uncovered sacred stones that gave hope to the native people of Oahu. 

Penguin Random House is publishing a large format picture book telling the ancient story. Richly illustrated by Kapaemahu animation Director, Daniel Sousa, it is the first-ever bilingual book in the ancient Niihau form of the Hawaiian language. “Kapaemahu is a monument to an indigenous Hawaiian legend and a classic in the making,” said Namrata Tripathi, editor of the Kokila Penguin Young Readers imprint. It’s expected to be on bookshelves by early 2022.

Watch the Bishop Museum exhibition teaser here.

The animated legend will also be the centerpiece of an immersive multimedia exhibition at the Bishop Museum in Hawaii, the largest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific culture in the world. Occupying the entire 8,500 square feet of Castle Memorial Hall, the exhibition will feature 30-foot replicas of the four mahu healers standing in front of glowing facsimiles of the stones dedicated to them on Waikiki beach. An animated timeline will document the suppression and resurrection of their story, and the work now being done to restore the stones as a permanent monument. The exhibition is scheduled for June 2022. 

PBS will premiere the feature documentary The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu on Pacific Heartbeat, bringing this hidden Hawaiian history to life for millions of viewers across the U.S. “When I decided to tell the story of Kapaemahu in animated form, it was the best way I could imagine to express my understanding of this legend from a cultural point of view,” said director and producer Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a Native Hawaiian who is herself mahu. “It’s exciting now to see that vision expanding, delving deep into history, and bringing it into view on multiple platforms that have the capacity to reach so many new and different audiences. It will be transformative”.