New Exhibition to Explore a Suppressed Piece of Hawaiian History about Four Legendary Māhū

by: Chelsee Yee – January 27, 2022 – KHON2:

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Long ago, four extraordinary individuals of dual male and female spirit, known as māhū, brought their wisdom from Tahiti to Oahu, saving many lives with their healing abilities. Their indigenous leader Kapaemahu recounts the story that many have forgotten.

In June, visitors to Bishop Museum will be reminded of that tale in a new exhibition called The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu, which will explore the history of the loss and rediscovery of four mysterious stones on Waikiki Beach. The exhibition is based on the Oscar-contending animated film.

Kapaemahu tells the story of four legendary māhū who sail from Tahiti to Hawaii, sharing their gifts of science and healing with the people of Oahu. The islanders show their appreciation with a monument of four boulders in their honor, which the māhū heroes imbue with their healing powers before disappearing. The stones still stand on the beach, but the story behind them was hidden — until now.

The film is directed, produced and narrated in ʻŌlelo Niihau by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, who made history with Kapaemahu being the first Native Hawaiian film to become an official Oscars shortlist of 10 films in the ‘Animated Short Film’ category.

Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, and Joe Wilson (co-curators) released this statement:

“At a time when there is great need of healing in Hawai’i, and the world, we’re thrilled that the Bishop Museum is lifting up the story of The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu and celebrating the extraordinary skills, talents and accomplishments of these four legendary mahu.”


The exhibition will not only explore the suppression and resurrection of Kapaemahu — it will also help to restore the monument on Waikiki Beach as a reminder of Hawaii’s long tradition of acceptance.

In addition to the Bishop Museum exhibition, Kapaemahu is being made into a children’s picture book by Penguin Random House, which is timed to hit the shelves when the exhibition opens.

It’s the first-ever bilingual book in Olelo Niihau, just like the animated short film.