Local Filmmakers Dive into Hidden LGBTQ Histories among Hawaiʻi’s Cultural Communities

From marriage equality in recent political times to acknowledging māhū voices in Native Hawaiian culture, sexual diversity is part of Hawaiʻi’s history. Those stories will be told on a wider scale thanks to a three-year, $900,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation.

The project called Lei Pua ʻAla: Queer Histories of Hawaiʻi builds on a recent production by filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer about the Kapaemahu stones in Waikīkī.

Preserving the Original Story of Kapaemahu

On Oct. 24, 2023, a new bronze plaque for the Kapaemahu stones was dedicated – a victory after so many years of advocacy and negotiation. It features a QR code which takes visitors to www.kapaemahu.info. The site includes detailed information about the history and cultural significance of the stones, a guided virtual tour app, and a link to the animated short film, Kapaemahu.

“It is a testament to the sophistication of Hawaiian society that our people knew there was much more than simply a gender binary existence, much more than just the physicality of our existence – that the heart, mind and spirit all culminate to make a whole person,” Wong-Kalu said. “They understood that one’s sexuality and preference, and one’s gender expression, is irrelevant in articulating who our people are and insufficient in speaking to our roles and responsibilities in society or the contributions we can make.”

Oscar-Qualified Queer Love Story ‘Aikāne’ Debuts Online

Aikāne, the latest award-winning animated short from the team behind Kapaemahu, has been made available to watch online for free through queer news and culture outlet Them. The short was conceived by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, a married couple who began their filmmaking careers with a documentary about the reaction to their own same-sex marriage in Wilson’s small hometown. While the film most prominently draws from Native Hawaiian mythology, it also takes inspiration from LGBTQ+ legends from around the world — including Celtic Europe, ancient Greece and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. The settings are based on the couple’s free-diving experiences.

2024 Oscars Short Film Contenders: ‘Aikāne’ Directors Daniel Sousa, Dean Hamer, And Joe Wilson

Welcome to Cartoon Brew’s series of spotlights focusing on the animated shorts that have qualified for the 2024 Oscars. There are several ways a film can earn eligibility. With these profiles, we’ll be focusing on films that have done so by winning an Oscar-qualifying award at an Oscar-qualifying festival.

Today’s short is Aikāne from directors Daniel Sousa, Dean Hamer, and Joe Wilson. The film earned its Oscars qualification by winning the New Hampshire Film Festival jury award for best animated short.

Kapaemahu Monument Gets New Signage

The dedication on October 24 of a new bronze plaque installed in
front of the Kapaemahu Monument in Waikiki helps restore the truth of the stones and honor for mahu.

New plaque unveiled at Kapaemahu stones

The City and County of Honolulu held a blessing this week at the Healer Stones of Kapaemahu, where a new plaque was unveiled that includes a QR code to an online website with additional history and information.

The Stones of Kapaemahu in Waikīkī get a new plaque and AR experience

A new plaque in front of a popular Waikīkī’s monument commemorates the story of four mahu healers from Tahiti who came to Hawaiʻi to treat diseases.

Honolulu officials held a ceremony Tuesday to unveil the new plaque installed on a stone outside of the gated Healer Stones of Kapaemahu.

Honolulu tells story of healers with dual male and female spirit through new plaque in Waikiki

Joe Wilson, a member of a group that pushed for signage acknowledging a more complete story of the stones, said monuments and public art are powerful symbols of who and what are valued by a community. “Kapaemahu should and will be a shining example of a city that honors and celebrates its culture, diversity and all who visit or call it home,” Wilson said at the blessing ceremony.