New Exhibit Explores Gender Duality of Waikiki’s Kapaemahu Stones

Every year, millions of people pass by the four large stones fronting Waikiki Beach without understanding their importance. Placed there 500 or more years ago by four mahu (people of dual male and female identity) who were healers from Tahiti, the stones are traditionally said to possess a spiritual power.

The new Bishop Museum exhibition, “The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu,” is meant to spread awareness and respect the role of mahu in the traditional story, which had been suppressed and erased.

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“‘The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu’ exhibited behind me explores our past and highlights the fact that native Hawaiians had a special, respected place for citizens of dual identity,” Gov. Ige said during the signing ceremony. “We are here today not only to acknowledge that rich history but also to signify that moving forward, we are redoubling our efforts to be a more inclusive community in total.”

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The ceremony was conducted in front of the Bishop Museum’s Castle Memorial Building, which is hosting “The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu” exhibit this month. Ige said the exhibit highlights that Native Hawaiians had a special and respected place for residents of dual identity.

“‘The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu’ exhibition explores the past and contemporary meanings of four large stones that were long ago placed on Waikīkī Beach to honor four māhū, extraordinary individuals of dual male and female spirit, who brought healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi,” according to the Bishop Museum website.

“We are here today to not only to acknowledge that rich history, but also to signify that moving forward, we are redoubling our efforts to be a more inclusive community in total,” Ige said during the bill signing ceremony.

Gender Identity and Art: Celebrating What Colonialism Erased

A famed legend in Hawaiian lore tells the story of the mahu, healers who encapsulate both male and female elements. In the story, four healers arrived from Tahiti and shared their spiritual gifts with residents of the islands, who were so grateful that they erected four large stones as monuments of tribute. On June 18, the Bishop Museum in Honolulu opened an exhibition that begins with an animated portrayal of the story and is comprised of various artifacts from the Hawaiian healing traditions. The animation will be shown in both English and ʻōlelo Niʻihau, the form of the Hawaiian language most untouched by foreign contact.

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Hawaii Governor David Ige chose The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu exhibition at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, which represents Hawaii’s long history of acceptance and inclusion, as the backdrop for the signing of three bills passed by the State Legislature to address needs and concerns of the Mahu / LGBTQ+ community.

New “Kapaemahu” Exhibit at Bishop Museum

When you’re walking through Waikiki, next to the police station there are four stones within a fenced enclosure.

It’s known as the Wizard Stones, but that is not the most accurate depiction of what they are and the stories they share. At the Bishop Museum, there is a brand new exhibit entitled “The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu” to help all of us to learn more about these stones and the message that it carries.

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Governor David Ige signed three bills into law today at the Bishop Museum that protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ communities in Hawaii.

On the same day of the historic signing of the 3 bills that protect the Mahu and LGBTQ community, the Healer stones of the Kapaemahu Exhibition opened at the museum.

“Kapaemahu is a Glorious Picture Book” – School Library Journal

Moving across the Pacific to Hawaii finds Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, the co-creator, with Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, of the glorious picture book Kapaemahu (2022). The mythic legend of the Kapaemahu regales four Tahitian healers who arrived in Waikiki centuries ago. Neither male nor female, “they were mahu—a mixture of both in mind, heart, and spirit,” the book reveals. The people built a monument in gratitude, but the “four great boulders” eventually disappeared in the wake of U.S. colonialism and destructive tourism. The stones were finally recovered, but without their history: “The fact that the healers were mahu has been erased.” Kapaemahu reclaims the monument’s true origins by honoring the mahu. – School Library Journal