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Standing over six feet tall with flared nostrils and mouth agape, this rare and captivating figure was carved by an unknown Hawaiian artist more than two centuries ago. Today, it is exceedingly rare, just one of three known examples to exist in the world.
Kūkā’’ilimoku, who is considered a living god by many Native Hawaiians, is one of the many forms of the god Kū who embodies family, strength, prosperity, and warfare. Large ki’i (temple images) like this one were carved with posts that extended below their feet and placed upright along the heiau (temple) walls. After Kamehameha I’s death in 1819, his son Kamehameha II succeeded him as paramount chief and ended the worship of Kūkā’ilimoku as well as other religious figures, calling for the destruction of heiau. As a result, many ki’i were burned or destroyed. But this work survived.
Kūkā’’ilimoku was recently installed with great care on the skybridge of PEM’s new 40,000-square-foot wing, facing west to Hawai‘i. Anytime he is moved, a protocol happens. This summer, a delegation of four Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners collaborated closely with PEM staff, and led a protocol of chants and songs, making ho’okupu (ceremonial gifts given as a sign of respect and honor) from Hawai‘i.
Visitors can encounter Kūkā’’ilimoku for themselves when PEM’s new wing opens to the public on September 28.
The former panels, removed in 2017, featured images dedicated to Confederate Generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.
One researcher, Jürgen Schick, estimated that over half of the region’s historical artworks have been stolen.
The Morgan Library & Museum Presents Another Tradition: Drawings by Black Artists from the American South
This exhibition celebrates the Morgan’s recent acquisition of drawings by Thornton Dial, Nellie Mae Rowe, Henry Speller, Luster Willis, and Purvis Young.
The visual arts institution and educational center is located in the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world.
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Part of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the Art Preserve also functions as a curated collection facility and is filled with immersive installations.