Hawaii Museum Highlights Story of Waikiki Beach Spirit Stones Millions See Each Year


A new exhibit at the Bishop Museum reveals a long, hidden history of the mysterious stones at Waikīkī Beach, a legendary site that few of the millions of people who pass by know nothing about. Kapaemahu healing stones explores the past and contemporary ways of the four great stones and the legendary male and female healing spirits they contain.

The Kapaemahu Healing Stones were placed long ago on Waikīkī Beach to honor four māhū, extraordinary individuals with dual male and female spirits, who brought the healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi. Although the stones have survived for centuries, the story behind them has been suppressed and the respected role of the māhū erased.

Guests begin in the castle’s memorial building with the life-size rendering of stones and spirits in the main gallery, then watch their story unfold in a captivating animated film. Guests then continue from the theater to a huge room lined with projection screens and are immersed in the long history of the site and its history.

“Our source for the definition of the term ‘Kapaemahu’ is Mary Kawena Pukui, the leading 20th century Hawaiian scholar who worked at the Bishop Museum for much of her life. She gives that definition in the book she co-authored, “Hawaiian Place Names,” said DeSoto Brown, Bishop Museum historian, curator of archives and senior curator of the exhibit. “By showcasing the original moʻolelo from 500 or more years ago and examining how it, and the monument erected to honor its heroes, were altered in the 20th century, The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu invites visitors to reflect to how other aspects of Hawaiian history and culture may have been suppressed, altered, or lost. More importantly, visitors will understand that these aspects of Hawaiian culture now have the opportunity to be restored and uplifted.

The timeline of experience

The Bishop’s Museum

Highlights of The Healing Stones of Kapaemahu Exhibit

  • Guests will have an immersive theatrical experience of the 8-minute animated film, “Kapaemahu,” produced and directed by exhibit co-curators Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson and Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu.
  • Large-scale, three-dimensional artistic representations of the four pōhaku that make up the Kapaemahu Cultural Site.
  • An experiential timeline gives a comprehensive multimedia presentation incorporating historical texts and audio-visual materials, spanning the time from the geological creation of the stones to the present day.
  • The collectibles selected for this exhibition bear witness to the essential role healing practices originally played at all levels of Kānaka Maoli life and how they have become less prevalent over time due to foreign influences. Several key historical figures who have contributed to the transmission of Kapaemahu’s history over time will be featured in addition to a wide range of historical photographs and film clips illustrating the dramatic changes in the Waikīkī neighborhood where the stones lay. themselves are still visible today.
  • A photo and video collage of Pacific Islanders self-representing their gender identity and other cultural heritages. This social media focused component is collected and curated by Qwaves, LLC.
  • A hall in the exhibit is a tribute to a famous Honolulu gathering place and nightclub of the 1960s and 1970s, where māhū performers could openly be themselves and earn a paycheck. The Glade show club functioned as a safe space in the face of hostility and legal action from the rest of the world.
Artifacts at the new exhibition

Artifacts at the new exhibition

The Bishop’s Museum

About the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum

The mission of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum is to inspire the community and visitors through the exploration, celebration and perpetuation of the extraordinary history, culture and environment of Hawai’i and the Pacific. It was founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop in memory of his wife, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, royal descendant of King Kamehameha I. Today the museum serves as an educational center for the community and is widely regarded as the world’s premier institution for Hawaiians and Pacific Content.

More than 200,000 people visit the museum each year, including 20,000 children on school visits. The museum houses over 25 million objects and specimens representing nine disciplines and includes over 22 million biological specimens, over 2 million cultural objects, 115,000 historical publications and 1 million photographs, films, works of art, audio recordings and manuscripts. .

The exhibit runs through October 16, 2022. Admission is free for members, $24.95 for adults, $21.95 for seniors, and $16.95 for ages 4-17. To learn more about the Bishop Museum and the exhibit, visit the museum’s website.


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