Hawaii museum revisits historical past of gender-fluid healers

HONOLULU (AP) — Greater than 500 years in the past, Hawaiians positioned 4 boulders on a Waikiki seaside to honor guests from the court docket of Tahiti’s king who had healed the sick. They have been “mahu,” which in Hawaiian language and tradition refers to somebody with twin female and male spirit and a combination of gender traits.

The stones have been uncared for for a few years, as Christian missionaries and different colonizing Westerners suppressed the position of mahu in Hawaiian society. At one level a bowling alley was constructed over the boulders.

Officers restored the stones a number of occasions for the reason that Sixties however informational plaques put in subsequent to them omitted references to mahu.

The stones and the historical past of the 4 healers now are featured in an exhibit at Bishop Museum in Honolulu. The show highlights the deep roots of gender fluidity in Polynesia.

Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu is mahu and one of many exhibit’s curators. She mentioned the healers have been revered for his or her talent and hopes their story will present youngsters in Hawaii that “correct Hawaiian tradition” doesn’t move judgment in opposition to these “who’ve components of duality.”

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“They have been revered and honored as a result of the individuals knew that their female and male duality made them much more highly effective a healer,” Wong-Kalu mentioned.

Kapaemahu was the chief of the 4 healers, and the exhibit is called The Therapeutic Stones of Kapaemahu. Their story was handed down orally, like all Hawaiian tales, till a written language was developed within the 1800s.

However Hawaiians have been discouraged from speaking about mahu. DeSoto Brown, a Bishop Museum historian and the exhibit’s lead curator, mentioned Christian missionaries who arrived in 1820 forbade something that deviated from “clearly outlined roles and presentation” of female and male genders.

The earliest identified written account of the mahu healers is a 1906 manuscript by James Alapuna Harbottle Boyd, the son-in-law of Archibald Cleghorn, who owned the Waikiki property the place the stones have been on the time. Cleghorn’s spouse, Princess Likelike, and daughter, Princess Kaiulani, have been identified to position seaweed and provide prayers on the stones once they swam.

Boyd’s manuscript “Custom of the Wizard Stones of Ka-Pae-Mahu” mentioned the Hawaiian individuals liked the healers for his or her “tall stature, courteous methods and kindly manners” and their cures grew to become well-known throughout Oahu.

“Their methods and nice physique have been overshadowed by their low, delicate speech, they usually grew to become as one with these they got here involved with,” Boyd wrote. “They have been unsexed, by nature, and their habits coincided with their womanly seeming, though manly in stature and common bearing.”

When it was time for the healers to go away, 4 boulders have been introduced down from Oahu’s Kaimuki space. Two have been positioned on the website of the healers’ hut and the others the place they bathed within the ocean. Idols indicating the twin spirit of the healers have been positioned beneath every stone.

Many Hawaiians grew up not understanding about Hawaiian ideas of mahu or the stones as a result of the American businessmen who overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 banned Hawaiian language instruction in colleges and discouraged talking it in properties. Generations of Hawaiians misplaced connections to cultural traditions.

Wong-Kalu, 50, mentioned as a toddler she was made to imagine mahu was a derogatory phrase. She remembers being amongst those that would sit on the stones and drape towels over them after swimming, oblivious to their significance.

Mahu are akin to “two-spirit” frequent in lots of Native American cultures, Wong-Kalu mentioned, including there are bodily, emotional, psychological and non secular components to being mahu. The illustration of female and male is determined by the individual, she mentioned.

“In Hawaii, one might exist actually within the center,” she mentioned.

The stones almost have been misplaced simply earlier than the 1941 Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor. On the time, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported the boulders could be blasted or eliminated after a developer leased Cleghorn’s property to construct a bowling alley.

Following an outcry, plans emerged for a concrete walkway between the stones. However the developer as an alternative constructed over them.

The stones have been uncovered twenty years later when town tore down buildings to construct a public seaside park. Elders recalled the story of the stones and urged they continue to be. The town agreed and created a plaque that talked about the Tahitian healers however didn’t say something about them being mahu.

In 1997, town fenced off the stones and devoted a brand new plaque. It additionally didn’t reference mahu.

Throughout each intervals, waves of homophobia and transphobia washed over Honolulu. Within the Sixties, a brand new state legislation prohibited cross-dressing and police compelled drag performers to put on a button saying: “I Am A Boy.” Three a long time later, there was backlash in Hawaii and nationally when the Hawaii Supreme Courtroom sided with same-sex {couples} in search of the fitting to marry.

The Bishop Museum exhibit, on show by Oct. 16, recounts this historical past and shows artifacts like therapeutic massage sticks and a medication pounder that healers would have used centuries in the past. Islander ideas of gender fluidity are explored by tales like that of King Kamehameha III and his male lover.

A map reveals phrases utilized in Polynesia for many who don’t establish as male or feminine, together with “fa’afafine” in Samoa and “leiti” in Tonga.

Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson helped curate the exhibit and hope it’ll spur town to inform the total story of the mahu on the website of the stones.

Ian Scheuring, spokesperson for Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, mentioned town is researching the problem and native leaders plan to satisfy with members of the LGBTQ and Native Hawaiian communities to learn the way they may help inform the “true and full” story of the healers, he mentioned.

Tatiana Kalaniopua Younger, a Native Hawaiian anthropologist, mahu and a director of the Hawaii LGBT Legacy Basis, mentioned the story the stones and healers helped her household perceive that she was not “this bizarre creature that’s exterior of the norm.” And that in a Hawaiian sense, she was a part of the norm.

“It gave me a way of place and goal as a mahu and it actually made me proud to be Kanaka Maoli, or Native Hawaiian,” she mentioned.

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