Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Happy Birthday Water Baby
I was pleased to learn that Ka’ahumanu, the fiery chiefess who remained Kamehameha the Greats favorite wife for forty years is having a birthday. Born in Hana, Maui into the royal Ali’i class on March 17, 1777, she served as the inspiration for the heroine in my historical novel Wai-nani, High Chiefess of Hawaii. Through the eyes of young Wai-nani a passionate, athletic, brave woman you learn what the dynamics of the Hawaiian culture were when the explorer Captain James Cook stumbled upon the Islands in 1778.
Wai-nani, like Ka’ahumanu, is a “water baby” finding sustenance and solace in the sea. Her best friend is a dolphin named Eku who once saved her from drowning. Her world is molded by the powerful forces of moana the grand and vibrant sea, the voices whispering in the winds off the velvet green see cliffs lining the shore and the violent eruptions of volcanoes, and the gods in every rock flower and tree. She rebels against the 2000-year old kapu system that called for human sacrifice and harsh penalties for those who broke the laws.
A controversial figure in history some remember Ka’ahumanu as the loving mother of the people. She was a master in healing, knowledgeable about the native plants used as medicines. A supremely humane woman she helped, and stood up for the common people. But, as she was instrumental in bringing down the kapu system and the burning of the gods, many Hawaiians remember her as “the flaw that brought down the chiefdom.”
It pleases me to know that Ka’ahumanu is being honored by the royal Hawaiian society with a program of songs, history and lei draping at the statue of the great Chiefess on Maui for her birthday. Since I can’t be there for her celebration, I am writing this entry in the name of Ka’ahumanu, a woman I believe embodied female empowerment and was a forerunner to the modern woman.