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Local filmmaker and producer Kaliko Maiʻi and artist Solomon Enos are collaborating with KS Cultural Specialist Lāiana Kanoa-Wong, community advocate Ikaika Hussey and their families to produce a graphic novel about Kamapuaʻa, the shapeshifting demigod. Above is the book’s conceptual cover. In honor of Hawaiian Language Month, this story is presented in both Hawaiian and English.

Local storytellers share the mo‘olelo of Kamapuaʻa, the shapeshifting demigod

Feb. 23, 2021

  • AUTHORS
  • the KS Hoʻokahua Cultural Vibrancy Group

This mo‘olelo is part of Kūkahekahe – Cultural Conversations – featuring personal experiences and insights from faculty, staff and friends about compelling cultural happenings within the KS organization, throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and across the larger Pacific and global communities.

Kau aʻela ke ao puaʻa, nalo ʻo luna o nā Koʻolau. E ʻimi ana nā koa o ke aliʻi o Oʻahu ʻo Olopana, i ke kupuʻeu nāna i hoʻopilikia i kona mau kānaka a me kona mau ʻāina.

ʻO kēia nā kiʻi nani mai loko mai o ka puke kātuna hou no Kamapuaʻa, ke kupua Hawaiʻi. Ma kekahi ʻaoʻao o “Kamapuaʻa and Olopana,” e ʻimi ana nā koa iā Kamapuaʻa i loko o ka ulu lāʻau o Hauʻula a he ‘ōlelo Hawaiʻi kā lākou.

“ʻO kēia ka mana moʻolelo no Kamapuaʻa maiā Kalākaua mai,” i wehewehe mai nei ʻo Kaliko Maiʻi. “ʻO Kamapuaʻa, he hāmeʻe ‘o ia e kono ana i nā kānaka e luʻu a hoʻokamaʻāina i ke ao akua o nā kupua a me nā ʻaumākua.”

“ʻO Kamapuaʻa, ʻaʻohe ona lua ma ka honua nei; kū ‘o ia i ke ʻano o ke kāne, ʻo nā hana maikaʻi a me nā hano ʻino. I kekahi o kona kinolau, ʻewalu mau maka kona: Makawalu ka maopopo pono o ke ʻano o kekahi kanaka. Ma kēia hāmeʻe wale nō hiki ke maopopo pono i ka makaluku ʻana, ka hana kolohe ʻana, ke kipi ʻana, a me ka menemene ʻana.  ʻOi aku ke aloha ʻo Kamapuaʻa no ke ola ma mua o ka mana a me ka noho aupuni, noho akua. I koʻu lā ʻōpio, nānā au i kona mau moʻolelo i mea alakaʻi no ke ola, e like me ka hana a nā kūpuna.”

Ke hoʻolaukaʻi ʻia nei kēia papahana no Kamapuaʻa na Maiʻi, Solomon Enos, Ikaika Hussey, Lāiana Kanoa-Wong, a me kā lākou mau ʻohana, me ka lana o ka manaʻo e lilo ka puke i kiʻi ʻoniʻoni kaha kiʻi ʻia. He makemake ko lākou e paʻi i kekahi puke kamaliʻi a e hana hoʻi i mau wikiō pōkole e pili ana iā Kamapuaʻa.

Wahi a Maiʻi, ua paʻa ʻē nō ko lākou manaʻo ē ma ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi ana kēia papahana. Akā naʻe, nui nā mea e hoʻoholo ai no ka hōʻike pono ʻana i ke ao o Kamapuaʻa. He aha ke kani a ke ʻaka ma ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi? Pehea ka helehelena o ke akua? ʻO nā haʻina o kēia mau nīnau, he kumu nō ia o kūkākūkā a me ka ʻimi noiʻi no ka hui.

Kaha kiʻi ʻia kēia papahana e Enos me ka hoʻopili i ke kaila kaha kiʻi a Hayao Miyazaki a me Studio Ghibli. I loko nō o ka nani lāliʻi o nā kiʻi, ʻaʻole i paʻa pono ‘o “Kamapuaʻa” a ʻaʻole ia he hana na Enos wale nō, ʻo ia hoʻokahi. Ma kēlā me kēia hōʻike ma Instagram @solomonenos, he ʻohi i nā manaʻo o ke kaiāulu, a kaʻana ʻia nā mana hou o nā kiʻi. ʻO kēia kaʻina hana kekahi mea e hauʻoli ai ʻo Enos.

“Ua like kēia papahana me kekahi lā hana kaiāulu ma ka loʻi. E hele like aku kākou a pau i ka loʻi. He nāhelehele anei kēia? He mea maikaʻi paha kēia?” wahi a Enos. “Mai kekahi huli kahiko mai nā huli a pau o kēia lā. Na ko kākou mau kūpuna i haʻi i nā moʻolelo ʻo Kamapuaʻa i nā hanauna hou, no ka mea, koʻikoʻi ʻo ia. Eia kekahi, he akua huikala ʻo Kamapuaʻa. He kupua ʻo ia. Ikaika ʻo ia. Hiki iā kākou ke aʻo pehea e haʻi ai i kona moʻolelo ma kēia ʻenehana hou.”

No Kaliko a me Solomon, ma kahi o ʻelua pule ka hana ʻana i kekahi kiʻi. I kēia manawa, he hana manawaleʻa kēia papahana no lākou, akā naʻe makemake lākou e ʻimi i ke kākoʻo kālā no ka hoʻomaka ʻana i ʻoihana hou no Hawaiʻi, ʻo ke kaha kiʻi ʻoniʻoni.

ʻO kekahi pahuhopu o kēia papahana, e hoʻokamaʻāina i nā kānaka iā Kamapuaʻa a me kona mau moʻolelo. Noho kākou ma Hawaiʻi, no laila pono nō kākou e ʻike i nā akua, nā kupua, a me nā kinolau o kēia ʻāina. Manaʻo ʻo Maiʻi, “Pili nā moʻolelo o Kamapuaʻa i nā wahi pana, e like me Kaʻauhelemoa ma Pālolo. He moʻolelo ko nā ʻāina a me nā ahupuaʻa, ʻaʻole he mau kahua wale nō.”

E ka mea heluhelu, he panina kēia ʻatikala no ka mahina ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. Akā naʻe, ua hoʻomanaʻo ʻia kākou e aʻa i ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, ka ʻōlelo o kēia ʻāina, i kēlā me kēia lā. Ma ka ʻōlelo kākou e pili ai i kēia ʻāina momona a keu a ka nani. Ola mau ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi ma o kēia mau hana hou, e like me “Kamapuaʻa,” a mōakāka pono auaneʻi ka ʻikena Hawaiʻi ma kēlā me kēia hao ʻana o ka hulu pena.


A bank of “pig clouds” obscures the peaks of the Koʻolau Mountains. The warriors of the famous chief of Oʻahu, Olopana, are seeking a mischief-maker who has disturbed his people and his lands.

These are the beautiful images from a new graphic novel about Kamapuaʻa, the shapeshifting demigod. On a page of “Kamapuaʻa and Olopana,” warriors hunt Kamapuaʻa in the forests of Hauʻula, conversing in Hawaiian.

“This version of Kamapuaʻa is from Kalākaua,” explains Kaliko Maiʻi. “Kamapuaʻa is a character that invites you to immerse yourself and become more familiar with the world of the akua, from demigods to family guardians.”

“Kamapuaʻa is truly unique in this world. He represents the true nature of men, both good and bad. In one of Kamapuaʻa’s forms he has eight eyes: eight different ways of looking at our nature. In a single character you have destructiveness, mischievousness, rebelliousness, and compassion. Kamapuaʻa is more motivated by the love of life than power and control. In my early 20s trying to navigate life, I looked to his stories as a guide, just as our ancestors did.”

Maiʻi is working with Solomon Enos, Ikaika Hussey, Lāiana Kanoa-Wong and their families in coordinating this project, which will someday become a full-length animated feature. Before that, they want to publish a children’s book and short videos about Kamapuaʻa.

According to Maiʻi, the project was always going to be in the Hawaiian language. But there was a myriad of other decisions that needed to be made to represent the world of Kamapuaʻa. What is the sound of laughter in Hawaiian? How might a god look? The answers to these questions are matters for intense discussion and research for the team.

Enos chose to use the familiar styles of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Yet, despite its polished look, “Kamapuaʻa” is not finalized, nor is it a solitary endeavor. Each post on the @solomonenos Instagram account solicits input from the community, sharing some of the artistic decisions that have been made. It’s this creative aspect of the project that makes Enos excited.

“This project is like a community workday at a loʻi. Come to the loʻi that belongs to all of us. Is this a weed? Is this something good?” says Enos. “Every kalo top we have today comes from an ancient kalo top. Our ancestors kept telling stories of Kamapuaʻa to each new generation, because he was important. What’s more, Kamapuaʻa is forgiving; he can take many forms. He is strong. We can learn how to tell his stories in this new platform.”

Each panel takes about two weeks of drafting and refining between Maiʻi and Enos. Right now, the group is working on the project out of aloha, but hope to find sources of funding in the community for creating a new animation industry in Hawaiʻi.  

One of the goals of the project is to get people familiar with Kamapuaʻa and his stories. Because we live in Hawaiʻi, we should know the akua, kupua, and their kinolau. Maiʻi reflects, “Kamapuaʻa’s moʻolelo are so strongly tied to places, like Kaʻauhelemoa in Pālolo. The ʻāina and ahupuaʻa tell these stories, they aren’t just the setting or the background.”

Dear reader, this article closes Hawaiian Language month. Yet we are reminded that we can and should dare to speak Hawaiian every day, because it is the tie that binds us to this rich and most beautiful of lands. ʻŌlelo will continue to live through innovative works like “Kamapuaʻa,” and our understanding becomes clearer with each stroke of the brush.


An excerpt from the children’s book “Kamapuaʻa and Olopana.” The creators plan to someday produce short videos and a full-length animated feature about the demigod.


An art concept from ka moʻolelo ʻo Kamapuaʻa.


The book’s artist Solomon Enos is renowned artist and illustrator whose works touch on themes like ancestry and identity, sci-fi and fantasy. Public collections of his work are in the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and Hawai'i State Art Museum and he has led numerous community mural projects. Check out his work at http://www.solomonenos.com/. For his latest work follow him on Facebook and Instagram @solomonenos!


The book’s writer Kaliko Maiʻi is a filmmaker and producer. His movie, “Hawaiian Soul,” a short film about George Helm was this year’s winner of the Made in Hawaiʻi Award at the Hawaiʻi International Film Festival! Learn more at: https://www.hawaiiansoulmovie.com/ and follow @hawaiiansoulmovie on Facebook and Instagram for the latest!



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