Queen Emma’s Birthday and the Cultural Resurgance of Kahili

The Daughters of Hawaii hosted an event on January 2 at Hanaiakamalama, Queen Emma’s Summer Palace. The celebration of Queen Emma’s 176th birthday was part of a special event one of the Daughters of Hawaii had been working on with several others to restore some of the kahili, or royal standards, on display at Hanaiakamalama. They also made a new one that was presented to Queen Emma’s Summer Palace during this special celebration.

What are Kahili?

Kahili are a symbol of royalty, a matter of communications, and a way to set barriers and boundaries in. In a youtube video titled Every Feather a Prayer, Uncle Helemano discusses some of the importance of kahili in Hawaiian culture, and some of the ways the tradition has changed throughout the ages. In the video he says how kahili used to actually be humans who would surround royalty, but these were in ancient Hawaiian times before the years of Kamehameha. In later years handheld and bigger walking-stick type standards replaced the human kahili. The handheld and bigger kahili were made from hand collected bird feathers crimped onto the wooden standards. Royalty carried the kahili with them, and they were a way for everyone to know who the royal families were. Today, they are a constant reminder of Hawaiian heritage and culture.

Restoration and Creation

The project, which is headed by Shad Kane, includes former Daughters of Hawaii regent, Gerry Miyamoto. The group decided that in order to preserve the existing kahili and to create the new one that would be presented to the Queen Emma’s Summer Palace they would preserve the ancient Hawaiian tradition of making the kahili. The group traveled to Midway Island to collect feathers by hand which would be used for the kahili. They also used traditional Hawaiian techniques to make the kahili, ensuring that the ancient tradition would be respectfully remembered in the modern times. Miyamoto said “The new kāhili is a symbol, a visual form of the project to give the community a better understanding of this ancient part of the Hawaiian culture.”

Written By: