Ancient wood carving returns to Hawaii, will be displayed at Bishop Museum

Local News

A piece of ancient Hawaiian history has made its way back home.

A carved wooden kii, which depicts the Hawaiian god Ku, previously belonged to Claude Verite, an art dealer based in Paris. It had been passed down from his father, who reportedly got it in the 1940s.

Where it came from before that is still a mystery.

Last November, business owner Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, bought the artifact at a public auction in Paris for $7.5 million.

Rather than keeping it for themselves, the couple felt it belonged in Hawaii, so they donated it to Bishop Museum.

The museum believes the statue dates back to the 18th or 19th century. Standing 20 inches tall, the kii is a human figure in a warrior pose, knees bent and calves flexed, hands clenched at the back of the thighs. A headdress, typical of Ku images, is draped over the head and hangs around the shoulders.

“It’s representative of the classic Kona style of kii that was carved most typically in the Kona region during the reign of Kamehameha I,” said Melanie Ide, Bishop Museum president and CEO. “What’s important is that it was used in cultural practices. These carvings were used in spiritual and cultural practices during a period of Kamehameha I prior to the overthrow of the, well, I would say prior to the period of the Ai kapu being taken away.”

The museum is planning to open an exhibition to display the carving, as well as a carving workshop and symposium.

Details are still in the works.

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