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New feature at Maui Ocean Center includes Hawaiian petroglyphs

March 1, 2010, MA`ALAEA, MAUI, HI – On March 1, 2010, Maui Ocean Center welcomed a new feature to its Hawaiians and the Sea Exhibit, a ki`i pohaku (stone image). The ki`i pohaku was received with a traditional Hawaiian ceremony and blessing as the park opened, and attended by guests and aquarium staff. The carver of the ki`i pohaku, Hawaiian practitioner Kekai Kapu, stood outside the aquarium’s entrance gate and gave an oli, a chant requesting permission to enter. An aquarium staff member answered his request from inside the entrance with an oli komo, a chant granting the request and welcoming him to the life of the establishment as a heart-guest of honor. Following the chant, the ki`i pohaku was taken to the Hawaiians and the Sea Exhibit where Kapu shared a fascinating presentation with guests and staff about finding and carving the ki`i pohaku.

Maui Ocean Center’s ki`i pohaku comes from Ukumehame. Kapu, along with his wife, Colleen, searched many locations on the island before choosing the right stone. Once he had it, Kapu says he was very motivated to complete the ki`i p?haku. The images, which include a sail and human figures, piko (belly button), `uhane (spirits) and honu (turtle), are from pre-contact Hawaii. Kapu engraved the stone with reproductions of carvings found at sites in Olowalu, Makawao, Maliko and Nu`u, a process which took two weeks to complete. Kapu expressed, “So much of the ki`i (images) you see come from the four corners of Maui. It’s so wonderful to have this here at the Maui Ocean Center; these places are not always accessible because of private lands. I hope it inspires a lot… especially for Maui Ocean Center.”

The ki`i pohaku arrived on the same day the aquarium kicked off Hawaiians and the Sea, a month-long promotion highlighting the intimate relationship between the ocean and people of Hawaii with an exciting series of cultural demonstrations, activities and presentations.

Ki`i Pohaku

The phrase ki`i pohaku translates into image (ki`i) and stone (pohaku). In English, ki`i pohaku are referred to as stone carvings or petroglyphs. Possible uses for ki`i pohaku may have been for indicating land division, celebrating a personal experience, or acknowledging ancestors. The images are simple in style, two-dimensional, having no background and therefore, no perspective or depth. “The best way to view ki`i pohaku”, Kapu advised, “is with your back to the sun, when it is low in the sky, either in the early morning or late afternoon.”

The petroglyphs are not realistic representations but depictions of forces and beings. A difference in sizes of figures may indicate rank, social status, age, or physical stature. Most ki`i pohaku are carved into lava rock, but some are found in lava-tube caves and also on the faces of large stream boulders and coralline sandstone. Ki`i pohaku are given a male or female identity based on color and texture; male stones are dark and rough, while female stones are light in color and smooth. The ki`i pohaku at Maui Ocean Center is female; visitors will notice the stone’s smoothness and light coloring.

Hawaiians and the Sea

The heart and soul of Maui Ocean Center is the exhibit called “Hawaiians and the Sea”. Truly a gift of love, various cultural advisors and members of the community have contributed to this exhibit so that visitors may better understand the intimate relationship between the Hawaiian people and the sea. The story of the ways of the Hawaiians – their kapu (sacred, forbidden) system, their ahupua‘a system of living harmoniously with the environment from mountain to sea, their skillful building of canoes and fishing utensils and, above all, their spiritual connection with the ocean and its inhabitants – is told in this important exhibit.

The mission of the Maui Ocean Center is to foster understanding, wonder and respect for Hawaii’s marine life. Maui Ocean Center was named “Top-Rated Family Attraction” by ZAGAT Survey in U.S. Family Travel Guide, a “Leader in Responsible Tourism” on the Top 100 Blue List by Islands Magazine, and selected “Best Value Family Attraction on Maui” by the readers of Up! Magazine. This state-of-the-art marine park is centrally located in oceanfront Ma‘alaea, within minutes of Maui’s major resort areas, and is open daily from 9am to 5pm, and 9am to 6pm in July and August. For more information please contact the Maui Ocean Center: 192 Ma‘alaea Road; Ma‘alaea, HI 96793; telephone (808)270-7000, facsimile (808)270-7070, email info@mauioceancenter.com or visit website www.mauioceancenter.com.