The Hawaiian Serenaders will be performing on Saturday, March 18 at 1:00 p.m. as part of the Queen’s Festival happening Friday and Saturday at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center in Kahului. On Friday night, the Ahahui Ka’ahumanu presents an annual program celebrating the Queen’s birthday with history, hula, song, and draping of leis on the Queen’s statue. On Saturday there will be special performances on stage. It makes sense that the Center would celebrate its namesake with special cultural activities.
Queen Elisabeth Ka’ahumanu was Hawaii’s first female monarch. She reigned for 55 years, making her the longest reigning monarch in Hawaii. A tall woman, Queen Ka’ahumanu was noted for her intelligence, beauty, and fearlessness. More than any other woman in Hawaiian history, Queen Ka’ahumanu created changes in society that continue to impact our lives today.
Elisabeth Ka’ahumanu was a Maui girl, born on March 17, 1768 in a cave in Hana. This was during the period of competition between warrior ali’i families to rule the islands. Thus, Ka’ahumanu’s ali’i parents of Maui and Hawai’i islands hid her so she would not be kidnapped or killed. Ka’ahumanu’s name means “feather cloak.”
Promised at a young age in marriage to Kamehameha, Ka’ahumanu became the king’s favorite wife as he united the Hawaiian Islands into one kingdom in 1810. After Kamehameha the 1st died in 1819, Ka’ahumanu created the office of kuhina nui or co-ruler with his young son Liholiho who became the next king. In this unique role, Ka’ahumanu moved from influence to political power.
Ka’ahumanu began the abolishment of the kapu system, the traditional system of religious laws, when she sat down to eat with King Liholiho and broke the law that forbade men and women from eating together. Thus, the Queen changed the daily lives of Hawaiians forever.
Ka’ahumanu was among the first ali’i to convert to Christianity. When the American Protestant missionaries arrived in 1820, she embraced them and encouraged her people to do the same. Ka’ahumanu was one of the original founders of Kawaiaha’o Church on Oahu. Ka’ahumanu wanted a church built and named after her in Wailuku, Maui, but the structure was not completed until after she died.
Ka’ahumanu learned to read, ordered schools built on all the islands, and made books available to the commoners. Opened in 1831, Lahainaluna School on Maui is the oldest high school west of the Rockies. The literacy rate was higher in Hawai’i than across America.
Ka’ahumanu adopted the black dress worn by the women missionaries and for which the Ahahui Ka’ahumanu regalia is identified. The Ahahui, a royal society of Native Hawaiian women, has been honoring Queen Ka’ahumanu for over a century with chapters on every island. I was sponsored into Chapter IV, Wailuku, Maui, in September 2004 and have served as historian giving oral stories of Hawaiian royalty and their contributions at general membership meetings. Our annual program at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center is one of the few Hawaiian cultural activities open to the public.
This year as a member of the Ahahui Ka’ahumanu I am proud to be offering Hawaiian music entertainment on stage on Saturday as part of the 2017 Queen’s Festival. The Hawaiian Serenaders will play our mix of traditional Hawaiian and hapa haole songs on ‘ukulele and u-bass with unique rhythms and harmonies. Come and see us if you can.
Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele