- Museum number
Temple image figure (ki'i), Ku-ka'ili-moku (the god Ku, the island snatcher) carved from a single piece of breadfruit wood (Artocarpus altilis). Kona in style, with an open-mouthed grimace, slightly flexed arms and legs. Four rows of stylised pigs or dogs heads run from the bridge of the nose across tops of eyes and top of head, the bottom row merging with eyes, before drooping down to heels.
- Production date
Height: 82 centimetres (crate)
Height: 267 centimetres
Length: 306 centimetres (crate)
Weight: 196 kilograms
Width: 106 centimetres (crate)
Width: 69 centimetres
Depth: 55 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Information from Pacific Art in Detail: Carved out of a single piece of breadfruit wood, this 'ki'i' can be linked to the distinctive style of the Kona region, Hawaii. The aggressive mouth demonstrated the god's power and his taut stance showed his strength and readiness for action. Ku's hair is shown as four rows of animal heads, probably dogs or pigs, some of the body forms Ku could adopt.
This figure was originally used by the priest to call the god of war on the ceremonial ground 'heiau'. The huge temple figures still hold deep significance for many Hawaiians today. In 2010, the Bishop Museum (Honolulu) brought together the three remaining sculpture of Ku, reuniting them for the first time in more than 170 years.
In 2010 as a thank you for loaning the Ku figure, the Bishop Museum gifted four items to show appreciation for the loan; 2010,2046.1, 2010,2037.1, 2, 3a and b.
Notes from Steven Hooper 2006:
One of only three surviving colossal images of the god Ku ('ki'i').The others are in Honolulu and Salem.
Its size was a result of the availability of metal tools and Kamehameha's early nineteenth-century programme of building temples dedicated to Kukailimoku, his tutelary deity (see above, p.58; Kaeppler, A.L., 1982, 'Genealogy and disrespect: a study of symbolism in Hawaiian images,' RES, 3: 98-100).
Originally based on Hawai'i, Kamehameha extended his rule over the whole group to become the first king of Hawaii and establish a ruling dynasty.
A head of a pig or dog, both sacrificial animals, appears above the nose of this image, and the cascading rows of projections may symbolize others. The genitals are disproportionately small, yet the posture is vigorous. The wood has been identified as breadfruit (Artocarpus sp.).
Extracts from the British & Medieval Register 1757-1878, p.19
'1839.4-26.8. Wood large idol, with huge grotesque head, hair in two long plaits, standing on rough base: height 8 ft 11 in. From Otaheite: presented by W. Howard, Esq.'
See Cox and Davenport 1974, p.41: 'This image may have been taken to England by King Litholiho (Kamehameha II) in 1824, as a gift to King George IV.'
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1975 – 1985 12 Dec-23 Jun, London, BM, Museum of Mankind, Hawaii
2003 18 Oct-14 Dec, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 17 Jan-28 Mar, Kobe City Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 10 Apr-13 Jun, Fukuoka Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 26 Jun-29 Aug, Niigata Bandaijima Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2006 21 May-13 Aug, Norwich, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Pacific Encounters
2006-2007 28 Sept-7 Jan, London, BM, Power and Taboo
2008 16 Jun-14 Sep, Paris, Musée du quai Branly, Pacific Encounters
2010 5 June-4 Oct, Honolulu, Bishop Museum, E Ku Ana Ka Paia
2018 18 Sept-9 Dec, London, Royal Academy of Arts, Oceania
- Acquisition date
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number