1xRUN Thru Interview
Ka Aha Ula O Kamehameha by Brook Parker
1xRUN: Tell us a little bit about this piece, is the original still for sale?
Brook Parker: The original has been sold, but I do have other originals, prints and giclees available on my website. I do commission work as well.
Hawaii like the rest of Polynesia was ruled by councils of chiefs and was not a monarchy until much later in Hawaiian history. In Hawaii each island’s Alii-nui (supreme ruler) had his own council of chiefly advisors called “`Aha `Ula”. The term `Aha `Ula was one steeped in “kaona” (metaphor), one meaning is “aha”(chord or rope and sometimes prayer) and “ula” (red), referring to the sacred royal blood ties that united this circle of distinguished men. Another meaning could be expressed as the weaving of relatives into a sacred prayer circle tying them to their ancestors. Upon the death of the Alii-nui, the succeeding chief could keep the same advisors or select new ones.
The Aha `Ula was composed of the most powerful and highest ranked chiefs on each island. When Kalaniopu’u passed away, his son Kiwala’o succeeded him and retained most of his father’s chiefly advisors. But dissension between Kiwala’os faction and Kamehameha’s faction led to war, resulting with the early demise of Kiwala’o in the very first battle at Mokuohai, Kona. Kamehameha was the chosen leader of a group of chiefs representing Kohala, parts of Kona and parts of Hamakua. Kamehameha selected his own powerful uncles to surround him as his `Aha `Ula. Those included in this sacred circle of chiefs were Ke`eaumokupapaiahiahi, Kekuhaupi`o, Keaweaheulu, and the royal twins Kame`eiamoku and Kamanawa. These five primary chiefs were all “Pukaua” (war generals), each highly skilled in weaponry, martial arts and war strategies. Close to this governing circle was Holo’ae the Kahuna-nui (supreme high priest) and his grandson Hewahewa.
Most students of Hawaiian history are not aware of the fact that within Kamehameha`s `Aha `Ula were men who served dual roles as warrior generals as well as being high priests. Kamehameha himself, as keeper of the war god Kukailimoku was a high priest of the god Ku; therefore he was entitled to officiate in the temple rituals for Ku. During certain periods of the Hawaiian calendar such as when Makahiki was observed, Ku worship was dormant, and Lono became the primary god of the season. Kamehameha was not allowed to officiate at this time, but since Kame’eiamoku and Kamanawa were priests to the god Lono, they were. Therefore the religious control over the people never was relinquished at any time, but always remained within the scope of the `Aha `Ula.
Kamehameha’s `Ahu’ula remained faithful to him from his rise to power to the end, with their own deaths. Fearless and ruthless on the battlefield, just and fair in peace, these men were the matrix that held the government together. Without them the consolidation of this island archipelago would not have been possible.
1xRUN: Was this piece part of a recent theme, series or show that you had? If so how did it fit into that given grouping?
Brook Parker: Yes, after I finished formal portraits of his inner circle of advisors I decided to do a group portrait.
1xRUN: What materials were used to paint this piece with?
Brook Parker: This was actually my very first traditional oil painting.
1xRUN: When was the piece painted and how long did it take to complete?
Brook Parker: I painted this piece back in January of 2012. It took about 80 hours to compete over the course of 6 weeks.
1xRUN: Anything immediate you would like us to highlight?
Brook Parker: I do my best to portray my ancestors as true and factual as I can. My Hawaiians really do LOOK Hawaiian. I have spent many years doing research and studying all aspects of Hawaiian culture.
1xRUN: Tell us how the idea and execution came about?
Brook Parker: This scene depicts Kamehameha and his uncles at the funeral festivities of his uncle Kalaniopu’u who was the former King. It’s location is the Hale ‘O Keawe temple located at Honaunau Bay, South Kona, Hawaii Island circa late 1700’s. Kamehameha was given the honor by the former king custodianship of the war god Kukailimoku. His cousin Kiwala’o was given stewardship over the lands.
1xRUN: What is unique about this piece?
Brook Parker: Look closely at the details. From authentic Hawaiian tattoos to even femur bones of a vanquished enemy used in the kahili (feather standard) handle.
1xRUN: Why should people buy this print?
Brook Parker: For those who are history lovers and all things Hawaiian, it really doesn’t get any more authentic than this. Art done by a native Hawaiian, about native Hawaiians, with a native Hawaiian viewpoint.
1xRUN: Describe the piece in one gut reaction word.
Brook Parker: Powerful.
1xRUN: What has been your previous experience with Pow Wow Hawaii? Who are you most looking forward to seeing paint at this year’s event?
Brook Parker: I provided my two cents to Prime and Estria for the royal coat of arms they did a few years ago.
1xRUN: Anybody you’d personally like to collaborate with if the opportunity presented itself?
Brook Parker: Prime and Estria have been asking me to do a collaboration, will need to make time this year to do it.
1xRUN: As a local Hawaiian artist, what would you like for visiting artists to take away from their time in Hawaii?
Brook Parker: Beauty about this place is the ALOHA that resides here. Those that have been here know exactly what I am talking about. Most guest and artist that do come here know the importance of respecting the host culture.
1xRUN: Who are some of your favorite Hawaiian artists for the uninitiated?
Brook Parker: My father David, and Herb Kawainui Kane (deceased).
1xRUN: Do you have any plans for your wall out there or are you just going to improvise it when you get there?
Brook Parker: No plans yet but it will be a piece honoring the ancestors.
1xRUN: How did 2013 wrap up for you?
Brook Parker: Busy, was able to finish private commissions and sold some paintings that I did in art class I took early last year.
1xRUN: Aside from Pow Wow 2014, what are your plans for the new year?
Brook Parker: Merrie Monarch Craft Fair in Hilo, Hawaii in April, then in May, the Maui Festival of the Arts at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Kapalua, Maui, Made in Hawaii Craft Fair on Oahu in August. Plus more Hawaiian historical paintings.
1xRUN: Where else can people find you?
Brook Parker: Website