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Tiki Central Forums » » General Tiki » » Kamuualii - The Amazing Pre-Tiki Tiki of The Royal Hawaiian Hotel
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Kamuualii - The Amazing Pre-Tiki Tiki of The Royal Hawaiian Hotel
Sabu The Coconut Boy
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2792
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2010-09-29 10:25 pm   Permalink

If you search for tiki postcards and photos on eBay for more than a few years you will probably eventually see an image of this fellow:





Here's another:


(photo recently discovered my martian-tiki on eBay)


He was located at the big pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu and you most often see him posing with sailors and servicemen stationed there during World War II. Sometimes you even see him posing with tourists from the 1920s and 1930s. But wait a minute... tikis didn't appear at hotels in Hawaii until the mid-1950s, when Ed Brownlee and that other Fern-Wood carver started reviving the lost art of tiki carving.

So this guy must not be a tiki at all. I mean, look at the silly hat on his head. He must be some fanciful westerner's idea of a menehune or Hawaiian elf. Those legends were around in the 1920s. That must be it. Right?

Another mystery about this carving is the fact that it never decayed. There's a beautiful color postcard of him from the 1960s. Tiki-Kate had one in her collection. They're hard to find because they're simply captioned "Royal Hawaiian Hotel" so they don't show up under tiki searches. But in that postcard, he takes up the whole image, and looks exactly the same as the old photos from the 40s and earlier. So I eventually came to the conclusion that he must be made of cement, not wood. But who made him?

Recently I found the following newspaper article from 1953:



The photo's caption reads:

"Statue, looking like wood, is cement mixed with black lava sand. It was moulded by Homer Merrill, an island artist, more than 40 years ago."

And the Headline and full text reads:

HE SCARES SHARKS! - Hawaiians claim this face frightens man-killers

HONOLULU, Hawaii. There's an idol here that's so ugly it's claimed to scare even sharks! It's a statue of Kamuualii, the Shark God, known as the Fisherman's Friend. This mammoth version, six feet high on a three-foot base, stands on the lawn of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel here.

Fishermen carry smaller versions. They claim that one look at those bulging eyes and sharp teeth and net-raiding sharks head for the open sea. Can't blame them!


========================

There's also this photo from 1955:


"Vacationing in Hawaii at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Mr. and Mrs. D. W. Thomas of Harrisonburg and her sister, Mrs. Anna C. Witt of Roanoke, discovered a replica of an old shark god on the hotel grounds..."

I looked up Homer Merrill. He designed the Historic Hawaii Theatre in downtown Honolulu, Hawaii in 1922:



He also helped create the artificial palm trees and foliage inside the Waikiki Theater in the 1930s:



This cement statue must have been one of his earlier creations, having been done in the 1910s or slightly earlier.

Was Homer Merrill truly inspired by small carvings of a shark god carried by local fishermen? Or was that just story that the owners of the Royal Hawaiian were promoting in the 1950s.

The statue shares a few traits with true native Hawaiian carvings. The cockscomb-like crest on the head is typical of several old idols, as well as the bulging eyes and grinning, tooth-filled mouth. However, the hands are wrong - they should be at the sides, and what's with the funny ears and the hat that looks more like a leprechaun's cap than a tiki's headdress?

The name Kamuualii doesn't show up on the internet associated with any Hawaiian gods. The Shark God of Molokai is listed as Kauhuhu, which is sort of close, but not really.

If this sculpture was indeed inspired by ancient Hawaiian gods, then it would be one of the earliest "tiki" statues done by a modern artist in the name of tourism. It would pre-date the Poly-pop tiki movement by 40 years. We might call it The Exception That Proves The Rule.

The fact that it was readily accessable to tourists at the Royal Hawaiian may well have helped, (along with the tikis on display at the Bishop Museum), to inspire Donn Beach and architects Wimberly & Cook to hire Ed Brownlee to carve tikis for their own hotels and restaurants.

We've discussed this tiki briefly a long time ago in another thread. And I believe Phil Roberts provided a photo. Unfortunately the photo is long gone. I used to own a couple more but can't seem to find them at the moment.

If you've got photos of Kamuualii in your collections, please post them here. Maybe we can eventually solve more of the mysteries of the Amazing Pre-tiki Tiki.

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A Frame
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Joined: Apr 16, 2009
Posts: 257
From: Mr. C's on the Coast Highway
Posted: 2010-09-29 11:10 pm   Permalink

Three S's to you from LB. Stellar Stuff Sabu!

 
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Phillip Roberts
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Joined: Sep 09, 2003
Posts: 1591
From: OAHU/Seattle
Posted: 2010-09-30 12:08 am   Permalink

Aloha,

Excellent history and research as usual, Mr. Sabu! I dig your kung-fu. Mahalo Nui Loa!

A name (Kamuualii) and a creator (Homer Merrill) !!!

There is loads of important information here to digest about this very important statue, and I will take my time with it. I will go to the library this weekend.

Martha Beckwith's "Hawaiian Mythology" does not document this name, "Kamuualii." But I do find legends featuring Kamohoali'i, the shark brother of Pele. 167, 169, 170, 171, 172, 192, 206; 90, 129-130 and 142. If you like to read Hawaiian legends, you should own this book. It is the best source and published originally in 1940 by Yale University!



Here is the original photograph that you mention in the long ago thread. I did indeed buy the 8 x 10 from the e-bay auction. It cost a pretty penny if I remember (This was about 2004 and I simply don’t remember but I think I won it for $29.95.) That set me off on a mission to find it.

While I did use a few photos of this statue in "Waikiki Tiki: Art, History and Photographs," I referred to it as a menehune. I had often thought this might be Trader Vic’s inspiration for the menehunes he often used in his menu graphics. After dissolving the partnership with Granville “Granny” Abbott (four months after opening the “lost” Ward Avenue Trader Vic’s in 1940.) his next gig was supervising cocktails at the “Royal Hawaiian Hotel” from afar.


from the Dustycajun archive I did use the full drink menu from the "Surf Bar" in "Waikiki Tiki."

The statue is pictured with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funichello on an album that I don’t own. I’ve got to search my archives, as I have quite a few pictures of this icon of “Hawaii’s Tiki Age.” (It seems everybody wanted a photograph with it.)

I do know that it was originally at a private residence (Merrill’s?) I did use that pic with the statue wearing a loin cloth and was donated to the RH around 1928.

The hotel management was apparently never too keen on it but wouldn’t remove it. They came up with a novel solution.

Allow the plants to grow over and around it and thus it simply disappeared. One night Tiki_Bong messaged me. He’d been looking around the hotel and alerted me to the location. I sped there and did some photographs. This must have been around 2005.

By 2008, the statue was un-covered by the groundskeepers and I took great pride in showing it and shooting it with visitors. In 2009, I heard about the renovation of the hotel and wondered if it would survive. It did not.



I DO have a story (heard second hand from an employee who was a witness at the time) about this event to share sometime in the future...
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Sabu The Coconut Boy
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2792
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2010-09-30 12:42 am   Permalink

Ah. Wow! If the folks renovating the hotel only knew how old it was or who created it, they might not have destroyed it. They might have realized it's value as a historical piece and moved it to a better location. Such a shame!

Thanks as usual, Phil for a nice piece of history and reviving that old photo. Can't wait to see what else you dig up.

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Mr. NoNaMe
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Joined: May 10, 2006
Posts: 1918
Posted: 2010-09-30 07:47 am   Permalink

Sabu,
The book I have says Kamohoalii is the King of sharks. The book describes him swimming in the ocean and sees a beautiful woman on the shore. He crawls from the ocean over the black lava sand transforming into a human, a cheif. He finally finds her. Her name is Kalei and the have boy named Nanaue. Nanaue becomes legendary as the Shark-Man of Waipio Valley who finally had to be killed for he learned to eat meat and was insatiable.

On the net Kamohoalii is described as God of Steam. This makes sence as he is the brother of Pele. Other sites mention he protected fisherman guiding them back to shore if they gave him awa (kava).

Erik the Red

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[ This Message was edited by: Mr. NoNaMe 2010-09-30 07:47 ]

[ This Message was edited by: Mr. NoNaMe 2010-09-30 08:24 ]


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MadDogMike
Grand Member (6 years)  

Joined: Mar 30, 2008
Posts: 7235
From: The Anvil of the Sun
Posted: 2010-09-30 08:21 am   Permalink

Great detective work, thanks for sharing (and documenting)

The name Kamuualii doesn't show up on the internet associated with any Hawaiian gods. The Shark God of Molokai is listed as Kauhuhu, which is sort of close, but not really.

With only 13 letters in their alphabet, all of their words are "close"


 
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christiki295
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Joined: Apr 09, 2003
Posts: 3811
From: LA-2547 mls east Hawaii &5500 Easter Is
Posted: 2010-09-30 08:27 am   Permalink

One of you carvers needs to market your services to the Pink Princess,
as it needs to reclaim its historical Tiki!



 
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Bora Boris
Mr. Unreasonable

Joined: Mar 25, 2005
Posts: 2568
From: Boogie Wonderland
Posted: 2010-09-30 10:01 am   Permalink

Great post Sabu! It's nice to see a post with an actual Tiki in it. It's a nice rescue from the Sea of Shit that's been flooding Tiki Central lately.

 
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Zeta
Grand Member (2 years)  

Joined: Feb 13, 2007
Posts: 2049
From: Atlantis/Basque Country/Spain/Mexico
Posted: 2010-09-30 10:58 am   Permalink

Like your post above Boris!!



From the 1960's Tiki Erotica thread 4 days ago:

Quote:

On 2010-09-26 15:44, martian-tiki wrote:


Searching through auctions....well...This has a tiki in it.


Quote:

On 2010-09-26 15:47, Zeta wrote:
Whoa! Martian-tiki! Super weird! What's the story behind that picture?


Quote:

On 2010-09-26 17:34, martian-tiki wrote:
The only story is sometimes more than hula girls show up on ebay.

ebay Item number: 200523360219
"This auction is for a group of 3 candid black and white photographs from an early bodybuilding competition, circa 1955, in what is almost certainly Hawaii. There are three bodybuilders posing in front of a giant Tiki carving of some sort.The images are 3 by 3 inches, on single weight paper"




Quote:

On 2010-09-26 21:54, Sabu The Coconut Boy wrote:
That "tiki" was on the grounds of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Hawaii and is "pre-tiki" in origin. It is made of cement even though it looks like wood and represents Kamuualii, the Shark God.

He shows up in quite a few old snapshots from the 1910s through the 1960s. The fact that he never seemed to age through the decades made me suspect he might not be wood. If you look closely at the base, you can see the sculpture marks in the cement. I've got a few photos of him myself. Thinking of doing a post about him. Phil Roberts knows about him as well if I remember right.

Pretty important sculpture as it may be the first pre-runner of the new "Tiki Age" (after the 1800s). However a huge gap between when this sculpture was created in the 1910s and the first tikis carved Ed Brownlee in Hawaii in the 1950s that sparked the Tiki movement in America.

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[ This Message was edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2010-09-26 23:53 ]





Legendary, super cool, Mahalo Sabu and martian-tiki! My questions have been answered, kinda...
Phillip, when will you tell us the story of how and why it was removed?
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¡Viva Tiki! Ambassador of Tiki in Mexico. Zeta is specialized in the research, study and preservation of Tiki culture in Latin countries.


 
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Babalu
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Joined: Nov 19, 2006
Posts: 2505
From: Lemon Grove
Posted: 2010-09-30 11:48 am   Permalink

Nice! Thank you Sir-bu and Phillip. Very inspirational....my mind is ticking.

It was really cool to see the Waikiki Theater for the first time too. What a place; I love the way the foliage cast those magnificent shadows on the ceiling...

keep it comin' gents


 
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Babalu
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Joined: Nov 19, 2006
Posts: 2505
From: Lemon Grove
Posted: 2010-10-01 5:33 pm   Permalink

This just posted by Maddog here



Will the real Hawaiian Shark God please stand up?


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Mai Tai
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Joined: Mar 21, 2004
Posts: 1432
From: Exotic Isle of Alameda
Posted: 2010-10-05 03:31 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2010-09-30 10:01, Bora Boris wrote:
Great post Sabu! It's nice to see a post with an actual Tiki in it. It's a nice rescue from the Sea of Shit that's been flooding Tiki Central lately.


I have to wholeheartedly agree with Boris on this. What has happened to the quality of posts around here, and all the excess crap postings that we all have to wade through these days just to find a few gems?!?

Thanks, Sabu, and thanks, Phil, for the great post and info! Some of us that have have slowly transformed into lurkers still appreciate this stuff!
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Sabu The Coconut Boy
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2792
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2010-11-27 8:10 pm   Permalink

A few more images of Kamuualii, the Shark God:

This first photo is undated but very early


And just like this previous photo from the 40s...

... You can see the same roofed structure to the left of the tiki. On the back of the first photo is written, "A statue beside the Moana Hotel".

In this second image from the 60s, you can see that there is no longer a roof to the tiki's left.



Either that building was torn down, or the first photo was truly by the Moana Hotel, and the statue was moved.

Even more fascinating is the discovery of another cement tiki in Honolulu from the 1940s:



This may be another tiki by Homer Merrill. The tiki is clearly made of concrete like the Shark God, and has similar feet and cement base:



However this one is much more authentic looking and appears to be patterned after an example in the Bishop Museum.



The brochure has a rubber-stamped date of Oct 21, 1948 on the back but the images inside look to be from the earlier 1940s.



Can't find much info on this hotel. It was located at 1030 King Street and it looks like the property was subdivided in 1951. So the original structure and tiki were probably destroyed at that time.

Another really early example of a Poly-pop tiki, (post-1800s) in Hawaii, pre-dating the Fernwood tikis and the ones carved by Ed Brownlee in the 50s.





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[ This Message was edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2010-11-27 20:43 ]


 
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Phillip Roberts
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Joined: Sep 09, 2003
Posts: 1591
From: OAHU/Seattle
Posted: 2010-11-28 11:44 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2010-11-27 20:10, Sabu The Coconut Boy wrote:

... You can see the same roofed structure to the left of the tiki. On the back of the first photo is written, "A statue beside the Moana Hotel". Either that building was torn down, or the first photo was truly by the Moana Hotel, and the statue was moved.




The building in both backgrounds is the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. I think that the handwritten caption on the 1st photo is wrong. While at the time, only the Moana and the Royal were on the beach, the statue was never associated with that place. Btw, the 1st photo has a sign in it, Sabu... "Hawaii and South Sea's..." Can you make any more out of it? Does it say "Shark God?" I cannot make it out...

Quote:

Even more fascinating is the discovery of another cement tiki in Honolulu from the 1940s. Another really early example of a Poly-pop tiki, (post-1800s) in Hawaii, pre-dating the Fernwood tikis and the ones carved by Ed Brownlee in the 50s.




Yes, another trip to the library is needed. Excellent stuff Sabu. I dig your Kung-Fu!

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Waikiki Tiki; Art, History, and Photographs.
Available now from
Bess Press Hawaii.



[ This Message was edited by: Phillip Roberts 2010-11-28 11:48 ]


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Phillip Roberts
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 09, 2003
Posts: 1591
From: OAHU/Seattle
Posted: 2010-12-03 8:14 pm   Permalink

Aloha,



I knew I had a shot somewhere of the cement statue in the overgrown plants at the Royal Hawaiian.

btw, Sabu can you show a close up of the top of the Na Pua statue?

_________________
Waikiki Tiki; Art, History, and Photographs.
Available now from
Bess Press Hawaii.

[ This Message was edited by: Phillip Roberts 2010-12-03 20:15 ]


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