hooku-a-kane & other essential Questions

Papahana: Collecting Aikāne references from Poepoe’s Hiiaka

Highlights: Nūpepa (TV) Guide, Hoʻokū-a-kāne and gender

During my daily collection of aikāne references from Poepoe’s Hiʻiaka i stumbled upon a couple things. The first was an interesting series called “Heaha Kahi Mea Hou.” From what i can tell  the series was published almost every week between  August 5th 1910 and September 1st, 1911. There are a total of 46 hits on Papakilo for this particular series and unfortunately the author did not sign their name.  The series reads a lot like a TV guide, which short synopses of Moʻolelo being published at the time and other news that is circulating. This particular series fits quite well into Noenoe Silva’s argument that the nūpepa sometimes served similar functions as social medias serves today. “Heaha Kahi Mea Hou” was, for a year, a quick way to arm yourself with whats going on in the news and in popular culture (moʻolelo). What makes this series really interesting to me and my project is that the reason i stumbled upon it is because one of the very short synopses centers on aikāne in Hiʻiaka. Iʻve included the image of the passage bellow:

Screen Shot 2017-02-10 at 4.48.39 PM.png

Thanks to my awesome friends on facebook (specifically Paige Okamura , Presley Ah Mook Sang and Ryan Kawika Aliinoa Aspili), i know that the passage probably reads:

“eia mai ka puni a kaua e ke aikane o Kawelo a o Hiʻiaka, a e akahele nae i ka haupu ana iho o pii ka manene i/o nā pepeiao”

When trying to build context around how the moʻolelo were read, a synopsis like this one is wonderful to find because it demonstrates a particular normalized dialogue around the kinds of desires celebrated in the moʻolelo. I just hope i can find more articles like this one to help build some more context.

Another cool passage i stumbled upon and not exactly know how to approach yet is this passage printed in Hiʻiaka on May 7th, 1909:

Screen Shot 2017-02-10 at 3.49.21 PM.png

The immediate thing im struggling with in this part of the moʻolelo is presence of a character described as a muumuu. Pukui defines muumuu as:

1. nvs. Cut-off, shortened, amputated, maimed; person with arms or legs missing, amputee. Hula muʻumuʻu (UL 213), a sitting dance.

2. n. A woman’s underslip or chemise; a loose gown, so called because formerly the yoke was omitted (Cf. muʻumuʻu 1), and sometimes the sleeves were short. Cf. holokū.

But i dont have much experience with this in actual moʻolelo so im still trying to see the picture the moʻolelo is drawing out for us. If anyone knows of other moʻolelo with similar figures, let me know. At some point ill probably just do a cursory search of muumuu in papakilo and hope that shifting through all the dress references isnt too tedious.

But theres something else in particular that i am really really really interested about this passage. Wahineʻōmaʻo is struggling to read whether the muumuu is a kāne or a wahine. And Hiʻiaka explains that this muumuu has extraordinary body that can “hoo-ku-a-kane.” This is probably one of the most interesting things iʻve stumbled upon in this mana of the Hiʻiaka moʻolelo to date and i think it sheds a lot of light on terms like aikāne and māhū. As far as i can tell, hoʻokūakāne means to stand in as a man, or to embody the figure of that of a man, or more simply, to BE a man. Wahi a Hiʻiaka, this is a power that this muumuu has, to both be in her wahine form and a male form.What does this tell me?  THat even through Hawaiian society relied on serious delineation of kuleana based on whether one was a kāne or a wahine, that there were  Hawaiians that had the ability to move from a kāne body to a wahine body.

I mentioned in an earlier post that i believe that we dont really know what māhū means in the context in which it was used by our kupuna. My limited conception of māhū would assume that it is a term that might come up in proximity to the discussion of this muumuu’s presentation of their body. However the term māhū was nowhere to be found in describing this muumuu.

Some questions: 

  1. The use of the word eepa to describe the Muumuu’s body denotes some non-human “powers” belonging to this muumuu. so my first questions then is.. is there precedence in using the term “hookūakāne” to describe kanaka, rather than akua. Or is the ability to kū a kāne or kū a wahine one that is reversed for akua and not something that common people would have. The only way to know is to find more references to this word, which im currently struggling with. but, if i find anything, iʻll definitely update this post.
  2. What does the fact that Hiʻiaka and Wahineʻōmaʻo talk so unspectacularly about this muumuu’s ability to essentially change their presentation between Kāne and Wahine reveal about some of the very important foundational differences between the way our kupuna thought about “gender presentation” for lack of a more culturally appropriate word.
  3. How do i talk about “Hawaiian gender” in a way that doesn’t presume that Hawaiians believed in gender? Im not questioning whether Hawaiians believed there was a difference between kāne and wahine, im questioning whether they believed in gender.
    1.  Another way to put this, are kāne and wahine terms to define sex or gender? or neither? is this a stupid question?
    2. is it possible to think this through in a Hawaiian way without the traumatic imprint of patriarchy that is so taken for granted i have no language (in Hawaiian or english) that i know of to discuss Kāne and wahine outside of the conceived structures of sex and gender? like what else is there? or what was there before?
    3. Is this project doomed because of the overwhelming power of patriarchy and its imprint on the most simple ways we organize our language and perceive our bodies? Even on my queerest days i dont know how to discuss my body outside of the language of gender and sex; so… How do i ask questions that dont reinforce patriarchy by relying on its language.


  1. today i finished collecting aikāne references from Poepoe and im moving on to Kapihenui
  2. today i have so many questions and not a single answer.

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