From left to right, Kumu hula Leina‘ala Pavao, Jayna Shaffer, Brylyn Aiwohi and Saim Caglayan are seen here by King Kaumuali‘i’s statue unveiled at a private event Aug. 29.

From left to right, Kumu hula Leina‘ala Pavao, Jayna Shaffer, Brylyn Aiwohi and Saim Caglayan are seen here by King Kaumuali‘i’s statue unveiled at a private event Aug. 29.

By Léo Azambuja

King Kaumuali‘i avoided an imminent bloody war by agreeing in 1810 to rule Kaua‘i under King Kamehameha I. But in 1821, two years after Kamehameha I’s death, Kamehameha II kidnapped Kaumuali‘i and took him to O‘ahu. Kaua‘i’s last king would die three years later without ever setting foot on his home island again.

Until now.

The first ever statue of King Kaumuali‘i was unveiled at a small private ceremony in Kalihiwai Ridge Aug. 29, attended by the Friends of King Kaumuali‘i, a group formed more than 10 years ago with a goal of honoring Kaua‘i’s last independent ruler by erecting a statue in his likeness.

King Kaumuali‘i's statue

King Kaumuali‘i’s statue

“Kaua‘i has been celebrating Kamehameha since I was a child … but nobody celebrates Kaumuali‘i,” said Aletha Kaohi, president of Friends of King Kaumuali‘i.

Though the bronze statue crafted by artist Saim Caglayan is only three-foot tall, it will serve as the prototype for an eight-foot-tall statue of the king to be placed near his original home on Kaua‘i’s Westside. The Friends of King Kaumuali‘i will spearhead the $300,000 fundraising effort for the final statue.

In 2004, a small group of people formed the Friends of King Kaumuali‘i, but their goal to erect a statue of the king was eventually put in the backburner. Despite written descriptions of Kaumuali‘i, there are less than a handful of images of him; none made during his lifetime and none too appealing for the group to push forward a fundraising effort.

In 2012, Westside resident Barbara Bennett came across a painting of the king done by O‘ahu-based artist Brooke Kapukuniahi Parker, printed in Lee B. Croft’s book, George Anton Schaeffer: Arm Wrestling Kamehameha. Touched by the power of Parker’s painting, Bennett took it to the Friends of King Kaumuali‘i, reigniting their goal.