There are now four different statues of similar design of Kamehameha; there is an error in the Statues:
- The first replica stands prominently in front of Aliʻiolani Hale in Honolulu
- The initial (repaired) casting of the statue is at Kapaʻau, North Kohala
- Another replica is in US Capitol’s visitor center in Washington DC
- Another statue is at the Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo
“When the Kamehameha had been modeled by Gould, the attention of the Hawaiian Club of Boston … was called to the completed model and it was noticed that the great Moi was represented wearing a sort of apron”.
“(T)he sculptor was informed that this was by no means a correct costume of the time of Kamehameha and would appear ridiculous to the modern Hawaiian.”
It turns out, when the statue was being prepared, King Kalakaua had recently acquired “Malo of Kaumualiʻi” and he selected that to be photographed for the sculptor’s use, providing the model with an ordinary malo at the same time.
William Tufts Brigham – the first director of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum – had written a book on Hawaiian featherwork; he had also been Hawaiian Club president for ten years.
His initial reaction about the “Malo of Kaumualiʻi” was, “how could a band four yards long, made as this is with feathers on both sides be disposed on the wearer? The term malo is certainly misleading”. He suggested it was rather a cordon or sash.
“In the statue the cordon passes from the pendent end up behind the portion used as a waist-band, over the left shoulder, outside the cloak, instead of returning down the back to form the belt as it should have done with the end tucked in to tighten the band, it leaves this belt as an independent member and passes down over the cloak to trail on the ground!” (Brigham)
“The ordinary malo is shown on the statue, a proof that the cordon was not used as a malo, an impossible feat. Perhaps no competent critic saw the model after the cordon was added, or it was thought best not to remove the band after the cast was made.”
“As there was no living Hawaiian who had seen such a cordon worn either by Kamehameha or Kaumualiʻi, the absence of criticism may be understood.” (Brigham)
It turns out Brigham found out it was not the sculptor’s fault, but, rather, the photographer who sent the statue maker photos of what was to be designed (Gould simply sculpted what the photographer provided.)
“The ungraceful position of the left hand was changed by the artist but he could not have been expected to be versed in the peculiarities of ancient Hawaiian adornment. In the photograph sent not only was the cordon placed over the cloak but the main ornament, the terminal set with teeth was not visible in front!”
“I can only suppose that King Kalakaua in his apprenticeship to royalty as assistant chamberlain to Kamehameha V, never saw such a cordon adorning his royal master who was greatly averse to personal display as I was convinced by my acquaintance with that monarch, who probably never saw the cordon in question.” (Brigham)
“The final arrangement must be based on esthetic rather than historical grounds. In fact, the decorated end of the sash drags on the ground behind the figure. The other end has had to be supplemented with a fictitious terminal band to be presentable in front.”
“If you look closely, the final arrangement is impossible without two sashes: a long one from malo front over the shoulder and down to the ground, and a short, separate belt.” (Later noted by Charlot.)
Traditionally, a sash is worn by first draping the sash over the left shoulder to where it falls between the knees. Then the remaining length is wrapped around the waist and over the front flap of the sash to around the back, fed behind the part over the shoulder, and the remaining hangs down in the back (at knee length.) (San Nicolas) After that, you put the cape on over it all.
As attention is drawn to the Kamehameha Statue, with lei draping and anticipation of Kamehameha Day, folks might now all look at the Kamehameha Statue a little closer now. (The painting pattern of the sash on the Kapaʻau Statue illustrates the error best, but it is evident on each.)
Most of the attention has been to the front of the statue; but we have overlooked a little bit of history without looking at the sash as it simply flows from the front over the shoulder (over the cape) to a pile in the back (rather than in the traditional wearing of the sash (wrapped before the cape is worn; under the cape around the waist and looped down.))