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Wooden figure of the war god Ku-ka ili-moku
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This large and intimidating figure is a temple image of the Hawai'ian war god Ku in his aspect as Ku-ka'ili-moku (snatcher of land). Standing over 2.5 metres high, it is not meant to be a representation of the deity but a receptacle which the god would be induced to enter through prayer and ritual. Only when the god was within would it become sacred.

The figure is characteristic of the god Ku but his hair, incorporating stylized pig heads, suggests an additional identification with Lono, god of peace, fertility and music. Ku was the personal god of King Kamehameha I, who unified the Hawai'ian islands in 1795. Kamehameha built a number of temples to Ku in the Kona region of Hawai'i, seeking the god's support in his further military ambitions. This figure was erected by Kamehameha and is likely to have been a subsidiary image in the most sacred part of one of these temples.

Wooden figure of the war god Ku-ka ili-moku


From Hawai'i, probably AD 1790-1810
Ht 272 cm
Gift of W. Howard




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