Center for Biographical Research Presents "Biography Hawaii: Ruth Ke'elikolani"

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Craig Howes, (808) 956-3774
Center for Biographical Research
Posted: Jun 1, 2004

Biography Hawaiʻi: "Ruth Keʻelikōlani"

Public Screening
Thursday, June 3

7:30 — 9:00 p.m.
Art Auditorium, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Broadcast Times on PBS Hawaii
Wednesday, June 9
8:00 P.M. English version
8:30 P.M. Hawaiian version

Saturday, June 12
8:00 P.M. English version
8:30 P.M. Hawaiian version

A formidable presence in 19th-century Hawaiʻi, Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani refused to speak English, practice Christianity, or leave the Hawaiian Islands. Though her life was darkened by the deaths of her children and her beloved first husband, she was a popular and strong force who resisted the kingdom‘s drift toward annexation. Her personal appeals to the goddess Pele were said to have stopped a lava flow that threatened to destroy Hilo. During her lifetime Ruth Keʻelikōlani inherited and managed vast land holdings throughout the islands. These were the lands she bequeathed to Bernice Pauahi Bishop. Today, they form a substantial portion of the properties administered by Kamehameha Schools.

Biography Hawaiʻi: Ruth Keʻelikōlani explores the life and the legacy of this remarkable woman, whose sense of her personal responsibilities and of her own culture guided her through some of the most transforming political and cultural events of the 19th century in Hawaiʻi.clearly of her own time, and of ours.

"There were powerful women in Hawaiian history," remarks Political Science and Hawaiian Language Professor Noenoe Silva, "And I don‘t think we can know ourselves, really, until we know about them, until we understand."

Keʻelikōlani was one of these women.

"She very much maintained a respect for the old, while she considered the new," comments Professor of Hawaiian Language Puakea Nogelmeier.

Kalena Silva, Director of Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, adds that Hawaiians today draw inspiration from Keʻelikōlani because "she was stubborn in her belief that Hawaiian culture and language and its perspective on the world was valuable," giving Hawaiians "hope for our own future as Hawaiian people."

The documentary includes footage of Huliheʻe Palace and other Big Island locations, and also features 19th century chants referring to Keʻelikōlani. The musical soundtrack highlights the compositions of William Pitt Leleiohoku, Keʻelikōlani‘s adopted son, and the brother and heir apparent of David Kalākaua.

In keeping with Keʻelikōlani‘s own devotion to Hawaiian language and culture, this half-hour documentary has been prepared in two versions—English and Hawaiian. A pre-broadcast screening of both versions will be held on Thursday, June 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Art Auditorium of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa campus. Admission is free.

The two versions will be broadcast back-to-back. In either language, the result is a fascinating brief portrait of a compelling figure who many people recognize, but few people know.

Biography Hawaiʻi: "Ruth Ke‘elikōlani" is a production of PBS Hawaii, in affiliation with the Center for Biographical Research, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Executive producers are Joy Chong-Stannard (Director / Editor), Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl (Writer) and Craig Howes (Series Scholar). Kaʻupena Wong is the English language version narrator, and Kuʻuipo Kumukahi is the Hawaiian language version narrator. Tammy Hailiʻopua Baker provides the voice of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, and Kaliko Baker provides the voices of Oliver Stillman.

The series Biography Hawaiʻi tells the stories of noted figures of the past, and evaluates their significance in influencing the life of Hawaiʻi today. Two very successful hour-long documentaries on kumu hula Maiki Aiu Lake, and on labor and civil rights attorney Harriet Bouslog, have already been broadcast on PBS Hawaii.