Navigator on the Observatory
The Navigator - Kahuna Kilo Hoku
A canoe navigator of ancient Hawai’i aboard a sailing canoe at sunset, the stars of the northern constellation of the Big Dipper in the darkening sky. He wears a pendant of polished pearl shell, a metaphor for “star” because of its luster, suspended by a necklace of strands of finely braided hair of ancestors, treasured for its mana. Over an underwrap of tapa he wears a fine mat, fastened around his waist with braided sennit (coconut fiber). As protection against the chill of the coming night he may use the overwrap of waterproofed and dyed tapa, now slung over his shoulder and fastened about his waist with sennit. His tattoos — waves, birds, and star — are symbolic of his profession (dominant wave patterns, the flight paths of migrating birds, and stars are direction indicators at sea).
The secondary element in the design is a voyaging canoe under sail. A third element is a ki’i aumakua (ancestral spirit image) holding a pearl shell, symbolizing the navigator holding fast to a guiding star. Such images were not portraits, but physical resting places for benevolent ancestral spirits whose invisible presence and helpful power could be called by chants and solicited by acts of respect.