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Hawaii Travel --> Islands --> Oahu --> Attractions --> Arts --> Visual Arts --> Statues --> History of the Waikiki King Kalakaua Statue

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History of the King Kalakaua Statue
Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

This statue of Hawaii's King David Kalakaua sits in the middle of a small triangle park at the intersection of Kalakaua Avenue and Kuhio Avenue in Waikiki.


King David Kalakaua Statue
Copyright © Kathleen Walling Fry


The Waikiki King Kalakaua statue was commissioned by the Oahu Kanyaku Imin Centennial Committee on behalf of the Japanese-American community of Hawaii to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese contract plantation workers arriving Hawaii. The statue was donated to the City and County of Honolulu by the Oahu Kanyaku Imin.

About King Kalakaua
Hawaii's King David Kalakaua was born in 1836 and he ruled Hawaii from February 12, 1874 until his death on January 20 1891. King Kalakaua and his wife Queen Kapiolani traveled extensively and they met personally with the leaders of many different countries during their reign.

Statue Honors the King's Contribution to Japanese Immigration
In 1985, the State of Hawaii celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese contract workers arriving in the Kingdom of Hawaii to work as laborers on Hawaii's sugar cane plantations. As part Hawaii's Japanese Immigration Centennial Celebration, Oahu Kanyaku Imin and its president Kenji Goto agreed to provide funding and other support for the design, creation, and erection of a statue honoring King David Kalakaua's efforts to encourage Japanese immigration to Hawaii.

How King Kalakaua Encouraged Japanese Immigration
King Kalakaua traveled to the United States in the 1870's to secure the Trade Reciprocity Treaty of 1876, an agreement which led to an expansion of the sugar industry in Hawaii and increased the demand for laborers to work on Hawaii's sugar plantations. During an 1881 visit to Japan, King Kalakaua encouraged Japanese emperor Meiji to send immigrants to Hawaii to help relieve the labor shortage on Hawaii's sugar plantations. That visit resulted in the signing of the Japan-Hawaii Labor Convention and the immigration of more then 200,000 Japanese citizens to Hawaii between 1885 and 1924.

Contributors to the Statue
Oahu Kanyaku Imin and its then president Kenji Goto contributed approximately $350,000 to fund this project. Several people worked jointly on the artistic design and physical and structural properties of the statue including Native Hawaiian historian, musician, and fine arts expert Palani Vaughan, professional architect Leland Onekea who designed the base of the statue, and Native Hawaiian sculptor Sean Browne. The foundation for the statue was laid by the Masons of Hawaii. Palani Vaughan composed a new song for the dedication ceremony and he continues to host an annual celebration held at the statue on the King's November 16 birthday to honor the monarch's memory and achievements.

About Sculptor Sean Browne
Sculptor Sean Kekamakupaa Kaonohiokalani Lee Loy Browne was born and raised on Hawaiian homestead lands in Keaukaha, Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. He graduated from Kamehameha Schools, attended college at the University of Redlands and the University of Hawaii. He studied stone carving in Italy and Japan under a Fulbright Fellowship and also with master sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Sean Brownee currently teaches sculpture in the Kapiolani Community College Art Department.

Palani Vaughan's Annual Birthday Celebration at the Statue Site
In exchange for the statue being donated to the City and County of Honolulu, the city agreed to improve the site and sponsor an annual birthday observance for King Kalakaua every year on November 16th. That birthday celebration has occurred every year since 1993. Palani Vaughan organized and hosted the celebration for the first few years. The Freemasons of Hawaii now handle the logistics of organizing the event but Palani Vaughan continues to host the Annual King Kalakaua Birthday Celebration at the Waikiki King Kalakaua Statue.

See also:
- Photo of the Park in Which the Statue is Located
- Other Oahu Statues
- About King Kalakaua



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