Along Floats the Mangled Kahuna–A. Manookian
Wandering, rather in the manner of an 18th-century mariner, RT has stumbled across a treasure trove. In Hawaii, of course, though nothing else in this story is quite what one might have expected.
The clue that let RT know he had found something amazing is the above drawing, by one Arman Manookian and exhibited at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. The full title alone is enough to give the viewer pause: Along floats the mangled Kahuna on the sea-caves calm water near to the sitting [Francisco de Paula] Marin whose spark of life has just flickered out. A tale (or more than one) surely hangs on this title. Scurrying through the pages of Wikipedia, RT has assembled some data to help us decode the drawing: 1) a kahuna is a Hawaiian priest or magician; 2) Francisco de Paula Marin was an influential figure in the Kingdom of Hawaii under its first and perhaps greatest monarch, King Kamehameha I. FdPM is, among other achievements, responsible for introducing pineapples and coffee to Hawaii. But so far, RT has been unable to discover much about FdPM’s death other than its date–1837.
Arman Manookian seems a less legendary figure (if such is possible in this tale): Armenian, born in Constantinople in 1904, he survived the Armenian Holocaust and made his way to the United States, where he studied art. After graduating, he joined the Marine Corps and was honorably discharged in Honolulu. He began to practice art, and his talent attracted significant commissions. Sadly, he committed suicide at 31. Today, his work, and especially his oil painting. is highly valued in Hawaii.
Hawaii, which RT visited several years ago, is an amazing place, and its history since discovery by Captain Cook is one of the most remarkable testaments to the resourcefulness of a native people dealing with the political realities of the 18th and 19th centuries. Why should we wonder that this period has produced illustrations worthy of an episode from Moby Dick? There is more poetry in life than we imagine. RT
Drawing: Along floats the mangled Kahuna on the sea-caves calm water near to the sitting [Francisco de Paula] Marin whose spark of life has just flickered out, Arman Manookian; WikiCmns; Public Domain.