ARTS & CULTURE
01/24/2014 06:47 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2014

Artist Marshall Sharpe Brings The "Lost" Monarchs Of Hawaii Back To Life

In 1843, after the British returned sovereignty to the Hawaiian people, King Kauikeaouli said in a speech, “Ua mau ke ea o ka 'āina i ka pono," which means "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness."

The Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown again in 1893 while under the rule of Queen Lili'uokalani, this time, by American businessmen.

The King's words, however, continue to live on as the state's motto, reminding Hawaiians of the monarchy that once ruled the islands.

Artist Marshall Sharpe's newest acrylic series "Lost" aims to tell the story of a land and people whose memory seems to be fading. By layering a matrix of quotes over a monarch’s portrait, Sharpe hopes to bring life back to Hawaii's seemingly forgotten past.

His methods, he told the Huffington Post, create “a sense of loss. The faces of the monarchs are obscured and forgotten by their own words, and the quotes are simultaneously obscured by the memory of the faces."

Liholiho (Kamehameha II), King of Hawaii 1819 - 1824
king kamehameha ii

“Elima o’u makahikii koe, alaila huli au I kanaka maikai.”

Translation: “Five years more, and then I will become a good man.”

Lunalilo, King of Hawaii 1873 – 1874
king lunalilo

“E Ola Ke Aliʻi Ke Akua.”

Translation: “God save the king.”

Alexander ʻIolani Liholiho (Kamehameha IV), King of Hawaii 1855 - 1863
king iv

“Our first and great duty is that of self-preservation.”

Source: Speech to the Opening of the Legislature, April 7th, 1855.

Sharpe, who is also an elementary school teacher on the island of Oahu, says that he forced himself to learn more about the indigenous Hawaiian culture when he moved to Hawaii.

"When I first came to Hawaii in 1999, I fell in love with the idea of an indigenous culture that had been preserved," said Sharpe. "Like Paul Gaugain and many others, I wanted to believe that the Pacific had somehow sheltered this community from western influence … I had no idea how wrong this misconception was until I started my own research."

Sharpe was inspired to learn more about the Hawaiian monarch after watching actress Q'orianka Kilcher's performance in the 2009 film, Princess Ka'iulani.

"The film did a beautiful job of showing Ka'iulani's loyalty to her people and utter heartbreak when the monarchy was overthrown," he says.

Princess Ka'iulani, Heir to the Hawaiian Throne
princess kaiulani

”Today, I, a poor, weak girl, with not one of my people near me, and all these Hawaiian statesmen against me, have strength to stand up for the rights of my people.”

Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III), King of Hawaii 1825 - 1854
kiii

“Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘aina I ka pono.”

Translation: “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”

Anonymous Sugarcane Field Worker
sugarcaneworker

"What I love most about Hawaiian history,” Sharpe says, “is that the history of the whole world is captured in these few islands. You have lava rising up from the depths of the ocean, the evolution of endemic plants and animals, the first Pacific voyagers, the development of a unique, indigenous language, the influence of European guns and germs affecting the unification of the islands, colonialism, missionary influence, the plantation era, the modern era -- everything that happened to the world, happened to Hawaii."

Lili'uokalani, Queen of Hawaii 1891 - 1893
queen liliuokalani

"He will keep His promise, and will listen to the voices of His Hawaiian children lamenting for their homes."

Queen Lili'uokalani was the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian islands.

Sharpe hopes his intimate portraits will share the regal sadness of the Hawaiian monarchs. "Symbolically," he says, "I want people to look at these Kings and Queens and understand the pride they felt in being Hawaiian, the love they felt for their people and the anguish they experienced as the health of their community began to erode beneath their feet."

See the entire "Lost" series here. Art and photos are all credited to Marshall Sharpe.

Note: This article was corrected to show that Britain restored Hawaiian sovereignty in 1843. The original story incorrectly stated 1893. The story was also updated to show that the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown again in 1893.

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