by Veronica S.
Surf's up. The waves are too rough for fishing. Yet
the breeze is calm, and the Hawaii sun invites yet another
languorous and pleasant day under the palm trees. Imagine
your village to be at Lapakahi, now a historic park,
located between Kawaihae and Hawi, in Kohala. Imagine
spending the day with friends and family. What would
The old Hawaiians loved their leisure time. They harbored
a treasure of games. Many of these demanded acute sharpness
of verbal and mental skills. Gambling added spice and
excitement to them. Ali'i have been known to gamble
away their land, while common men have bet their own
lives, or the life of a mate. Missionaries frowned deeply
on this behavior and discouraged the games. Gradually
the Hawaiian games disappeared from the islands.
One of the most popular old games is konane , a sort
of checkers, played on a board, or on a slab of lava
and rock. In Lapakahi park, an old konane lava rock
still overlooks the Pacific. Fishermen must have had
their eyes on the board while keeping a vigilant eye
on the ever-changing ocean.
The board is called papamu konane (papa means flat
surface). The game appears to be authentically Hawaiian.
It consists of capturing "men" for justice
and for sacrifice. To this purpose black and white pebbles
were moved around from hole to hole. The holes, especially
the central one, the pika, or navel, were inset with
Konane boards across the island don't follow any established
pattern in size or play. The amount of holes, set in
even lines, varies between 64 on the low end to well
over 250 on the high end, seemingly only changing the
amount of game time involved. Along the Kohala coast
, at Kapaloa, a series of identical petroglyph boards
are carved at regular intervals. They must have served
for the first elimination matches in an important gambling
event for the ali'i: A little further inland, an arena
still stands, with one enormous, single checkerboard
on its dome. Around this stage there is plenty of room
for betting spectators. This was no doubt the final
game between champions.
Few writers have dared to describe the rules of konane.
It's said that in 1924 a 90-year old woman was the only
living person who still knew the game.
Still, why not find a palm tree, and create your own
konane game? What better way to pass the time and practice
skills of strategy and mind?
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appeared originally in Coffee Times print magazine and
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