Saturday, January 10, 2015


Lawe ʻili keokeo, paʻani, ka ʻeleʻele
Removing the whites is playing with the blacks

It starts with a papamū, a generally rectangular flat stone whose surface is marked with shallow pits in regular order and of considerable number.  Later more mobile boards were used.

The center of the board was called piko (navel) and frequently marked with an inset human molar; sometimes every position had an inset tooth (or a chicken or human bone.) The row along the borders of the board was termed kakaʻi.  (Ernst)

“They have a game somewhat resembling draughts (checkers,) but more complicated.  It is played upon a board about twenty-two inches by fourteen, painted black, with white spots, on which the men are placed; these consist of black and white pebbles, eighteen upon each side, and the game is won by the capture of the adversaries pieces.”

“Tamaahmaah (Kamehameha) excels at this game. I have seen him sit for hours playing with his chiefs, giving an occasional smile, but without uttering a word. I could not play, but William Moxely, who understood it well, told me that he had seen none who could beat the king.”  (Campbell)

Captain James Cook also noted Konane in his journal.  “It is very remarkable, that the people of these islands are great gamblers. They have a game very much like our draughts; but, if one may judge from the number of squares, it is much more intricate.”

“The board is about two feet long, and is divided into two hundred and thirty-eight squares, of which there are fourteen in a row, and they make use of black and white pebbles, which they move from square to square.”  (Cook)

Kōnane boards do not follow any established pattern in size and range from 6x6 boards to well over 14x14 boards.  (Some suggest even larger boards are used.)

To begin the game, the first player (black) must remove one of their pieces, either the center piece, one laterally next to it or one at a corner. The second player (white) now removes a piece of their own, adjacent to the space created by black’s first move.

Then, the players take turns making moves.  A player moves a stone of his color by jumping it over a horizontally or vertically (not diagonally) adjacent stone of the opposite color, into an empty space. Stones so jumped are captured, and removed from play.  Thereafter players take turns making moves on the board.

A stone may make multiple successive jumps in a single move, as long as they are in a straight line; no turns are allowed within a single move. The winner of the game is the last player able to make a move.

Kōnane figures in the saga of Lonoikamakahiki, a great chief credited with creating the first kahili and instituting the Makahiki games.

In a fit of jealous rage over rumors that she had been unfaithful, he killed his wife during a game of kōnane by beating her over the head with the heavy board. Later learning of her steadfastness, he was crazed with grief, but eventually nursed back to health by a faithful retainer.  (Yuen)

King Kalākaua and his Queen Kapiʻolani were experts at kōnane, and it is well known that the goddess Pele did not refuse to play the game with the demigod Kamapuaʻa.  (Brigham)

An alternative name for kōnane was mū, and for the board, papamū. Brigham notes that mū was the name of the official who captured men for sacrifice or for judicial punishment and suggests this name was adopted for the game.  (Ernst)

The image shows a papamū stone and Kōnane board at the Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park (NPS.)  In addition, I have added some other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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