The Ka’ai

Current mood: contemplative
Category: Art and Photography


My dad came to L.A. yesterday to spend a few of days with me before we fly to Hawaii together on Friday to meet up with the rest of the family for Christmas. I was so busy doing author chats that I left him to his own devices until I realized, heck, the guy is in his 80s, I should enjoy him while I can. So we stole away for a few hours, went to Malibu Seafood for some killer salmon and then I took him to the Getty Museum – the old one at the beach that houses the antiquities.
The first room contains the stolen relics of the Parthenon. Being Greeks, my dad and I feel an enormous amount of anger knowing that the huge chunks of marble filling the room – columns, the gigantic Throne of Zeus etc, are called The Elgin Marbles, named for the thief who took them.
Art theft is one of the biggest, most lucrative crimes in the world. My dad became positively unglued in that room, berating the security guard who looked like he was about to tazer him. We had to curtail our activities and leave before violence erupted. My impassioned father was heavily involved in the movement to have the marbles returned to Greece many years ago when actress Melina Mercouri, the Greek Cultural Minister spearheaded a campaign to retrieve them.

Her death unfortunately halted the efforts.

I was glad to see that furious gleam in my dad’s eye as much as it upset me to see him agitated. Maybe he can get things moving again. Now he’s retired he needs a new focus.

This is an ongoing issue of great importance to us. The Getty’s former curator Marion True is still on trial in Italy for knowingly purchasing stolen artifacts and over coffee, we chatted about the pieces Italy and Greece will receive in a repatriation deal.

I told my dad about my passion for the theft of the Ka’ai (say Kah-eye) two caskets containing the bones of two ancient Hawaiian kings. The photo above is the only known photo of them, by the way…

Originally given to the Bishop Museum in Honolulu for safekeeping by Prince Jonah Kuhio, a descendant of the deposed Hawaiian monarchy, it was his intention to hold a ceremony and bury the caskets with the rest of the royal family at the Royal Mausoleum on Nu’uanu Pali.

The caskets had been looted in a mountain expedition and they were given to the Prince who knew that it was important that the caskets be re-buried. All Hawaiian monarchs until the 19th century were buried in secrecy because the Hawaiians believed the spirit and power of the monarchs resided in the bones. They could not fall into the wrong hands.

This story gripped me when a tug of war began between the Prince and the Museum. He died before he could achieve his dream. The museum meanwhile held on to the ka’ai, partly because they knew of the monetary value and also their historic importance. The weave of the sennit-fibre caskets has never been seen before or since.

They were left in a cabinet and several years ago, they were stolen.

There are many rumors of what actually happened to the ka’ai, the most reasonable explanation is that they were returned by a group of activists to the mountains from which they were torn.

My dad and I discussed the whole issue of stolen artifacts and yes there is an argument for keeping art in museums and galleries for the public to admire, but the ka’ai were held in the dark, in secret…and now they are gone.

I am so obsessed with this story I used it as the backdrop for my new book “A Vampire Christmas” which was published yesterday. I am intrigued by history, by art, by what we humans deem as beautiful. My father casually mentioned another great story of art theft in Greece…and he saw the gleam in my eye as I plotted and planned another story – the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

Don’t be surprised if my vampire lovers Jimmy and Tem find their way to Greece. My stories might have loads of hot sex, but the thread running through all of them is culture and the importance of holding onto it.

We Greeks lost our marbles a couple of hundred years ago. And now we want them back. If I can help in any way, I will. In the meantime, I can only hope and dream. And write.

Aloha oe,


Currently listening :
We Sing, We Dance. We Steal Things Expanded Edition 2CD/ DVD
By Jason Mraz
Release date: 2008-11-18

One Response to “The Ka’ai”

  1. Yes, and that is why the stock market crashed too. At least you have a theme for your books. That is something.

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