The nearly forgotten origin myth of Hawaii’s third-gender healers, as told by one

Could the Māhū have been XXY or some other form of Intersex?



In Hawaiian culture, moʻolelo means story, tale or myth, but it also refers to history. Traditionally passed down through oral storytelling, moʻolelo serve as a connection to the past, carrying wisdom and entertainment across generations. Over the centuries, however, many moʻolelo have been censored or lost altogether due to Western colonisation. The short animation Kapaemahu is an adaptation of a nearly forgotten mo’olelo about four māhū – people possessing both male and female qualities in mind, body and spirit – who brought healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaii. As the story goes, the māhū imbued with their powers four boulders, which stood at a sacred site for hundreds of years until they were forgotten. Told through a modern lens by the Native Hawaiian teacher, filmmaker and māhū Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu and the Emmy Award-winning US filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, Kapaemahu brings renewed life to this moʻolelo via animations inspired by Polynesian tapa designs and a touch of Hawaii’s recent history.

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1 comment

  1. This is similar to Native American beliefs & teachings. Most spiritual advisers both past & present describe intersex people as “Two Spirited” people. They continue to acknowledge their special abilities for all to learn from & respect within their tribes.

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