Virtual and Augmented Worlds in Anthropology & Geography
KONANE AND HAWAIIAN THOUGHT
KONANE: HAWAIIAN VALUES IN A BOARD GAME
Konane was not elitist—everyone played it, all the time
In konane who takes the most pieces is irrelevant–you win by making your opponent powerless, not by conquering (as in chess) or destruction (as in checkers).
The complexity of konane is in the control of paths through space: this makes it radically different than chess, which is basically a wargame, or checkers
The look and feel of the board and pieces reflects the importance of all the senses
My personal set is seen below: the white are turbo shell operculums from Hawaiian archaeological sites; the black are waterworn stones from Kahikinui Maui beaches
The Hawaiian world view is dominated by dualism—every aspect of existence has an opposite
In konane the contrasting sets of pieces and their relationship (visually) with the board reflects this principle
Konane pieces must contrast both in texture and color
Konane boards varied in size from 6×6 rows up to 15×12 rows; the most common patterns were 7×6; 9×7; 9×8; 9×9; 11×10; 12×11 and 14×11
The board below is made from mango. Notice how two different sets of pieces look on this wood, in contrast to the bamboo or mahogany boards in the other pictures.
All pieces are laid out in alternating order
Black player starts—must remove one piece at the board center [see below]
White player then removes one piece next to the missing black piece [see below]
Black then moves and so on
All moves are in a straight line, NO diagonals
You can NOT change direction during a move—straight line only
In each turn you MUST huli [hop over] at least one of your opponent’s pieces—which is then removed. You DO NOT have to make multiple huli if you don’t want to
You cannot move through empty spaces, nor can you jump over your own pieces
The 1st player who can’t huli looses [immobilized]
White below still has several moves (huli) possible, black does not–black has lost
KONANE BOARDS AND PIECES
Konane boards were traditionally made of wood or pecked in stone
One source notes that tightly woven lauhala mats were also used, with the intersections serving as the puka
Contemporary Stone Konane Boards
Concrete paving stones are a cheap option, but the porous surface isn’t very attractive
Marble or stone tiles would be another option, but these tend to be fragile and heavy—however, if fixed into a surface they could be attractive and durable
In Honolulu it is possible to find lava stepping stones (at http://geobunga.com/ imported from China) which make very attractive stone boards. The puka are ground in and the surface polished up (see image below). These give a very traditional look to the board and are very durable (though heavy).
Wooden Konane Boards
The only form of konane board seen in the last 40 years or so are wooden boards
From the 1950-1990 period (?) a boxed konane board with pieces was commercially produced by “Anekona Hawaii”, as their “Konane, The Ancient Hawaiian Checkers Game” set. This can still be found. The Anakona boards appear to all be made of koa, mahogany or a lighter variegated wood, possibly coconut. [They also produced a series of “Hawaiian Dolls”.]
In England a konane set was made by House Of Marbles, titled “Konane from Hawaii: The Game that Stands the Test of Time” in a cardboard tube, with blue and clear marbles as playing pieces and a green felt playing surface marked with circles to represent the papamu.
Currently several woodworkers build boards on a custom basis, but no commercial operations have survived.
Alternative Konane Boards: Plex and Foam
Two alternative materials have been used for konane boards: plex (polystyrene) and foam board
Heavy smoke tint plex (polystyrene) makes an visually attractive, light and durable board, with a very contemporary look. It also acts as a very striking base for pieces. A plex surfaces such as the mirrored surface may make for other interesting boards
Patterned material could be added to the underside of the plex for other visual options
This just illustrates the relevance of the traditional game into our 21st century techno-material world
Foam board is a very cheap and durable alternative, though not particularly attractive. It is also very easy to make. It would seem very suitable for classroom use when introducing students to the game. At some point creative types could personalize their boards with surface art.
Historical accounts are very vague on actual playing sets
Unlike chess or many other board games, konane did not apparently have pieces with unique characteristics, nor was there any apparent convention as to the form of pieces
Contemporary Konane Set Rule 1
Given the lack of clear historical guidance, we have have two conventions as to konane set choice:
Pieces must be in opposition or dualism
Hawaiian world view saw most aspects of existence as being in opposition. For each there was an opposite, a balance
Pieces should reflect this in one form or another; texture, color, shape.
Identified traditional pieces remaining consist of smooth black basalt waterworn stones in opposition with waterworn white coral fragments—opposition or balance both in color and texture, but also in land vs. ocean. Contemporary pieces should follow this basic rule.
Contemporary Konane Set Rule 2
Pieces acquire mana from their user through touch and play
Over time objects handled by an individual, especially as part of conscious thought or effort, acquire mana from the user
Our view of this is that each player should have one set of playing pieces [i.e., one color, one half of a konane set] that they have selected (or made) that reflects some aspect of themselves
This could be something as simple as a favorite color or texture, pieces that are aesthetically pleasing, or pieces that reflect something of importance such as ceramic fish or cats (or Pikachu)
Over time and play they will become more personalized.
What would you like to see on a board as your set?
Konane Set Selection
For ideas trying roaming a craft or hobby store
Go online (I recommend Fire Mountain) and see what you find appealing or entertaining as playing pieces
Remember size and numbers are constraints
For beads, 12mm or 14mm are good sizes—smaller ones are hard to handle, larger ones overwhelm a regular sized board
You need upwards of 42 pieces (a 9×9 board) to have enough to handle various board configurations
You should also invest in a generic set for opposing players who don’t have their own pieces yet