Heavenly honor bestowed on Nawahi


POSTED: Sunday, November 23, 2008
This story has been corrected. See below.

The legacy of Joseph Kaho'oluhi Nawahiokalaniopuu, native Hawaiian painter, teacher, legislator, lawyer, journalist and cabinet member to Queen Liliuokalani, continues to grow 112 years after his death.

A crater located in Calloris Basin, the largest known basin on planet Mercury, has been named “;Nawahi Crater”; - using the shortened version of his name - in honor of the artist, said Jeffrey Gillis-Davis, University of Hawaii-Manoa planetary researcher.

Planetary features, such as craters on Mercury that are of high scientific interest, are given names so scientists can refer to them in research papers, he said.

For example, all features on Venus except one are named for women, he said. The exception was a crater named for a man before rules were adopted for naming objects, he said. On the moon, all features are named for scientists and mathematicians. Mercury's map will have names for people who contributed to the arts or humanities, Gillis-Davis said.

A member of the science team for the MESSENGER space missions to Mercury, he said he proposed Joseph Nawahi's name to the International Astronomical Union after talking to experts at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

Several artists were discussed but Nawahi “;seemed to be a consensus view,”; Gillis-Davis said. “;He was one actually born in Hawaii and the most well-known.”;

Nawahi Crater is a little smaller in circumference than the island of Kauai and scientifically interesting, Gillis-Davis said. Information from two MESSENGER flybys of the planet shows the ejected or rim material from the crater is darker than the surrounding material, indicating the surface material probably is volcanic in origin.

He is studying impact craters that have pit floors in them and has submitted a paper to a journal using those craters as evidence of near-surface volcanism on Mercury.

The naming of a planetary crater for Nawahi, who died in 1896, seems to fit his reputation as a Renaissance man.

According to the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Nawahi, born in Puna in 1842, was educated at Hilo Boarding School, Lahainaluna Seminary and the Royal School in Honolulu. He was a teacher and principal of Hilo Boarding School, trained as a lawyer and passed the bar exam given by the Hawaiian Supreme Court. He also started the Hawaiian language newspaper Ke Aloha 'Aina in 1895, which opposed the annexation of Hawaii by the United States.

Gillis-Davis gathered information from various sources showing the self-taught artist was the first native Hawaiian to become an accomplished painter in the Western style and was known for Hawaiian sea-landscape and volcano paintings.

Only about five of his paintings are known to exist.






        » The spacecraft that has done two fly-bys of the planet Mercury is named MESSENGER, an acronym that stands for “;Mercury surface, space environment, geochemistry and ranging.”; The name was not capitalized in an article on Page A10 Sunday.