Some of Abigail Kawananakoa’s items are going up for auction. That’s raising concerns

Updated: Jun. 29, 2020 at 10:33 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than 400 items belonging to Hawaiian royalty descendant Abigail Kawananakoa are headed for the auction block.

They include furniture, works of art, silverware and Polynesian artifacts like a Maori jade war club where bidding begins at $185 and a ceremonial stone ax which has a starting price of $104.

“It’s actually astonishing and surprising that anyone would have the audacity to sell these private possessions of Ms. Kawananakoa,” said Megan Kau, attorney for Kawananakoa’s former housekeepers, who are opposing the auction.

In a court document, Hawaiian Studies professor Lilikala Kameeleihiwa believes some objects could predate Western contact in Hawaii, such as a kukui nut lamp that’s being listed at $69.

One expert says this kukui nut lamp may date back to the pre-contact era.
One expert says this kukui nut lamp may date back to the pre-contact era.(none)

She said a stone pestal and mortar set could be rare.

But Bruce Voss, Kawananakoa’s attorney, questions whether the items have much historic or cultural value.

He said the items came from his client’s Punaluu home, which she no longer visits. He added that Kawananakoa is facing financial problems due to the lengthy court battle over her fortune.

“Ms. Kawananakoa needs money to pay her expenses, because her trustee Jim Wright has used her money to pay more than $3 million to his attorneys and $400,000 to the Foundation’s attorneys,” Voss said in an emailed statement.

In the past, Wright has accused Kawananakoa’s attorneys of running up the legal tab.

The 94-year-old Kawananakoa is a descendant of Queen Kapiolani and a great-granddaughter of James Campbell, the founder of the Campbell Estate fortune.

When the Campbell Estate dissolved in 2007, she inherited about one-eighth of the $2 billion trust, or about $250 million.

But after suffering a stroke like attack in 2017, her fortune has been the subject of a legal tug of war between her wife Veronica Gail Kawanankoa and Wright.

Wright has said that Kawananakoa set aside most of her wealth for native Hawaiian causes.

The auction comes as a state judge has ruled that Kawananakoa is not capable of managing her trust’s financial affairs and is in the process of appointing a conservator to look after her personal interests.

“She clearly doesn’t understand what’s going on. I cross examined her and she couldn’t tell me why she made certain decisions. She couldn’t remember that she made certain decisions,” said Kau.

Kau said the auction demonstrates the need for a conservator. She said a conservator can assess whether items up for auction are valuable and whether they should be sold or given to a museum.

“I think a buyer ... should know that the person who is selling the items does not have the authority to do so,” she said.

“So buyer beware.”

The auction is scheduled for July 12.

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