Kawananakoa’s handcrafted koa casket inspired by those of Hawaiian monarchs

The final product is the result of months of specialty craftsmanship, research about the caskets of alii or royalty, and a sense of Hawaiian place
Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 5:53 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2023 at 6:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The casket for late Hawaiian heiress Abigail Kawananakoa, was crated by Martin & MacArthur.

It took months to make.

Michael Tam, president and CEO, says they were contacted last June by Kawananakoa’s office about creating a casket.

“I was grateful that they called us and honored and thrilled that we would get that call,” said Tam.

Hawaiian royal heiress Abigail Kawananakoa to lie in state at Iolani Palace, a rare event

Martin & MacArthur has been making handmade wood furniture and specialty pieces for more than 60 years.

Kawananakoa’s casket is the result of months of specialty craftsmanship, research about the caskets of alii or royalty, and a sense of Hawaiian place.

Abigail Kawananakoa, ‘the last alii’ and a lifelong champion of Native Hawaiian causes, dies at 96

Tam says the koa wood comes from a fallen tree on Hawaii island.

“The wood comes from a tree that’s 165 years old and it grew up in an area called Pu’u O’o,” said Tam.

Kawananakoa’s casket has the crown of Hawaii, coat-of-arms, Hawaii’s motto and the family crest, which are all made from koa.

Martin & MacArthur looked at historic photographs of caskets and royal emblems that were made for Hawaii’s late monarchs, including King David Kalakaua with Her Majesty Kapiolani kneeling beside his casket, Queen Liliuokalani, Prince Kuhio, and Prince David Kawananakoa, Abigail Kawananakoa’s grandfather.

“We looked closely at the black-and-white photos because these were caskets from the late 1800s all the way to the early to mid 1900′s,” said Tam.

Tam says Kawananakoa wanted to support Martin & MacArthur craftsmen and was a staunch advocate of Hawaii.

“I hope when people see the casket they reflect on her legacy and the heritage of supporting things local and things Hawaiian,” said Tam.

Kawananakoa will lie in state in the Iolani Palace Throne Room on Jan. 22 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Her casket will arrive at Iolani Palace via a hearse through the front gate at 1:30 p.m.

The public is welcomed to pay their respects. The pedestrian gate along King Street will be the only entrance. Parking will be available at the nearby Civic Center Municipal Building.