Sam Kaʻai

Kanaka Maoli - Native Hawaiian


Sam Kaha‘ieuanalio Ka’ai was born on the island of Maui in Hāna, and raised in Wailuku and Waiehu. He was taught wood carving by his granduncle from a young age and later studied drawing, painting, sculpture, and design at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Over time he became known as a master carver, storyteller, artist, and cultural knowledge bearer. Sam was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1988 and was recognized in 2017 as a Living Treasure of the Hawaiian People by the PA’I Foundation and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Often referred to as “Papa Sam” now, many items from his personal collection of artwork and artifacts were on display at the Lahaina Historical Museum which was destroyed by the wildfires that affected Maui in 2023. He hopes to mentor the next generation of carvers to help replace some of those items as well as create more pieces himself. Healing has been an ongoing theme in Sam’s life and artwork–often taking the form of bringing forth past cultural values and practices to heal from a colonized mindset. He feels it is of paramount importance that Kanaka have a seat at the table in the restoration of Lāhainā to see that it is imbued with a Hawaiian sense of place for his community and culture to thrive.

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