A Source of Light Never Ending exhibit consisting of panels of photos from Kalaupapa and text
Image courtesy of Ka ʻOhana o Kalaupapa

An exhibit about the often forgotten chapters of the history of Kalaupapa will be on display in the James and Abigail Campbell Library at the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu from January 12 through March 10. The exhibit A Source of Light, Constant and Never-Fading explores the experiences of the people who were quarantined to Molokaʻi’s Kalaupapa peninsula because they were afflicted with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) through photographs, portions of letters written in Hawaiian, portions of songs and more.

Kalaupapa, a remote peninsula located below Molokaʻi’s imposing sea cliffs, served as a medical quarantine settlement for decades, with severely affected patients being sent to the island because there were no known cures for the disease. Native Hawaiians were particularly vulnerable to it, according to the National Park Service, which maintains Kalaupapa as a National Historical Park. Thousands of patients were taken away from their families and transported to Kalaupapa.

They said, ‘This is your last place. This is where you are going to stay, and die.’ That’s what they told me. I was a thirteen-year-old kid.
— A Kalaupapa patient

The forced quarantined produced many compelling stories, some of which are presented on the National Park Service website. “One of the worst things about this illness is what was done to me as a young boy,” according to a part-Hawaiian patient. “First, I was sent away from my family. That was hard. I was so sad to go to Kalaupapa. They told me right out that I would die here; that I would never see my family again. I heard them say this phrase, something I will never forget. They said, ‘This is your last place. This is where you are going to stay, and die.’ That’s what they told me. I was a thirteen-year-old kid.”

The exhibit was created by Ka ʻOhana o Kalaupapa, a non-profit organization made up of Kalaupapa residents, family members/descendants, friends, students and others who have worked to preserve the history.

For more on the exhibit, read the full story at E Kamakani Hou.

Family restoration public presentation

In addition to the exhibit, there will be a public presentation titled The Restoration of Family Ties, on January 25, 6:30 p.m. in the library’s second-floor exhibit space. This narrated slide show featuring historical and modern-day photos chronicles the efforts of the ʻOhana in helping families reconnect to their Kalaupapa ancestors.

This presentation is open to UH West Oʻahu students, faculty, staff and the general public. Descendants of Kalaupapa residents are also invited to attend a family discussion on March 10, 10 a.m.