Dreams of Being a Hawaiian Princess

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
Photography by Teresa Earnest Photography

Have you ever been to a place where you feel like you’ve been before…but know you haven’t? I had that feeling of familiarity the first time I traveled to Hawaii. Stepping off the plane in 1984 it was like a warm blanket had been draped around my shoulders. I felt “at home”. The smells. The sounds. The flavors.

My parents have a vacation place on Maui and my in-laws lived on the big island of Hawaii for many years, so I was blessed that life kept taking be back to this land of yellow hibiscus, beautiful people and the soft call of the Nene bird. I studied the history and folklore of Hawaii and fell in love with the relationship poet Robert Lewis Stevenson had with the young Hawaiian Princess Kaiulani (Victoria Kawekiu Lunalilo Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kaiulani) before her death at age 23.

In the summer of 1995, on Hookena Beach on the Kona coast, I dreamt of being a Hawaiian princess while reading the poem that Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote for Princess Kaiulani before she left for Scotland to start her formal education. It was a vivid daydream I’ll never forget.

Today, in my studio as Hawaiian music streamed through my phone, with the help of a colorful assistant and wonderful photographer I had some fun and made a little part of that dream come to life. It was hard not to smile.
Hawaii, portraits, libbie summers, a food-inspired life, Hawaiian princess costume, costumes

The Island Rose
Written in April to Kaiulani in the April of her age.
To accompany Princess Kaiulani’s departure to Scotland for her education,
Inscribed in a red velvet album. 

Forth from her land to mine she goes,
The island maid, the island rose’
Light of heart an bright of face:
The daughter of a double race.
Her islands here, in Southern sun,
Shall mourn their Kaiulani gone,
And I, in her dear banyan shade,
Look vainly for my little maid.

But our Scots island far away
Shall glitter with unwonted day,
And cast for once their tempests by
To smile in Kaiulani’s eye.

When she comes To my and her father’s, and the rain beats upon the window (as I fear it will), let her look at this page;
it will be like a weed Gathered and pressed at home;
and she will remember her own islands, And the shadow of the mighty tree;
and she will hear the peacocks Screaming in the dusk and the wind blowing in the palms;
and she Will think of her father sitting there alone. – Robert Lewis Stevenson

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