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Links to the Past

Links to the Past: The Work of Early Hawaiian Artisans

Wendy S. Arbeit
Copyright Date: 2011
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    Links to the Past
    Book Description:

    The work of Hawaiian artisans at the time of Western contact was woven seamlessly into their everyday lives and culture-the details of which are now lost. Although we can no longer comprehend the objects left to us with the same depth of understanding as early Hawaiians, we can appreciate their aesthetic qualities and the skill used in their construction, particularly when numerous pieces of the same type are viewed together.Links to the Pastmakes this possible by reuniting more than a thousand eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Hawaiian artifacts from over seventy institutions and collections worldwide. The book is divided into twenty-one sections (wooden bowls, gourds, stone vessels, etc.), each introduced with color photographs, quotes from contemporary sources, and brief historical and technical information. These are followed by dozens of line drawings (more than 1,400 in all) based on actual artifacts or photographs and drawn to scale within each object category. Together they support and enhance learning about object shapes, patterns, sizes, and, in some cases, change over time. Accurate and detailed illustrations reproduce gourd, basket, and mat patterns-now faded and almost invisible on the objects themselves-as clearly and vibrantly as when they were first created.Links to the Pastis unique in bringing together hundreds of traditional Hawaiian objects in one publication. In the case of fans, helmets, and patterned water gourds, almost every known artifact is represented. Numerous pieces presented here have rarely or never been seen in print. The book will prove invaluable to those involved in the study and creation of Pacific art and visual culture and readers interested in early cultural exchange and pattern and design among indigenous cultures.1,400 illus.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3771-6
    Subjects: Art & Art History, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[v])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    When the famed British explorer and navigator Captain James Cook landed in Hawai‘i in 1778, the Islands had been isolated from the rest of Polynesia for some five hundred years. The objects he collected reveal that in half a millennium Hawaiians devised art styles very different from those of their ancestors and their Polynesian contemporaries. Cook’s officers described the workmanship and artistry of the utilitarian creations of Hawaiians in superlatives. Because so many of these early works are now scattered across the globe, we can no longer readily experience the appreciation and awe that Cook must have felt when he...

  4. The works

    • Wooden Bowls
      (pp. 4-35)

      Most wooden bowls were made for chiefs. Except for a few specialized platters, such as those for pounding poi or attracting sharks, commoners made do with coconut and gourd vessels. Seasonedkou, milo,andkamaniwood were used for the best bowls and ‘ōhi‘a for those of less importance. Bowls were made from trees that were consecrated when cut down. They were shaped with a variety of stone adzes and sharktooth knives that were also consecrated, then finished with abrading stones, burnished with dried leaves or ochre, and finally treated to remove bitter flavors. The majority were used for serving...

    • Gourds
      (pp. 36-79)

      Gourds of various sizes and shapes were carved, cut, pierced, and shaped for specific purposes. Some became plates, platters, poi bowls, scrap bowls, spittoons, or wash basins; others were made into tops, toys, masks, fish scoops, funnels, or strainers. Still others became ocarinas, rattles, hula drums, or containers for lei, fish line, and tapa. A pair of large gourds — one containing food, the other clothing, for example — suspended in nets(kōkō)from a burden pole(‘auamo)served as luggage. Gourds were used in navigation, divination, and religious offerings. Because they were so highly prized, gourds needing repair were carefully mended...

    • Stone Vessels
      (pp. 80-89)

      Undecorated stone vessels in a wide variety of shapes were carved for use as mortars, lamps, dye cups, and salt pans. Unfortunately, most of these have little documentation accompanying them, so they must tell their own story. Those identified as lamps usually have soot in their depressions. Residues of medicines, ‘inamona, dyes, or bait found in the wells of some vessels help to identify them as mortars. Salt pans, for drying and grinding salt are distinctively shallow. The remaining types are identified according to their similarities to identified vessels or according to their last known use or information from donors....

    • Baskets
      (pp. 90-95)

      The closely twined baskets found in Hawai‘i are unique in the Pacific. In its most basic configuration, twining consists of a pair of strands, one passing in front of a stake and the other in back, then changing places so the front one moves to the back and the back one to the front. This repeats with the pair always twisting in the same direction as it passes each new stake. The twining material most favored by Hawaiians was the long, durable aerial rootlet of the mountain vine ‘ie‘ie,which was also used to make helmets and fish traps.


    • Fans
      (pp. 96-111)

      From time immemorial coconut-leaflet fans have been used to fan fires, shoo flies, shield eyes from the sun, and stir up cool breezes. Coarse palm fans were plaited from folded whole leaflets and finer ones from stripped folded leaflets. Although the triangular coconut fan is found across the Pacific, the carefully crafted crescent-shaped fan is unique to Hawai‘i, which raises the question: Why did no one write about them while they were still in use. The earliest depictions date from Jacques Arago’s 1819 visit; the drawngs do not show the fans being used, but as tattoos on a man’s arm...

    • Helmets
      (pp. 112-125)

      Aesthetics, religion, and politics were closely related in ancient Hawai‘i. Strong, beautifully made feather-covered crested helmets were once worn by men of high rank in times of war. The basketwork frame may have provided physical protection, but it was the exquisite featherwork that exhorted the gods to guard the most sacred part of the body. The Hawaiian word for crest or crescent(hoaka)significantly means “to ward off” and “to frighten.” The steps involved in helmet construction (twining, net making, feather-binding) were all accompanied by ritual prayer and chants entreating deities to entangle and layer their protection into the helmets....

    • Capes & Cloaks
      (pp. 126-169)

      Worn only by chiefs for sacred protection and proclaiming superiority in battles and ceremonies, the brilliant feather shoulder coverings(‘ahu‘ula, kipuka)were made in two varieties: short capes and long cloaks that reached to the ground. They were result of considerable work by men and women of various ranks: Birds had to be caught and plucked,olonācordage prepared, fine netting(nae)made, and feathers wound into bundles(‘uo)before finally being bound to the netting with theolonāthread. These activities were accompanied by incantations to entangle into the garment the mana of ancestors with the protection by specific...

    • Lei
      (pp. 170-185)

      All Hawaiian women commonly wore garlands of flowers, scented leaves, nuts, seeds, or dried fruit, but only those of the highest rank wore the rich and vivid feather leis known aslei hulu. These were worn around the neck(lei ‘ā‘ī)in ones or twos; on the head(lei po‘o)in twos or more as multiple strands or one long, wrapped strand, or around the neck and on the head at the same time(lei pāpahi). On rare occasions they hung down untied from the neck.

      Leis were also worn by men on helmets. A painting by John Webber depicts...

    • Kāhili
      (pp. 186-195)

      Providing powerful spiritual protection and signifying political importance,kāhiliwere displayed whenever a highranking man, woman, or child was present. Smallkāhili (kāhili pa‘a lima)were always carried by chiefs or their attendants as badges of status and to brush away flies. Handheldkāhiliwere also used in sorcery. Largekāhili, which increased in size after Western contact to as much as 9m in height, graced royal throne rooms and mausoleums and were carried at royal processions and funerals.

      Mostkāhilihandles or shafts(kumu)were made of wooden poles or spears. Others were constructed from a shaft of bone...

    • Clubs
      (pp. 196-205)

      Eighteenth-century Hawaiians used clubs(newa, hoa, lā‘au, lā‘au pālau, pālau)in real and mock battles. It is not known whether the numerous Hawaiian terms for the weapons identify specific shapes or sizes or if they derive from usage on specific islands. Like other valued objects, many clubs were given names. The smallest stone clubs were completely contained inside the fist and the largest (5–10 kg), known aswāwahi wa‘aorpōhaku wāwahi wa‘a,were designed to break canoe walls or outriggers when thrown onto them.

      Most clubs had holes bored into or across the base of the handle to...

    • Piercing Weapons
      (pp. 206-213)

      Hawaiian warriors, when not engaged in battle, trained in martial arts(lua)and participated in mock battles.Luaincluded boxing, wrestling, pole-vaulting, and using slings, clubs, knives, and piercing weapons, which were mostly made of a single piece of hard straight-grained wood such askauila, uhiuhi,orolopua.

      Hawai‘i is the only place in Polynesia where daggers(pāhoa, ku‘ia, pahi ‘ō)were made. They came in various shapes, but all had wrist cords threaded through square, and later round, holes at the center or near the base. Truncheon daggers (60–90 cm long) were pointed at one end with a...

    • Sharktooth Implements
      (pp. 214-223)

      Sharktooth implements in a wide variety of shapes were used for domestic purposes that involved cutting, carving, or trimming and in warfare. Single and double-tooth implements were mostly used as tools and multiple-tooth ones as weapons.

      Large triangular teeth from the great white shark(niuhi)and smaller bicuspid teeth from other sharks were fixed to variously shaped handles by pegging, sewing, and single and multiple-strand lacing with fineolonācordage, which was sometimes reinforced with gum. Handles were usually carved from a hardwood such askauila,but pig, dog, and human bone were also used. Most weapons had a squarish...

    • Implements
      (pp. 224-239)

      The favored tool for cutting or shaping wood was an adze made from a one-piece wooden handle and a stone blade lashed firmly to it witholonāor coconut fiber cordage. The stone, usually of a fine-grained basalt, was gathered on the slopes of volcanoes by artisans who had their own special guilds,heiau, and chants. Depending on their use, blades were carved in specific shapes from .3 to 15 cm wide from stones that had been cleansed to ward off evil spirits.

      More than ten names are known for the various types of adzes. One of the less common...

    • Hooks
      (pp. 240-247)

      Fishing was an important complement to agriculture. It required a thorough knowledge of the topography and currents of the nearby shallow and deep sea, the feeding and other habits of fish, the changes brought by weather and seasons, and special bait mixtures. A wide variety of fishing methods and fishhooks resulted.

      Ranging in size from 1.1 to 37cm, fishhooks(makau),were made from pearl and cowrie shell; human, bird, pig, and dog bone; turtle shell; dogteeth; whale ivory; and wood. (If human bone was used, it was a way of showing contempt for the “donor.”) The shapes of the hooks,...

    • Burden Poles
      (pp. 248-252)

      Poles that were round in cross section, slightly curved, and had a thick center were used to carry heavy objects suspended in nets hung from the ends, which were shaped into single or multiple protuberances. When the ends were carved to resemble human heads the poles were called‘auamo ki‘iormāmaka ki‘iand could only be used for chiefs.

      ‘Auamowere carried across the shoulders of one or two men. Porters could be identified by the calluses on their shoulders.

      Some believe that the use of burden poles were borrowed from the Chinese and that the elaborate knotted nets...

    • Supports
      (pp. 253-257)

      In outrigger sailing canoes, long objects such as fish spears, canoe poles, long and short spears(pololūandihe)were lashed to a support(haka)attached to the foreboom with the ends of the objects resting on the aftboom. Supports with heads or figures were prized possessions ofali‘i,and were handed down for generations. These were sometimes set in front of the houses of chiefs to indicate their status.

      Some supports were used in pairs. The largest could hold objects the size of a small canoe....

    • Drums
      (pp. 258-267)

      Drums were made from gourd, coconut, and wood. (All of these materials are still used today in the making of traditional Hawaiian drums.) The wooden drum(pahu)and coconut shell drum(pūniu)are illustrated in this chapter.

      Drums played an integral role in pre-Christian religious and cultural life. They were associated both with the great god Lono and the goddess of hula, Laka. Tall, sharkskin-capped, carved wooden drums were used in rituals that were observed at places of worship,heiau. They were carved by special kahuna and assembled using materials with symbolic connections to the gods. Filled with potent spiritual...

    • Tapa Beater Patterns
      (pp. 268-277)

      Bark cloth or tapa(kapa), was made from the inner bark of such plants as themāmaki, oloa (ma‘aloa, ma‘oloa), ‘akala,andhaubut most frequently from the Chinese paper mulberry(wauke). As elsewhere in the Pacific, there are several kinds ofwauke, each producing a characteristic cloth.

      Intended use determined the kind, color, scent, dimensions, and weight of the tapa. The Pukui and Elbert dictionary lists nearly eighty kinds. Tapa was made into clothing, bedding, house screens and flooring, body and hair ornaments, shrouds, lamp wicks, bandages, kites, adze padding, trail markers, taboo signs, dye pouches, religious accessories, and...

    • Makaloa Mats
      (pp. 278-297)

      Ni‘ihau and Kaua‘i women made extremely soft and pliable sleeping mats from the young stems of the sedgemakaloa. Finely plaited at 4–10 strips to the centimeter, these mats were fashioned in successive bands of oblique check weave measuring from 2–10 cm deep. New leaves were introduced evenly in bands approximately every 40 cm. Some mats(pākea)had no patterns. Most, however, had patterns calledpāwehe,created by overlaying contrasting strips of the leaves of another sedge,kohekohe,during plaiting to form triangles, diamonds, or rectangles. Patterns were used individually, combined into more complex designs, or repeated continuously...

    • Kites
      (pp. 298-301)

      No Hawaiian kites have survived — only petroglyphs of kites shaped like birds,(lupe manu)and drawings of kites seen by Stewart Culin just before 1900. Because missionaries felt that children should be at school and adults at work, they actively discouraged most forms of recreation. According to missionary C.S. Stewart, by mid-1820 wherever missionaries were found, songs, dances, and games were not.

      Kites are referred to in Hawaiian creation and other chants, expressions, and dictionaries and in theFornander Collection of Hawaiian Antiquities and Folk-lore,which identifies them as omens when encountered in dreams. Kite flying was so popular that...

    • String Figures
      (pp. 302-308)

      In the days before Western influence, games and recreation played a major role in the daily life of Hawaiians of every age and gender. Nearly a hundred different kinds of games have been documented. One favorite was string figures(hei). Forming these developed dexterity and memory as they accompanied such activities as performing tricks, posing riddles, betting, and telling stories about love affairs and erotic matters. They also were used to teach a variety of important subjects, including culture, geography, history, legends, vocabulary, and everyday skills, and accompanied chants that invoked deities. Each step of the developing figure illustrated the...

  5. Appendix

  6. Back Matter
    (pp. 331-331)