Links to the Past: The Work of Early Hawaiian Artisans
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336pp. November 2011
Links to the Past: The Work of Early Hawaiian Artisans
Author: Arbeit, Wendy S.;
Winner of the 2012 Ka Palapala Po‘okela Award for Excellence in Text or Reference and Honorable Mention for Excellence in Special Interest

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 Past makes 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 Past is 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.
"This latest contribution from Wendy Arbeit is a wonderful and invaluable resource for those involved in the study and creation of Pacific art and visual culture—for researchers, artists, and practitioners alike. Moreover, it is a tribute to the author’s focused interest on the practical and technical aspects involvedin the manufacture of Polynesian artworks." —Journal of Museum Ethnography (27, 2014)

“The abundant corpus and systematic, meticulous visual documentation make this book an excellent research tool for serious students of Polynesian material culture.” —Choice (49:11, July 2012)

“An impressive piece of work. This volume represents the most comprehensive compilation of Hawaiian artifacts since the classic texts of Brigham (1902) and Buck (1957). It is an excellent reference book for those who study material culture and the layperson alike. The collections depicted highlight the exquisite craftsmanship displayed by the traditional Hawaiian artisan.” —Rapa Nui Journal (26:1, May 2012)

“In Links to the Past, Wendy Arbeit makes an important contribution to the study, and appreciation, of Hawaiian material culture. The period covered, from James Cook’s arrival in 1778 to later European and American voyages into the 1830s, establishes a critical base-line for documenting the changes in material culture brought about by Western intervention, and Hawaiian reactions to those intrusions. This book is without a doubt the most comprehensive compilation of Hawaiian design available and goes a long way toward addressing the limitations of standard works that offer only one or two ‘characteristic’ objects of a given kind. Instead, Arbeit presents numerous examples of each artifact type, giving a more complete view of the range and variation of Hawaiian creativity.” —Roger G. Rose, Bishop Museum

“Often ethnographic objects of daily use have been relegated to the level of crafts, treated as technical curiosities and not seen as objects of bold imagination and pride. In early contact Hawai‘i there was an extraordinary number of functional items of very high quality that the literature has largely treated in a very narrow descriptive manner. Links to the Past goes a long way to remedy that situation by providing both a historical and ethnographical context while highlighting the important aesthetic role that such items had and still convey in Hawaiian society.” —Jerome Feldman, Hawai‘i Pacific University
Author: Arbeit, Wendy S.;
Wendy S. Arbeit is the author of What Are Fronds For?, an introduction to the craft of plaiting coconut fronds; Tapa in Tonga, an overview of the techniques and uses of Tongan bark-cloth; and Baskets in Polynesia, a historical and photographic survey of central Polynesian baskets. She was co-editor of Pacific Arts, an annual international journal devoted to the arts of the Pacific basin.
View an extract (PDF).
Introduction

WOODEN BOWLS
GOURDS
STONE VESSELS
BASKETS
FANS
HELMETS
CAPES & CLOAKS
LEI
KAHILI
CLUBS
PIERCING WEAPONS
SHARKTOOTH IMPLEMENTS
IMPLEMENTS
HOOKS
BURDEN POLES
SUPPORTS
DRUMS
TAPA BEATER PATTERNS
MAKALOA MATS
KITES
STRING FIGURES

Museum Abbreviations
Plant and Animal Names
Tapa Beater Pattern Names
Object Glossary
Introductory Quotations
Readings
Notes to Introduction
Acknowledgments
Photograph Credits



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