Royal Hawaiian Featherwork: Nā Hulu Ali‘i
284pp. August 2015
Royal Hawaiian Featherwork: Na Hulu Alii
Editor: Caldeira, Leah Pualahaole; Hellmich, Christina; Kaeppler, Adrienne; Kam, Betty Lou; Rose, Roger;
Painstakingly handcrafted using plant fiber and innumerable valuable feathers from birds of the islands, works of Nā Hulu Aliʻi, or royal feathers, provided spiritual protection to Hawaiian chiefs for centuries while proclaiming their status and power. With their brilliant coloring and abstract compositions of crescents, triangles, circles, quadrilaterals, and lines, the works of art are both beautiful and rich in cultural significance, preserving the legacies of the islands’ powerful chiefs and monarchs.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, featherwork capes and cloaks were also key items of Hawaiian diplomacy, used to secure political alliances and agreements, and they were donned as battlefield regalia, worn in conflicts and seized as spoils from defeated chiefs. Later, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, featherwork—traded with and given to visitors from abroad—became symbolic of Hawaiian heritage and cultural pride.

Royal Hawaiian Featherwork: Nā Hulu Aliʻi, a catalogue accompanying a major exhibition at the de Young museum in San Francisco, documents the first comprehensive showing of Hawaiian featherwork mounted on the US mainland. It features rare and stunning examples of some of the finest extant featherwork in the world, including capes and cloaks (ʻahu ʻula), royal staffs of feathers (kāhili), feather lei (lei hulu), helmets (mahiole), and god images (akua hulu), as well as related eighteenth- and nineteenth-century paintings, works on paper, and historical photographs. A unique selection of feather garments, objects, and other works are from the royal Hawaiian collections in the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu. Through scholarly essays and poetic interludes, this lavishly illustrated book explores the central role that these sacred works of art played in the culture and history of the Hawaiian Islands, their unparalleled technical craftsmanship, and an aesthetic tradition unique to the Hawaiian archipelago.

Essays by: Samuel M. Ohukaniōhia Gon III, Marques Marzan, Maile Andrade, Noelle Kahanu, Betty Kam, Adrienne Kaeppler, Stacy L. Kamehiro, Christina Hellmich, and Roger Rose.

225 color and 20 black & white illustrations

Published in association with Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Bishop Museum
Editor: Caldeira, Leah Pualahaole; Hellmich, Christina; Kaeppler, Adrienne; Kam, Betty Lou; Rose, Roger;
Leah Pualaha'ole Caldeira is collections manager of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum Archives, where she oversees manuscripts, art, photographs, recordings, and other archival materials related to Hawai'i and the Pacific.

Christina Hellmich is curator in charge of the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and a specialist in the arts of Oceania.

Adrienne Kaeppler is curator of Oceanic ethnology at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian and has researched Hawaiian featherwork since the 1960s.

Betty Lou Kam worked at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum for thirty-four years, studying primary source collections and cultural artifacts to present exhibitions, publications, programs, and lectures. Now retired, she serves as a vice-chair and commissioner for the Mayor's Office on Culture and the Arts in Honolulu, board member for the Damien and Marianne Memorial Museum Foundation, and researcher and consultant to agencies on other projects relating to Hawaii culture and history.

Roger Rose is an anthropologist who has worked as a curator and consultant with the Bishop Museum's ethnological collections for more than four decades. His research and publications focus on kāhili in all their forms.