Sunday, July 17, 2016
ROYAL FEATHERS: HAWAIIAN BIRD GARMENTS AT LACMA
This week's arts and cultures column is about a current exhibit at LACMA.
Here's how the piece begins:
Skip the Robert Mapplethorpe.
Instead, go to LACMA before Aug. 7 and check out a truly transcendent exhibit called “Royal Hawaiian Featherwork: Na Hulu Ali‘i.”
“For centuries on the Hawaiian Islands,” you may not have known, “vividly colored feathers gathered from native birds were valuable cultural resources, ornamenting spectacular garments painstakingly constructed by hand. … [The garments] bore rainbows of feathers to signify the divinity and power of chiefs (ali‘i), who wore them for spiritual protection and to proclaim their identity and status. These unique valuables also found use as objects of diplomacy, helping to secure political alliances and agreements.”
The first documented visit of Westerners to the Hawaiian Islands occurred in December 1778, when Captain James Cook and his crew arrived. When they left, they took with them more than 40 featherwork garments that had been bestowed as diplomatic gifts. Featherwork evolved over the course of the ensuing monarchies and the next 100 years.
READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.