Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hawaiian Quilts – Part II[1-2]
Art Review

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

For your convenience I have list the first post of this series: Hawaiian Quilts - Part I.

Hawaiian Culture[1]
The 1959 Statehood Admissions Act of Hawai’i (USA) defines a Native Hawaiian person as - “any individual who is a descendant of the aboriginal people who, prior to 1778, occupied and exercised sovereignty in the area that now constitutes the State of Hawaii” (Statehood Admissions Act of Hawai’i, 1959). The term “Hawaiian” is not necessarily the preferred Native Hawaiian term within this ethnic group; rather the proper term in the Hawaiian language is Kanaka Maoli, which translates as “true” or “real” person.

Young women in traditional dress, Kauai (Hawaii).

The native Hawaiian concept of “self” is grounded in social relationships and tied to the view that the individual, society, and nature are inseparable and key to psychological health. Such relational and emotional bonds are expected to support and protect each member, which in turn can promote psychological “well-being”.

Men's aloha wear. Lava Lava-men sarong wrap.

Tradition native Hawaiian conception of psyche: person, family, nature and spiritual world. Mana is “life energy” and lokahi is harmony” Thus, ohana can be considered an extended and complex arrangement of roles and relationships that include all of the following: Ke Akua (god), Aumakua (family guardian gods), Kupuna (family elders), Makua (parents), Opio (children), Moopuna (grandchildren) and Hanai children (those offspring of other families incorporated into another family to be raised and cared for).

Hawaiian conception of psyche.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Within this framework, health and illness are considered to be a function of those forces that serve to either promote or to destroy harmony. Given the importance of the complex social fabric for native Hawaiians, many of these forces reside in events and behaviors that support or undermine social and spiritual relations. For example, things that destroy the social fabric include the following behaviors: hate (ina’ina); jealousy (lili); rudeness (ho’okano); being nosy (niele); bearing a grudge (ho’omauhala); bragging (ha’anui); showing off (ho’oi’o); breaking promises (hua Olelo); speaking bitter thoughts (waha ‘awa); stealing, fighting, and hostile (huhu) behaviour.

Traditional Hawaiian statues on the beach

Destruction of the spiritual fabric occurs when forces come into play when an individual or a family violates certain taboos or restrictions, thus opening the door for supernatural forces seeking propitiation or mollification to enter their lives. These forces are: offended ghosts (lapu); natural spirits (kupua); spirit guardians (aumakua); ancestor/elders (kupuna); black magic or sorcery (ana’ana); curse (anai).

Male Hawaiian hula dancers.

The resolution of both social and supernatural conflicts can occur by using prosocial behaviors (i.e. any action intended to help others) and certain rituals that can restore and promote lokahi. Prosocial behaviors include adopting the behaviors of a Kanaka Makua (a good person). These behaviors include the following: humility and modesty (ha’aha’a); politeness and kindness (‘olu’olu); helpfulness (kokua); acceptance, hospitality, and love (aloha).

Hawaiian tattoos.

Ritualistic behaviors that can restore and promote harmony include the following native Hawaiian healing arts: herbal treatments (la’au kahea); purification baths (kapu kai); massage (lomi lomi); special diets and fasting; confession and apology (mihi); dream interpretation (moe ‘uhane); clairvoyance (hihi’o); prayer ( pule ho’onoa); transfer of thought (Ho ‘olulu ia); possession (noho); water blessings ( pi kai); spirit “medium-ship” (haka).

Thus, the Native Hawaiian worldview encompasses a complex system that is rooted in the interaction of body, mind, and spirit, and is directly tied to prosocial human relations and prospiritual relations. The restoration of health and wellbeing requires the adoption of prosocial behaviors and engagement in the healing arts and protocols that can re-establish interpersonal and psychological harmony.

Traditional chines. Hawaiian medicine incorporates many tools in its holistic approach to health in order to balance the mind, body, and spirit. Some of these tools include lomilomi (traditional Hawaiian message), connecting with the breath (Ha), clearing and letting go of unhealthy thoughts and feelings so we can be rightly aligned with our self (ho’oponopono), medicinal herbs, prayer, intention, affirmation, and chants.

Early Hawaiian quilts therefore represent a complex psychological state due to the intersection of taught Christian values overlapping in a Venn-like construct with the more in-grained traditional psychological mores.

Hawaiian Quilts – Part II[2]

Artist unknown – The Beautiful Unequaled Gardens of Eden and Elenale (Late 19th early 20th Century).
Background[2]: This unique quilt is one of the few historic examples believed to be made by a man. The original owner stated that it had been made “…by a great-great-granduncle of my husband and handed down to him by an uncle” – a most uncommon linage for a quilt.

The quilt’s two pictorial sections juxtapose a scene out of Hawaiian legend with a central image of the Christian religion brought to Hawaii by American missionaries in the nineteen century. The right side of the quilt depicts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, while the left side presents Elenale and Leinaala, the mythical hero and heroine of a popular nineteenth century Hawaiian romance. The story of Elenale and Leinaala was the first literary work ever published in Hawaiian, which is strictly an oral language until codified by the missionaries. In it the supernatural Elenale grew up in an eponymous magic garden, which Hawaiians considered second to only to Eden in its pristine beauty. Elenale fell in love with the earthly princess Leinaala and rescued her from a witch which held her captive.
Technique: Cottons, hand appliqued and quilted.
Size: 86 x 98 inches.

Artist unknown – Quilt for Queen Lili’uokalani (ca. 1893).
Background[2]: Queen Lili’uokalani, the last monarch of the Hawaiian kingdom, reigned from January 1891 to January 1893, when she was forced to relinquish control of the islands to a provisional government that favored the annexation by USA.
Technique: Hawaiian island cottons, hand appliqúed and quilted.
Size: 98 x 96 inches.

Queen Lili’uokalani and assistants - Queen Lili’uokalani’s Crazy Quilt (ca. 1895).
Background[2]: This quilt is a remarkable document. Queen Lili’uokalani’s arrest in January of 1895 after a substantial cache of arms were found on the grounds of her home, suggesting a treasonable act of rebellion was to ensue against the provisional government. She was found guilty and sentenced to hard labor, although the sentence was not carried out.

The quilt bears the embroidered phrase: “Imprisoned at ‘Iolani Palace. We began this quilt there”. Also embroidered on the quilt are dates of the Queen’s birth, ascension to the throne, dethronement, arrest and abdication, as well as the names of the queen’s supporters and women who assisted in completing the quilt. Tiny pairs of crossed Hawaiian flags appear at each corner of the quilt’s central square.
Technique: Honolulu Oahu silks, hand pieced and embroidered.
Size: 98.6 x 96 inches.

Artist unknown – Cross Flags Quilt (late 19th/early 20thCentury).
Background[2]: The royal Hawaiian flag’s design was a combination of the red, white and blue stripes of the USA and the Union Jack of the British flag. It consisted of alternating red, white and blue stripes representing the major islands of Hawaii, with the Union Jack placed in the upper left hand corner. The Hawaiian flag first raised its standard eight-stripe shape in 1845, when Kauai, which was previously a territory, officially became part of the kingdom.
Technique: Cottons, hand pieced, appliqúed and quilted.
Size: 90.5 x 84.5 inches.

Artist unknown - My Beloved Flag (early 20th Century).
Background[2]: This complex quilt is a superior example of the form most recognizable and fully mature state, probably made after the islands were annexed by the USA in 1898. Four Hawaiian flags are pieced around a central motif of Hawaiian royal symbols. The eight stars undoubtedly stand for the eight major islands of the Hawaiian chain, as do the eight stripes on each of the flags. The Hawaiian seal did not include stars until after Queen Lili’uokalani was deposed in 1893, so the quilt must have been made after that event.
Technique: Cottons hand piece, appliqúed and quilted.
Size: 74.5 x 79 inches.

Artist unknown – Crown and Wreath (ca. 1900).
Background[2]: This simple design enlarges the single royal crown found on the 1845 Hawaiian coat of arms into a bold central motif and surrounds the crown with a laurel wreath. The crown and wreath are framed by an equally uncomplicated outside floral border.
Technique: Cottons hand appliqúed and quilted.
Size: 78.25 x 77.25 inches.

Artist: Amy Hobbs Maihikoa – Embroidered Plumes (ca. 1904)
Background[2]: Amy Hobbs Maihikoa made this delicate embroidered quilt as a wedding present for her daughter. Sixteen pairs of embroidered plumes set in a variety of orientations decorate the quilt, which is covered with intricate hand quilting stitching.
Technique: Cotton, hand embroidered and quilted.
Size: 79 x 77.5 inches.

Artist unknown – Fan and Feather Plume (early 20th Century).
Background[2]: The fan and feather plume is a traditional pattern often worked by island quilters. Because a pair of warrior chiefs holding feather plume standards was depicted on the royal Hawaiian coat of arms, this popular design motif, like a flag quilt, held sentimental meaning for island quilt makers. The stylized fans and plumes and stark red-on-white color scheme make it a powerful graphic design. On this example the quilt maker has framed the traditional pattern with a floral border.
Technique: Cottons hand appliqúed and quilted.
Size: 83 x 75 inches.

[1] L.D. McCubbin and A. Marsella, Native Hawaiians and Psychology: The Cultural and Historical Context of Indigenous Ways of Knowing, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 15, 374 – 387.
[2] R. Shaw, “Hawaiian Quilt Masterpieces”, H. Lauter Levin Associates, Inc., China (1996), ISBN 0-88363-396-5

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