Hulia ʻAno: Inspired Patterns

March 18, 2017 – October 16, 2017

Patterns, intricate and vibrant, are a trademark of Hawaiian artistic expression, whether stamped onto barkcloth, drawn onto gourds, woven into mats or pricked into skin. In celebration of Hawaiian creative vision, Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum presents Hulia ‘Ano: Inspired Patterns, on display in the J. M. Long Gallery from March 18–Oct. 16, 2017. Drawing from the treasures in Bishop Museum’s ethnology collection and supplemented by its vast natural science collections, Hulia ‘Ano explores Hawaiian aesthetic traditions, spotlighting design motifs and visual similarities in the natural world.

This original exhibit examines the ʻano—or nature—of an object in pattern, shape, and form.

In keeping with the aesthetic emphasis of the show, displays are organized on the basis of design motifs, in contrast with the more conventional contexts of function or material. Each exhibit case throughout Hulia ‘Ano is represented by a single Hawaiian word and its many definitions. These words were chosen as visual or conceptual descriptions of the patterns presented in the cases. The results are wonderful and intriguing groupings of cultural and natural objects which, considered together with the word definitions, can enhance the understanding of patterns and provoke creativity and contemplation.

To present this story, the exhibit team reviewed collections from every museum department to assemble stunning arrays of cultural objects and natural science specimens. From pāwehe motifs (Hawaiian geometric patterns) to design elements inspired by nature, visitors will gaze on bold patterned kapa (barkcloth), fine makaloa sedge mats, dyed gourds, a mahiole (royal feathered helmet) and ‘ohe kāpala (bamboo stamps). Objects from the museum’s natural science collections will include herbarium (plant) specimens, land and sea shells and other exquisite examples from the zoological collections.

Interactive stations will enable visitors to create their own Hawaiian design motifs while drawing inspiration from the accompanying displays of traditional cultural objects. Using a touch screen, visitors will be able to select and position patterns that are then projected onto a gourd to create a virtual ipu pāwehe (decorated gourd container). At another station, visitors will arrange icons used on historic Hawaiian quilts, such as crowns, pineapples or flowers, to create a design template that is then radiated and projected onto a wall to create a full-scale quilt design. The combination of repeated and mixed designs in these interactives will allow visitors to produce beautiful and surprising patterns.

Detail of an iʻe kuku, a Hawaiian barkcloth beater.

A decorated Hawaiian kapa (barkcloth) skirt made of wauke (Broussonetia papyrifera) bast.

To highlight modern expressions of pattern making, Bishop Museum partnered with five contemporary artists embodying a range of Hawaiian cultural backgrounds. Each of these artists visited Bishop Museum’s collections and drew inspiration for new works created specifically for the Hulia ‘Ano exhibit:

  • Verna Takashima, based in Honolulu, spreads the skill and practice of kapa making throughout Hawaiʻi. In addition to a new kapa piece she has created for Hulia ‘Ano, several examples of her grandmother’s kapa and tools are part of the J. S. Emerson Collection at Bishop Museum.
  • Taupōuri Tangarō of Hilo threads the expansive world of cordage into modern relevance. As a kumu hula of Unukupukupu and the director of Hawaiian culture and protocols engagement at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College, he teaches students, faculty and the greater community the benefits of perceiving the world from multiple perspectives.
  • Lufi Luteru, rooted in Mākaha, manifests endless facets of ulana lau hala or lau hala plaiting in her inspired creations. As an educator, full time entrepreneur and owner of Pāwehi Creations, Luteru is fascinated by designs, both intricate and subtle, and pairs them in varying ways to convey stories.
  • Kawika Lum of Wahiawā perpetuates the ties to Hawaiian featherwork within the community as one of the last apprentices of esteemed Hawaiian featherworker Paulette Nohealani Kahalepuna. Lum creates beautiful feather lei and kāhili (feather standards) with stunning combinations of color and feather type.
  • Matt Ortiz is a Honolulu-based artist who draws upon Hawaiian values and concepts and effortlessly presents them in contemporary visual contexts. He and his wife, also an artist, are founders of the creative consulting company Wooden Wave, best known for its signature treehouse murals.

Lastly, in conjunction with Hulia ‘Ano, visitors can try their hand at traditional Hawaiian printing using stamps and inks made from the island landscape with the complimentary activity called E Kāpala Kākou.  This hands-on activity is offered alongside our original exhibit Hulia ‘Ano: Inspired Patterns each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. in the Hawaiian Hall Atrium.  Visitors can meet with the museum’s cultural education staff for this activity and create a patterned keepsake to take home.

Hulia ‘Ano: Inspired Patterns was made possible by the generous support from the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the John Young Foundation.

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Hawaiian pattern and design were incorporated into daily life, exemplified here in printed barkcloth, knotted nets and a plaited mat.