Links to the Past: The Work of Early Hawaiian Artisans

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9780824834760: Links to the Past: The Work of Early Hawaiian Artisans

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.

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From the Publisher:

Early praise:

"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

About the Author:

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.

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Wendy S. Arbeit
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