09 Oct What Is the History of Hawaiian Art?
When most people think about Hawaii, they envision the eight primary islands that get shown on most maps. Some may only think of the “Big Island,” Oahu, and Maui. They do not realize that this archipelago has a total of 137 islands, first visited by a non-Polynesian in 1778 when Captain James Cook stumbled upon them.
Most people also think of Hawaii as a resort destination. It is a place where sand, surfing, and luxury experiences await. Although that much is true, the state was also the first to establish a Percent for Art law in the country. The local government designated 1% construction costs for new state buildings and public schools to acquire artistic pieces.
What Was Hawaiian Art Like Before the 18th Century?
The artistic history of the Hawaiian islands before the arrival of Captain Cook is quite similar to what you see in other Pacific Islander cultures. You’ll see numerous pieces that feature feather work, bark cloth (kapa), wood carvings, and tattoos. Woven textiles and metalwork did not exist until the Europeans came to the area.
You can still find a handful of artists practicing the traditional Hawaiian arts during your stay in Honolulu. Some do it to preserve the culture, others make items for tourists, but all of it speaks to the history found here.
Visitors Quickly Produced Art in Hawaii
Once word got out about the discovery of the Hawaiian islands, it did not take long for artists to make their way here to begin embracing their activities. John Webber had an advantage in this area because of his association with Captain Cook. However, dozens of people came in the early 19th century to see and record the natural beauty of the region.
Night scenes that showed the erupting volcanoes were particularly popular during that early era, creating an influx of work that got shipped throughout the world. Some artists focused on the beaches and shoreline, while others climbed the island’s mountains to show off the 360-degree views that you can only find here.
It wouldn’t be until the late 18th and early 19th centuries that art produced by Hawaiians or long-term residents began to influence the local culture.
Embracing the Work of Satoru Abe
You can find the work of native sculptor Satoru Abe in many of the museums in Honolulu and across the islands. Before pursuing an art degree in New York City, he took lessons from local artists to explore his creativity.
Many of his pieces resemble abstracted natural forms, most of which resemble trees. Abe also painted on occasion.
Several of his items are in public places, with many at community colleges or high schools in Honolulu. Abe continues to stay active, even though he has been an artist for over 60 years.
The history of Hawaiian art weaves a tale that speaks of discovery, ambition, and determination. Although the story of the islands may have moments of controversy, you will find Honolulu and every other community to be a tight-knit culture that embraces its roots.