In between enjoying shave ice and malasadas at the aloha festival in San Mateo last year my husband and I pursued the education booth inside the expo. We found a booth featuring the DeYoung museum that the 1st ever west coast exhibition of Hawaiian feather work would be running this year. The exhibition features 75 extremely rare featherwork cloaks and capes in existence. I knew I had to check it out while it was in town.
The great thing about the DeYoung is that is it nestled in golden gate park, you could spend a whole day there and not run out of things to do from the Academy of Sciences to the peaceful Japanese tea garden. It is also a great place for a run or a good sweat. We started our day at the academy with a planetarium show and a gourmet lunch at the DeYoung before diving in the featherwork exhibit.
A majority of these piece are borrowed from the Bishop Museum making it the first time they have been shown on the mainland. The bishop museum was named for the last descendant of Kamehameha dynasty who passed in 1884. Capes, cloaks and feathered headpieces were worn as spiritual protection into battle. Feathers were plucked from honeycreeper birds, the iwi and apapane, both still found in Hawaii’s higher elevations, away from development as the native Hawaiians made sure not to pluck too many so that the species would continue to survive. Unfortunately not all birds did not survive extinction such as the yellow-and-black oo (moho), or the green ou (Psittirostra psittacea). The exhibit also includes birds on loan from the nearby Academy Of Science so you can get a sense of what the feathers looked like from the birds.
Many of the pieces look modern especially with “tribal” or geometric patterns but they are all from 18th and 19th centuries.
If you would like to visit (which I highly recommend you do!) the exhibit will be at the DeYoung until February 28th.
Below is a playlist from Mountain Apple’s SoundCloud page of Kuana Torres Kahele (you might recognize his voice from Disney’s Lava) to get you in the Hawaiian mood.