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Quilts and Textiles

 

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Hawaiian Quilting
Hawai'i is famous for its distinctive quilt tradition in which a large design or pattern is appliqued onto a base fabric of contrasting color to form the top of the quilt. Designs are primarily inspired by flowers, leaves, weather, volcanoes, marine life, and symbols of Hawaiian royalty. Every island has a color and particular blossom associated with it; a quilt made in the color and floral design of an island is identified with that island.

Pattern designs are owned by their creators and can be used by others only with permission. Many of these patterns carry names in both English and Hawaiian. Quilters generally refer to the pattern by its Hawaiian name, thus perpetuating the language. Sometimes pattern makers give their designs names which carry a double meaning or symbolism known only to the maker.

Photo of Comb of Ka'iulani quilt
Ke Kahi O Kai'ulani (The Comb of Ka'iulani)
1996-1997
Harriet Soong (Native Hawaiian)
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
98" wide x 99 1/2" long
Collection of Michigan State University Museum
Photo: Elbinger Studios, Inc.
This quilt only appears in the exhibit as an image on a text panel.

Harriet Soong (Native Hawaiian) of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, received the pattern for this quilt from her mother Hattie, (née Kahohina) Kauwe of Kauai. Entitled "Ke Kahi O Ka'iulani" (The Comb of Ka'iulani), it incoporates symbols of Hawaiian royalty, including crowns, leis, and the combs (or kahi) worn in the hair of Princess Kaiulani (1875-99). Kaiulani was the daughter of Oahu Governor Archibald Cleghorn and Princess Miriam Likelike and was niece to the last two reigning monarchs of Hawaii-King Kalahaua and Queen Lili'uokalani.

A member of the Ka Hui Kapa Apana O Waimea quilting group on the Big Island, Soong is considered by many to be a master of the old-style traditional Hawaiian quilting. In this quilt, she uses many of the traditional quilting designs (piko) derived from those used on tapa cloth: parallel lines, diagonal lines, diamond squares, leaves, papa pelena (soda cracker), maka muena (lauhua mat), i'e kuku (carved wooden mallets used to create water marks on tapa), maka upena (eye of the net), pupu (shell), and kua honu (back of the turtle). The stars represent the eight main islands of Hawaii.

Photo of detail of Kapa Pohopo quiltplaceholPhoto of detail of Kapa Pohopo quiltplaceholPhoto of detail of Kapa Pohopo quilt
Selected details from Kapa Pohopo scrap quilt)
1997
Members of Ka Hui Kapa Apana O Waimea group on the Big Island of Hawaii occasionally makes quilts for educational or service organizations. During 1996-97 they made two identical sampler quilts; one was given to Michigan State University Museum, the other the Hamakua Health Center in Honokaa, Hawaii, originally a small medical dispensary serving plantation workers of the now-defunct Hamakua Sugar Company.

The quilt features the following components: sugar cane (in the center), an inner cross of squares depicting flowers that grow well but are not medicinal, an inner cross of squares depicting food items that my be used as medicine, and outer border of squares showing plants used medicinally by some but also used as decorations or food.

The quilters who contributed blocks include: D. Badua, S. Balai, H. Botoelho, N. Carvalho, D. Coates, J. DeRigo, M. Furtado, S. Hamada, R. Jensen, U. Kaiawe, G. Kaniho, C. Kealoha, J. Kubo, K. Matsumaini, D. Noa, K. Pendered, P. Richards, H. Soong, J. Souza, H. Takahashi, M. Takomoto, M. Takemoto, S. Turek, M. Udac, and M. Yamato.

This caption belongs to a historic image on the text panel. Permission has not been granted to display it in the online version of the exhibit.
Members of the Ka Hui Kapa Apana O Waimea group, 1995.
Photo by Marsha MacDowell.
   
Photo of Rest in Song quilt Mele Ho'onanea (Rest In Song)
1999
Sharon Balai (Native Hawaiian)
Big Island, Hawaii
36" square
Collection of Michigan State University, Accession #1999:41
Photo by Elbinger Studios, Inc.

Each of the eight Hawaiian islands is represented on the small blocks by a special flower or plant.
For mor information provided by the quilters about these plants and flowers, see the notebook on the reference area book stand.
Photo of Pupu, Island of Ni'ihau quilt
Ni'ihau Pupu Pupu, Island of Ni'ihau)
1999
Harriet Soong (Native Hawaiian)
Cotton
ca. 14" square
Collection of MSUM, acc# 1999:39.1
Photo by Elbinger Studios, Inc.

Photo of Lehua, Island of Hawaii quilt
Lehua 'Ohi' a Lehua (Lehua, Island of Hawaii)
1999
James Balai (Native Hawaiian)
Cotton
ca. 14" square
Collection of MSUM, acc# 1999:39.5
Photo by Elbinger Studios, Inc.
   
Photo of Kukui, Island of Moloka'i quilt
Moloka'i Kukui (Kukui, Island of Moloka'i
1999
Harriet Soong (Native Hawaiian)
Cotton
ca. 14" square
Collection of MSUM, acc# 1999:39.2
Photo by Elbinger Studios, Inc.
Photo of Hinahina, Island of Kaho'olawe quilt
Kahoolawe Hinahina (Hinahina, Island of Kaho'olawe)
1999
Sharon Balai (Native Hawaiian)
Cotton
ca. 14" square
Collection of MSUM, acc# 1999:39.6
Photo by Elbinger Studios, Inc.
   
Photo of Ilima, Island of O'ahu quilt
O'ahu 'Ilima (Ilima, Island of O'ahu)
1999
Harriet Soong (Native Hawaiian)
Cotton
ca. 14" square
Collection of MSUM, acc# 1999:39.3
Photo by Elbinger Studios, Inc.
Photo of Lokelani, Island of Maui quilt
Maui Lokelani(Lokelani, Island of Maui)
1999
Sharon Balai (Native Hawaiian)
Cotton
ca. 14" square
Collection of MSUM, acc# 1999:39.7
Photo: Elbinger Studios, Inc.
   
Photo of Mokihana, Island of Kaua'i quilt
Kaua'i Mokihana Mokihana, Island of Kaua'i)
1999
Harriet Soong (Native Hawaiian)
Cotton
ca. 14" square
Collection of MSUM, acc# 1999:39.4
Photo by Elbinger Studios, Inc.
Photo of Kauna'oa, Island of Lania quilt
Lanai Kauna'oa Kauna'oa, Island of Lanai)
1999
Sharon Balai (Native Hawaiian)
Cotton
ca. 14" square
Collection of MSUM, acc# 1999:39.8
Photo by Elbinger Studios, Inc.
 
Hawaiian Flag
I don't think people should sit on the [flag] quilt. It's like a desecration to out honor, you know, our background, our ancestry. I wouldn't sit on anybody's flag. Each flag represents that special group of peole and although we cannot agree on everything in the world, we can agree to respect you for being who you are.--Sharon Balai (interview, Waimea, Hawaii, May 2, 1996).

In Hawaii, quilters expressed their allegiance to Hawaiian sovereignty by making quilts containing all or parts of the Hawaiian flag as well as symbols of Hawaiian royalty. The Hawaiian flag was first designed for King Kamehameha I prior to 1816; it was only taken down twice in history, when Queen Lili'uokalani was deposed in 1893 and when the islands were annexed to the United States in 1898. Today the Hawaiian Flag quilt continues to have meaning for many Native Hawaiians.

This caption belongs to a historic image on the text panel. Permission has not been granted to display it in the online version of the exhibit.
A series of Hawaiian Flag quilts are hung on the stage of Lihue Parsh Hall during the 1933 exhibit of the Mokihana Club on the island of Kauai.
Photo Courtesy of Kauai Museum Archives.

This caption belongs to a historic image on the text panel. Permission has not been granted to display it in the online version of the exhibit.
This photo taken in 1898, records the lowering of the Hawaiian flag at the Republic of Hawaii annexation ceremonies. Many native Hawaiians made quilts with Hawaiian flag imagery as a statement of their strong feelings about the removal of the flag and heir identification with Hawaiian sovereignty.
Photo by B. J. Baker Collection, Bishop Museum, the State Museum of Natural and Cultural History.
   
Photo of Hawaiian Flag quilt Hawaiian Flag Quilt
1997
Harriet Soong and Sharon Balai (Native Hawaiian)
Waimea and Kaiua-Kona, Hawai'i
56" x 54"
Collection of MSUM, acc# 1997:72
Photo: Elbinger Studios, Inc.

This Hawaiian flag quilt features the Hawaiian Coat of Arms which was adopted in 1845 and appears on the gates of the Iolani Palace in Honolulu. Originally the center shield of the Coat of Arms was divided into four quarters with the stripes of the national banner in two opposite quarters. In the remaining quarters were taboo balls and sticks (pulo'ulo'u). This shield was topped by the royal crown and flanked by two warrior chiefs wearing feather cloaks and helments: Kamanawa at left and Kame'eiamoki at right. The motto Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono translates in English as The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.
In Hawaii, quilters expressed their allegiance to Hawaiian sovereignty by making quilts containing all or parts of the Hawaiian flag as well as symbols of Hawaiian royalty. The Hawaiian flag was first designed for King Kamehameha I prior to 1816; it was only taken down twice in history, when Queen Lili'uokalani was deposed in 1893 and when the islands were annexed to the United States in 1898.

Most traditional Hawaiian quilters look to nature for design inspiration and many, many designs reflect the floral landscape indigeneous to each island. Every island has a color and a particular blossom associated with it; quilts made in those colors and floral designs are identified with those islands. Each traditional pattern in this collection of small Hawaiian quilts represents one of the Hawaiian islands.

One of the younger generation of Native Hawaiian quilters in the Ka Hui Kapa Apana O Waimea quilting club on the Big Island, Sharon Balai is known for her ability to create innovative complex patterns. She is also a strong advocate for protecting the cultural rights of ownership of traditional Hawaiian quilt patterns. She taught her husband James "Kimo" to quilt and he has become adept at creating his own designs.

Harriet Soong, also a member of the Ka Hui Kapa Apana O Waimea, is considered by many to be a master of the old-style traditional Hawaiian quilting. She loves using many of the traditional quilting designs (piko) derived from those used on tapa cloth: parallel lines, diagonal lines, diamond squares, leaves, papa pelena (soda cracker), maka muena (lauhua mat), i'e kuku (carved wooden mallets used to create watermarks on tapa), maka upena (eye of the net), pupu (shell), and kua honu (back of the turtle).

Today the Hawaiian flag quilt continues to have meaning for many Native Hawaiians. Sharon Balai, will not make one that is bed-sized because she does not want it used on a bed.

I don't think people should sit on the [flag] quilt. It's like a desecration to out honor, you know, our background, our ancestry. I wouldn't sit on anybody's flag. Each flag represents that special group of peole and although we cannot agree on everything in the world, we can agree to respect you for being who you are.--Sharon Balai (interview, Waimea, Hawaii, May 2, 1996).

Balai and Soong felt strongly that a flag should by in the exhibition "To Honor and Comfort: Native Quilting Traditions" as well as in the Native quilt collection at Michigan State University Museum. They surprised the MSU Museum with the gift of this quilt.

 
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