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Hawaiian Featherwork

Kahili - Standards of Royalty

      Kahili (kah-HEE-lee) are feathered standards used from ancient times by Hawaiian royalty. Similarly to how the nobility of Europe use banners with coats of arms, Hawaiian nobility use kahili to show status, lineage, and family ties.
      There are many sizes and styles of kahili, from very small kahili-pa`a-lima (hand kahili) carried like a scepter by female chiefs, to the towering formal kahili. There are also many intermediary sizes which each have their own place in traditional regalia.
      Leilehua Yuen is the author of Kahili - Standards of Royalty, a report for the national park service on pre-1819 styles, uses, and crafting of kahili.Seven kahili crafted by Leilehua Yuen are currently owned by the Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Park. Other kahili she has crafted are in private collections.

To commission kahili for individuals, families, or organizations,
contact the artist. 

To read more on Hawaiian featherwork, click here.


Crafting Kahili

   This kahili-pa`a-lima is of a style similar to those used by the noblewomen of ancient Hawai`i. 
    It was crafted by Leilehua Yuen and completed in March, 2000. It was commissioned by the Hawai`i Natural History Association for the Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.



photo by Phil Rosenberg

photo by Phil Rosenberg
   Above, the artist, Leilehua Yuen, displays the polished bird-bone handle. Kahili handles were finely crafted from native hardwoods, bone, tortoise shell, and after European contact, exotic woods, ivory, silver, and gold.

 

 

 




 


Left, the artist wraps the ends of  feathers with thread she has spun by hand from the bark of  hau trees, a  relative of the ornamental hibiscus.  

The feathers are lashed in specific patterns to fine sticks made from coconut leaflet midribs or other 
suitable materials. The sticks are 
then lashed to a central rod.

photo by Phil Rosenberg

 

 

 

 

  s.

Kahili pa`alima. White goose biots, rooster tail, wood, hau thread, Fimo replicating tortoise shell, bird bone.Pu`uhonua collection.

Kahili, Malama ke Aloha, red and yellow dyed goose feather, and shaped and trimmed, tied on hau lala hulu with red cotton thread, hau lashing thread, hand carved koa handle. Matching velvet cape. Private collection
Kahili, Maka`ala ke Aloha, red and yellow dyed goose feather, and shaped and trimmed, tied on hau lala hulu with red cotton thread, hau lashing thread, hand carved koa handle. Matching velvet cape. Private collection

L-R - Malama Ke Aloha, Pili Mai Na Manu `Elua, and Maka`ala ke Aloha. 

Pili Mai Na Manu `Elua is crafted from white goose biots and red dyed rooster hackle. Hand twisted hau thread, hand carved blonde curly koa handle. Private collection

 

   Malama-ka-Mo`omeheu, one of the new kahili in the collection of Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, was completed in March of 2000 by artist, writer, and educator Leilehua Yuen.
   Nine kahili now comprise the Pu`uhonua collection, seven of which were crafted by Leilehua and based on styles in use prior to 1819.
    The design of Malama-ka-Mo`omeheu (Cherish the Culture) was inspired by `Ele-`Ele-Ua-Lani (Dark Rain of Heaven), the kahili of the Hawai`i Island High Chief, Lono-i-ka-Makahiki. (circa early 1500s) `Ele-`Ele-Ua-Lani is believed to have been the first true kahili.
 

Photo courtesy of KONAWEB
Leilehua Yuen researches and crafts kahili by commission for private parties. For information, contact the artist.

For more information on kahili, visit the following sites:

Bishop Museum's Kahili Room houses historic kahili and has recently been remodled to better and more appropriately display them.

A report on kahili was done for the remodling project and is worthwhile reading.

Kahu Uncle Charlie Maxwell hosts a Hawaiian religion and culture Q&A which is a true resource.