Lele kāhili, holo ka uhaʻi, uhi kapa
Kāhili sway, the door covering is closed, the kapa is drawn up [the chief sleeps]
Kāhili, or feather standards, are symbols of Hawaiian royalty that in traditional times signified the physical presence of a high chief and embodied his or her sanctity and mana. Borne by paʻa kāhili (kāhili bearers), the kāhili belonged solely to the aliʻi and would accompany a chief or chiefess wherever they went, whether traveling, eating, or sleeping. Some kāhili were very tall, reaching up to 14’ in height, while others were designed to be hand-held and used to gently fan the aliʻi. When not in use by the chiefs, the feather branches were untied and removed from the pole and stored until needed.
Feathers in older kāhili were from native birds such as the ʻōʻō, ʻiʻiwi, koaʻe, ʻiwa, pueo, and moa. Today, due to the scarcity or extinction of these native birds, feathers from a variety of other birds including the ostrich, peacock, and duck are used, in both dyed and natural colors.
The Heritage Center features a variety of contemporary kāhili made by skilled feather workers including Mary Lou Kekuewa, Paulette Kahalepuna, Momi Mersberg, Augusta-Helen Bento, Nuʻulani Atkins, Ruby Lowe, and Kaleinani Brown.
For more information, follow the links below:
Kāhili: Feather Standards
Featherwork, by Mary Kawena Pukui
TWO KĀHILI KŪ OF PHEASANT SIDE TAIL
Kalamakūkanaka and Kaʻehuwaiola
Description: created from pheasant side tail feathers, kapa, and ‘aha (sennit), secured to a koa pole with matching koa stands
Special Notes: from E. Nuʻulani Atkins
The contemporary design of these two kāhili reflect the elements of fire and water, both necessities to a sustainable and thriving culture. More symbolically, fire, or lamakū, represents the torch of knowledge, the desire and yearning to always learn more. The element of water reminds us that we are constantly touched and blessed by the living mists, invigorating and energizing us to continue on with life’s journey.
And so it is that with these thoughts, the two kāhili have been respectively named Kalamakūkanaka, man’s steadfast quest for knowledge and Kaʻehuwaiola, the living mists and quench for life.
These kāhili stall tall aside Pākī and Konia, as a tribute to their lives and to the life of their daughter, Bernice Pauahi Bishop.
I’m especially grateful to Ruby Lowe and Randy Hudgins who was instrumental in the development of this project and who helped to take it from a vision to reality. Also, mahalo to Frank Damas for his generous donation of sennit.
TWO KĀHILI KŪ OF CHINESE GOLDEN PHEASANT
Kahulumanuikamaluokawī and Kamanulelekauikamokuhānai
Description: kāhili made from varied colored feathers of the Chinese golden pheasant, with feather pāʻū and matching koa wood stands; individual armatures designed to look like flowers (pua), representing children (haumāna)
Kahulumanuikamaluokawī (The royal feathered one in the shade of the tamarind). Name of kāhili honoring Bernice Pauahi Bishop, located next to the portrait of Madonna and child.
Kamanulelekauikamokuhānai (The bird takes flight to its adopted land). Name of kāhili honoring Charles Reed Bishop, located next to portrait of Mr. Bishop.
Special Notes: made by staff and students of Heritage Center to honor Pauahi and Bishop.
SINGLE KĀHILI PAʻA LIMA WITH STAND
Description: 5’ tall; created to accompany an original painting of Keʻelikōlani by Brook Parker
Special Notes: the kāhili is made from feathers of the Chinese golden pheasant, enhanced with the polka dot guinea hen feathers. A detailed kāhili top was sewn by Gussie Bento. Others involved in the making of the kāhili included Nuʻulani Atkins, Kaleinani Brown, and Ruby Lowe. A matching pāʻū, or skirt, and a pole from a walking cane was created to further enhance and reflect the spirit of Ruth Keʻelikōlani.
The kāhili was named “Kahuluhiwa,” the esteemed Feathered Chiefess, referring to Keʻelikōlani, her status as an aliʻi, and her endearing love for Pauahi. This love resulted in her generous gift of lands to Pauahi, which was then designated by Pauahi in her will for the development of the Kamehameha Schools.
THREE KĀHILI PAʻA LIMA IN URN VASE
Description: hand kāhili
Short white, foreground: made by Boris Huang, gifted to the Heritage Center
Tall multicolored, back right: made by Boris Huang, gifted to the Heritage Center
Medium black, back left: made by Mary Lou Kekuewa for use at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, Kamehameha Room, Manassas, Virginia
VARIOUS KĀHILI PAʻA LIMA
Description: hand kāhili made from natural bird feathers
Special Notes: individual hand kāhili made to honor aliʻi pictured in Entry Room. Crafted by Heritage Center Staff (Nuʻu Atkins, Gussie Bento, Kaleinani Brown)
SINGLE KĀHILI KŪ IN TABLETOP STAND
Description: 10.5’ tall, 24” diameter table
Special Notes: made by Ethelreda Kahalewai, Royal Hawaiian Feather Company, for the opening of the Heritage Center in 1988
TWO KĀHILI PAʻA LIMA OF DYED HACKLES
Description: hand kāhili made from dyed hackle feathers
First Photo: yellow & red dyed hackle feather kāhili in Asian urn vase
Second Photo: navy blue & white dyed hackle feather kāhili in koa base
Special Notes: made by E. Nuʻulani Atkins
SINGLE KĀHILI PAʻA LIMA
Description: dyed red with yellow hackle hand kāhili, 48” tall with lau hala skirt and wrapped pole, koa wood base
Special Notes: made by staff of Hawaiian Studies Institute, c. 2005
WHITE STANDING KĀHILI
Description: white kāhili with blue trim and white skirt, in stand
Special Notes: made by Momi Merseberg in 1988 for the opening of the Heritage Center