Hawaiian Chief Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s ancient ʻahu ʻula (feathered cloak) and mahiole (feathered helmet) are made from the feathers of 20,000+ birds. In 1779, the chief gifted the cloak and helmet he was wearing to Captain Cook as a demonstration of goodwill. These two priceless artifacts are in New Zealand, and are being prepared for a return trip to Hawaiʻi. These ancient Hawaiian treasures will be on display at Bishop Museum starting March 19, 2016.

The ʻahu ʻula and mahiole exhibit is made possible through the partnership of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Bishop Museum, and support of Hawaiian Airlines and the Ellen M. Koenig Memorial Fund.

In 1779, the reigning chief of Hawai‘i Island, Kalani‘ōpu‘u, greeted an English captain named James Cook after his ship made port in Kealakekua Bay. As a demonstration of his preeminence, Kalani‘ōpu‘u gifted his ‘ahuʻula (feathered cloak) and mahiole (feathered helmet) to Cook. Now, this storied ‘ahu‘ula and mahiole will return together to their home islands for the first time since it left its shores on Cook’s ship 237 years ago.

In a partnership between the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), Te Papa Tongarewa – the national museum of New Zealand – and Bishop Museum, the ‘ahu‘ula and mahiole of Kalani‘ōpu‘u will make its monumental journey home in March 2016, to be displayed at Bishop Museum in Honolulu, O‘ahu.

From a historical perspective, the artifacts represent a period in the timeline of Hawai‘i when there was a balance between the cultural, political and spiritual parts of the Native Hawaiian and the environment. In addition, Kamana‘opono Crabbe, Ka Pouhana of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, says, “The return of the ʻahuʻula and mahiole to Hawaiʻi is a cause for celebration and it will be a source of inspiration, reflection and discussion among Hawaiʻi residents and visitors alike.”

To foster this inspiration and discussion, we have created a virtual sharing space. When the mea kapu (heirlooms) left home, Hawai’i was a thriving and independent lāhui. Today’s Hawaiians are making strides as well. We invite you to use #kalaniopuu to contribute your own thoughts, experiences, and inspiration points about Kalani‘ōpu‘u, the return of the ‘ahu‘ula and mahiole, the continuance of culture, mea makamae (precious objects), and historial context.

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