Hawai‘i Convention Center Unveils Two New Hawaiian Cultural Exhibits

The public displays explore featherwork pieces by Rick San Nicolas and The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu

Honolulu, Feb. 16, 2023 – The Hawai‘i Convention Center unveiled two new Hawaiian cultural exhibits on its third floor today – an extensive Hawaiian featherwork installation available to the public for two years, and a new permanent display exploring The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu. Today’s event included a special blessing and luncheon.

The Pūali‘ahu Feather Cape Exhibit features several feather capes, a feathered helmet, and lei pāpale. All featherwork is handmade by master featherworker Rick San Nicolas using traditional Hawaiian techniques he has practiced over nearly 25 years. This includes a cape designed by Rick San Nicolas for Princess Ka’iulani made of peacock feathers, a replica of a feather cape worn by Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, and a replica of a cloak worn by Pi’ilani, an ancient high chief of the Kingdom of Maui. In addition, the display showcases ‘ahu kaua, or battle cloaks (worn over one shoulder and under the other), which are rarely seen in exhibit. All feathers used in the pieces were ethically sourced.

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“The exhibit was carefully designed by Rick San Nicolas and Kauila Kawelu Barber to share the history and stories of our Native Hawaiian ancestors, as well as the craft of featherwork,” San Nicolas said. “Viewers will follow the stories of our past through today and learn about how the pieces were used to adorn Hawai‘i’s ali‘i (chief or chiefess).”

The exhibit is located on the mauka side of the Center’s third floor between Rooms 302 and 306. Learn more about San Nicolas at HawaiianFeathers.com. Since 2016 the Center has served as the permanent home of featherwork cloak and helmet replicas depicted to be worn by Hawai‘i high chief Kekūhaupi‘o. Made by San Nicolas, this display is located on the Center’s third floor in support of its One Million Trees initiative to reforest native and endemic trees in Hawai‘i in partnership with the nonprofit Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative (HLRI).

The Center is also displaying replicas of The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu outside Theater 320, following a recent installation at the Bishop Museum. The original stones, which are a public monument located on Kalakaua Avenue near the Duke Kahanamoku statue, honor four legendary māhū – individuals who embody both male and female spirit – who brought healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaii many centuries ago. After requesting the stones be moved from Kaimuki to Waikiki as a permanent reminder of the services they provided to the people, the healers imbued their powers into them and disappeared. The display is accompanied by historic photographs, large artistic painted representations of the healers, and an 8-minute, Academy Award-shortlisted animated film that tells their story through the eyes of a curious child. A map is available so guests can easily locate and visit the original stones in Waikiki.

“This exhibit shines a light on the deep history of these stones and furthers the Center’s sense of place by showcasing this important Waikiki landmark, which is just minutes away,” said Dean Hamer, a film director and curator of The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu exhibit.

The Hawai‘i Convention Center is home to a permanent art collection in partnership with the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and its Art in Public Places program. It also hosts rotating collections in displays throughout the building.

“For nearly 25 years the Center has served our communities and visitors not only as a world-class meetings destination, but also as a place to learn about Hawai‘i’s rich culture and history through permanent and rotating art installations,” said Teri Orton, General Manager of the Hawai‘i Convention Center. “We are delighted to work with renowned artist Rick San Nicolas on one of the largest public displays of his featherwork, and to become the permanent home of the Healer Stones of Kapaemahu exhibit.”

Visuals of today’s blessing are available here and visuals of the installations are available here, courtesy Hawai‘i Convention Center.

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