Sorry for the silence this past week! While you've been freezing your ass off in Portland or Las Vegas, Claire and I managed to escape to sunny Hawaii. I didn't want to seem like I was gloating. We've been exploring Honolulu and the rest of Oahu for the past week, and it's been amazing. I'll have plenty more things to share with you once I find a less spotty internet connection.
Yesterday, we visited the Mission Houses museum, which is right across form Honolulu's City Hall. The Mission Houses are ground zero for American influence on Hawaii, dating back to 1820. You and I both know that there are practically limitless negatives associated with that influence, but one of the positives was the birth of the Hawaiian quilt. The first missionaries arrived on Oahu in 1820, and they built their main station along a processional street that the King's entourage would travel on (still called "King" street today). They set up a wooden house that they had schlepped all the way from New England, and started constructing a church out of coral bricks.
Apparently, cotton doesn't grow well in Hawaii, so all quilting materials had to be imported. Native women began experimenting with quilting not long after the arrival of the missionaries. We were fortunate enough to get a private tour of the museum grounds with Peter Salter, their director of historical research. He showed us through each of the buildings, explaining how the early missionaries adapted to native Hawaiian materials as they made things like furniture and utensils. Our final stop was a special exhibition the museum put together, aptly named "Fundamental Fiber".
I was astonished to see Hawaiian quilts dating back to the earliest days of the missionaries, as well as contemporary-looking quilts dating back to the early 1900's. Apparently, the symmetrical Hawaiian quilt emerged fully-formed as early as 1860. It's hard not to fall for Hawaiian quilts--even the kind you find in tourist shops. The imagery on the quilts serve as perfect reflections of Hawaiian fruits, wildlife and foliage, abstracted into a symmetrical form like a cut paper snowflake.
Hawaii also has a history of amazing crazy quilts. Arguably the most famous Hawaiian quilt is the "Queen's Quilt", which was made by Queen Lili'uokalani, documenting the ten months she spent as a prisoner in the Iolani Palace in 1895. The quilt, which is made out of nine panels and incorporates patriotic ribbons and fabrics with special meaning to the Queen, is still on display at the palace.
Hawaiians are still turning out jaw-dropping quilts. Like I said before, even the cheesiest tourist quilt shops are capable of mesmerising me. I'm off to read my book on a white sand beach on the windward coast of Oahu. Please...please....I invite your pity. I'll reward it with more tales of woe soon.