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Object: `aumakua hulu manu Küka`ilimoku (feathered image)

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Title `aumakua hulu manu Küka`ilimoku (feathered image)
Production Unknown, 1700s, Hawaii
Medium summary Made from feathers, animal teeth, pearlshell and plant fibres
Materials feather, tooth, shell, plant fibre
Classification religious objects, sculpture
Dimensions Overall: 560mm (Height) x 230mm (Depth)
Credit line Gift of Lord St Oswald, 1912
Registration number FE000325

This example of a an 'aumakua hulu manu is considered to represent the eighteenth-century Hawaiian war god, Küka`ilimoku. It was formerly thought to have been collected on English explorer Captain James Cook's third voyage into the Pacific. It had reached England by 1805, but at present there is no evidence that it was collected on Cook's voyage. A number of other ships had called at the Hawaiian Islands during the 1780s and 1790s.

Materials and decoration techniques
Feathered images were made in the same way as Hawaiian mahiole (feathered helmets). They consist of a wickerwork frame covered with fine netting to which the feathers are attached. The eyes are cut pieces of pearl shell, set in place with wooden pegs representing the pupils. The mouth is furnished with a large number of dog teeth. The majority of feathered images, including this one, have a crest on the top and back of the head, similar to the crest seen on many of the helmets. Some, however, have human hair attached in place of a feathered crest.

Hawaiian feathered god images are usually considered to represent the war god Küka`ilimoku, a Hawaiian cousin of the Mäori war god Tumatauenga. Certainly their bright and ferocious appearance is appropriate for such a deity. Küka`ilimoku was the war god of the great chief Kamehameha I, and one feathered image now in the Bishop Museum in Honolulu is believed to have been Kamehameha's own image of his god. It is by no means clear, however, that all feathered images represented Küka`ilimoku.

Related information

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