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Object: ’ahu ’ula ( feathered cloak)

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Title ’ahu ’ula ( feathered cloak)
Production Unknown, 1700s, Hawaii
Medium summary Plant fibre and feather
Materials plant fibre, feather
Classification cloaks
Technique weaving
Dimensions Overall: 1450mm (Length) x 2200mm (Width)
Credit line Gift of Lord St Oswald, 1912
Registration number FE000327

On 26 January 1779, the Hawaiian high chief Kalani`öpu`u took this cloak, which he was wearing, and draped it over the shoulders of the English explorer Captain James Cook. He placed a feathered helmet on Cook's head, and laid several other cloaks at his feet. His people brought four large pigs and other offerings of food. Less than three weeks later, Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay, Hawai`i.


The subsequent history of the cloak and helmet has been traced in detail. Both were taken to England, and acquired by Sir Ashton Lever for his private museum. There, the cloak was painted by Sarah Stone; this record has enabled its subsequent movements to be confirmed. Thomas Atkinson, a close friend of Joseph Banks, bought the cloak and helmet at the sale of the Leverian Museum in 1806. Somebody, almost certainly Banks, later gave them to William Bullock, the owner of another private museum. At the sale of Bullock's museum in London in 1819, they were part of a group of items purchased by Charles Winn. His grandson, Lord St Oswald, unexpectedly presented his entire collection to New Zealand in 1912. The cloak and helmet have been in the national collection ever since.

Cook commemorated

In 1978, the cloak was lent for a major exhibition in Honolulu, commemorating the European discovery of the Hawaiian islands by James Cook.

Related information

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