Hawaiian Art – Before and After The Western Influence

Captain James Cook and the crew of his ship were first people that visited Hawaii. This brought significant change to islands that were divided. Westerners helped to unite Hawaii into a kingdom which helped develop everything. However, the arrival of westerners also brought germs and bacteria that killed off more than seven-eighths of the native population.

The Hawaiian art changes somewhat with the arrival of westerners. But, a great thing about Hawaiians is that they preserved their ancient arts and crafts and you can still see artists do them. The most significant change in the art was the introduction of western techniques that were brought by artists that visited Hawaii and decided to spend the rest of their lives there.

Hawaiian art before westernization

The ancient Hawaiian art was a big part of the whole culture. It involved many different forms of art including tattoos, feather work, wood carving and much more. A big piece of the ancient Hawaiian art has a clear purpose, and that was always appreciated. That is something that didn’t make a transition after westerners came.

Hawaiian art before westernizationHawaiians knew the difference between art and useful things, but they chose to incorporate their artistic work into things that are useful on an everyday basis. The results of this are tools and clothes that were pieces of art even though they were used as regular things.

Kapa is one of the art forms that explain the connection between art and crafts. This technique involved working the wood and wauke plant to turn it into strips of material that were easily sewn. Hawaiians used the final product to create pieces of clothing. They used different colors to dye strings of the material and created geometric patterns. You can find some examples of this work in museums all across Hawaii.

Hawaiian art after Cook

The style of art in Hawaii didn’t change too much after the arrival of westerners. The most significant change was in the fact that foreigners were creating native art. 19th century in Hawaii was marked by a massive influx of foreign artists that visited islands due to their beauty. This benefited the development of Hawaiian art styles because those people brought techniques and concepts that weren’t present there.

The mixture of ancient Hawaiian arts, beautiful landscapes, and western concepts brought the rise of new art directions. One of those directions is The Volcano School that focused on drawing volcanoes in the night. That marked another change as famous professional artists came to Hawaii to explore the rugged nature of its islands and get inspired to create their visions of this new land.

Hawaii was, and still is a great inspiration for artists, both professional and amateur, to create art that differs from everything they can find outside this small state in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Hawaii still attracts artists from all walks of life, and that can be seen by the number of foreigners that create art in Honolulu and other islands. This isn’t restricted to drawing as other forms of art are present in Hawaii as well.