The Arts of KingshipHawaiian Art and National Culture of the Kalakaua Era

The Arts of KingshipHawaiian Art and National Culture of the Kalakaua Era

Stacy L. Kamehiro

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824832636

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press


This book offers an account of Hawaiian public art and architecture during the reign of David Kalākaua, who ruled the Hawaiian Kingdom from 1874 to 1891. The book provides visual and historical analysis of Kalākaua's coronation and regalia, the King Kamehameha Statue, ‘Iolani Palace, and the Hawaiian National Museum, drawing them together in a common historical, political, and cultural frame. These cultural projects were part of the monarchy's effort to promote a national culture in the face of colonial pressures, internal political divisions, and declining social conditions for Native Hawaiians. The book interprets the images, spaces, and institutions as articulations of the complex cultural entanglements and creative engagement with international communities that occur with prolonged colonial contact. Nineteenth-century Hawaiian sovereigns celebrated Native tradition, history, and modernity by intertwining indigenous conceptions of superior chiefly leadership with the apparati and symbols of Asian, American, and European rule. The resulting symbolic forms speak to cultural intersections and historical processes, claims about distinctiveness and commonality, and the power of objects, institutions, and public display to create meaning and enable action. The book pursues questions regarding the nature of cultural exchange, how precolonial visual culture engaged and shaped colonial contexts, and how colonial art informs postcolonial visualities and identities.