He Makana

Posted on Feb 2, 2014 in Current Exhibitions, Exhibitions, Featured
Painting by William Twigg-Smith of Mokapu Peninsula, Kahe‘ohe, Hawai‘i

Mokapu Peninsula, Kane‘ohe, Hawai‘i
by William Twigg-Smith

 

He Makana
The Gertrude Mary Joan Damon Haig Collection

of Hawaiian Art, Paintings and Prints

Diamond Head Gallery
December 6, 2013  |  6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. (Galleries close at 8:45 p.m.)

The Gertrude Mary Joan Damon Haig Collection of Hawaiian Art, Paintings, and Prints is a distinguished collection of traditional Hawaiian crafts, paintings and prints presented to the state of Hawai‘i in honor of the life of Mary Joan Damon Haig.

This collection bears the name He Makana, meaning “A Gift” in the Hawaiian language. We commemorate the historic generosity of a humbly anonymous donor. Gertrude Mary Joan Haig, for whom the donor dedicates this collection, was born in Moanalua Valley, July 23,1920. She was the daughter of Henry Fowler and Gertrude McKinnon Damon; and the granddaughter of Honolulu banker Samuel Mills Damon, developer of the large Moanalua agricultural and horticultural estate. Both Joan and her mother Gertrude took keen interests in the history and legends of Moanalua Valley, and its surrounding lands.

Forty-three works of art — small objects, paintings, and prints impeccably collected through the years by a single donor — comprise this important exhibition.

Our anonymous donor, perceptive and knowledgeable, spent the last thirty years compiling this impressive collection. Three paintings predate 1900. Focused from its inception, the assemblage concentrates on the three ‘giants’ of early 20thcentury island painting: Lionel Walden, D. Howard Hitchcock, and Madge Tennent. All three were academically trained in Paris, Hitchcock and Tennent even in the same atelier. All three, moreover, have left firm imprints on all subsequent island art.

Within the collection is a group of small objects designated “Traditional Arts of Hawai‘i.” These pieces are now virtually unattainable: ancient Ko‘u calabases; Native Hawaiian feather works, including an Ahu ‘Ula cape; Ni‘ihau shell leis; and a Hawaiian flag quilt circa 1898. Of the traditional arts, Hawaiian feather work remains unsurpassed in its stunning beauty and originality of concept. Nothing remotely similar can be found anywhere else in Polynesia. Both feather garments and leis were strictly reserved for the Ali‘i (chiefly class), until the great period of cape making ebbed at the time of Kamehameha I’s death in 1891. The four ‘Umeke bowls, carved of Ko‘u wood but largely plugged with gum from the Breadfruit plant, are also extremely rare today.

A cloth-bound publication, He Makana, features an opening message Governor Neil Abercrombie. Its pages detail the entire collection, in the words of esteemed writer and local historian, David Forbes. Barbara Pope executed the design of these clothbound keepsakes, their 120 pages and 50 illustrations printed by Studly Press in Massachusetts.