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Reviewed by:
  • Holo Moana: Generations of Voyaging
  • Kelema Lee Moses
Holo Moana: Generations of Voyaging. Exhibition, Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawai'i, 4 11 2017– 2406 2018.

Holo Moana: Generations of Voyagingoffered visitors a narrative about the centuries-long legacy of Oceanic voyaging. The show, housed in the Joseph M Long Gallery at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, covered a lot of territory: embracing and disseminating indigenous knowledge, exploring the ways in which cultural exchange allows communities to gain a deeper understanding about themselves and the world, and examining the impact of technology on tradition and culture.

As a collaboration between the museum and the Polynesian Voyaging Society ( pvs), the exhibition centered on the impact of the Hōkūle'a(Star of Gladness), a canoe designed in the 1970s that utilized ancient Oceanic techniques and materials in its construction. Ben Finney, Tommy Holmes, Herb Kāne, Nainoa Thompson, and others came together at the pvsto recover Polynesian voyaging traditions, looking to Pius "Mau" Piailug, a Micronesian navigator from Satawal, to help piece together this lost past and design the Hōkūle'a. The founding of the pvsand the first expedition of the Hōkūle'afrom Hawai'i to Tahiti (and back) in 1976 led to several expeditions without the use of modern instruments throughout Oceania. The Hōkūle'aembodied ongoing efforts to (re)situate way-finding knowledge within Hawaiian culture, history, and identity. In 2014, the Hōkūle'aembarked on her first worldwide journey; the opening of Holo Moanacelebrated the endeavor's conclusion as well as the people met, events attended, and stories learned along the way.

Manu ihu, Manu hope(1976–2012) commanded one's attention when entering the exhibition. Situated in the center of the gallery, the Hōkūle'a's curved bow (manu ihu) and stern (manu hope), with its moniker inscribed at the base, transformed the room into a still ocean. This stillness was broken by a digital projection display of contemporary navigators in action on its mast and sail. The piece literally and figuratively anchored the physicality of the Hōkūle'ain the museum space. While Manu ihu, Manu hopeoffered only a semblance of the ship's grandeur, smaller models, including Hōkūle'a(undated), Canoe Model, Yap State(Micronesia, undated), and Wa'a Mau(1976), summoned the viewer to explore the diversity of Oceanic canoe shapes and forms. The models aided the visitor in visualizing the vessels' size and scale, communicating their layout and spatial interrelationships in three dimensions.

The sheer number of artifacts within the small gallery proved overwhelming at times, but the diversity of the objects illustrated the historical continuum between ancient Oceanic voyaging and the origination of the [End Page 241] Hōkūle'a. The intricate bindings of coconut and olonā fibers rolled by Mau ( Coconut Sennit/Olonā Cordage, Hawai'i, circa 1970s) were encased below early twentieth-century drawings depicting Tahitian lashing techniques. While the inherent connection between voyaging and nature was clear, the combination of object and drawing subtly accentuated the skill of canoe makers. The drawings' intricate diamond-shaped design highlighted the ways in which patterns resulted from applied scientific/mathematical methods, as well as the ways in which symmetrical harmonies rendered stability visible. The drawings and cordage, paired with a star compass made from coral and pandanus fiber created by a Mau student (undated), revealed the mechanisms by which navigators charted the seas and documented important markers, such as islands and reefs. The exhibition's pragmatic approach was interrupted by two paintings in the gallery, both by Kāne. The first, Canoe Launching(1976, acrylic on canvas), depicted Pacific Islander men pushing and pulling a double-hulled canoe from the shore to the sea. The second, Tongiaki of Tonga(1972), a brilliantly blue oil on canvas, presented a scene of people managing a canoe in the open waters and pointing to the night sky for guidance. The objects, drawings, and paintings in the exhibition invited visitors to see the processes involved in wayfinding—to understand voyaging as part of a larger cultural enterprise requiring shared knowledge among...