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on February 16, 2004
In 1995, officials from the Four Seasons Hotel and Resort, then under construction on the Big Island, persuaded local illustrator and living legend Herbert Kawainui Kane to produce a series of paintings depicting ancient Hawaiians as they went about their everyday tasks. Kane consented, and also wrote the captions that would accompany the work on display. As these captions became longer and longer, Kane realized he had the beginnings of an excellent book on the history of his people. Thus Ancient Hawaii came into being. He begins, of course, with the legendary Menehunes (as we now know them; we have no idea what they called themselves) and their epic voyages from Polynesia and the South Pacific, then traces the journeys of the much-later Tahitian adventurers who became the ancestors of the people now known as Hawaiians. The remainder of the book is taken up with descriptions of Hawaiians as they practiced their everyday crafts, from planting to taro-making, from fishing to navigating. Of course, Hawaiian leisure activities are featured as well, not only the hula and surfing, but also canoeing, gambling, and "nocturnal activities between consenting adults." (Let's not go there!) Each of these activites (except the "adult" pastimes) are accompanied by some of the most visually stunning paintings you've ever seen of the islands and their people. Thunderously rich, vibrant, and full of life, these works of art could easily be ripped out and hung on the wall (but who would want to ruin such a wonderful book?); readers who want more of these beautiful treasures are given ordering information in the back of the book. Accompanied by his luminous, truly poetic written descriptions, the reader comes away with an idyllic, yet very truthful and accurate look of Pre-Cook Hawaii, one that is beautifully descriptive and thankfully free of judgement. Ancient Hawaii should be a the top of your must-purchase list, as it combines accurate history, stunning paintings, and wonderful, easy-to-read prose into one slim yet altogether winning volume.
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on October 29, 2012
If you have a casual interest in Hawai'ian civilization before the arrival of Europeans, this book would be a good idea. The pictures are beautiful and help you to imagine what this paradise must have been like before the resorts, airports, and traffic. It covers most areas of everyday life, such as warfare, myths, fishing, hunting, boatbuilding, and the class system. Unfortunately, the history of Hawai'i was mostly contained in oral sagas. This means that a kahuna who had a vast number of stories memorized could take it all with him when he succumbed to TB or smallpox. Sadly this was the case for tens of thousands of native Hawai'ians, and this is why we know so little of their origins and way of life before contact. Still, this book helps to restore what is known and pass it on to anyone with an interest in the first inhabitants of these enchanting islands.
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Before the grand hotels and resorts, before crowded beaches, before paved roads and cars... there was sacred Hawai'i of old.
Herb Kawainui Kane allows you through his words and mostly through his artwork to revisited old Hawai'i in its truest and purist form. It's a visual journey that details even the smallest things. Herb Kane does an excellent job at retelling a story almost forgotten... a spiritual and emotional journey experienced by all but so often unexplained until now.
Hawai'i was and is still a magical place and Herb Kane's work shows that better than most any other artist I've seen in Hawai'i. Herb's work allows you to take a differant kind of trip to paradise... the one that existed and flourished for a thousand years before discovery by Captain Cook.
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There is simply no one alive who could do what Herb Kane has done for the understanding of precontact Hawaii. We should all be grateful that such an accomplished artist also possesses considerable research skills and the ability to display them. One gets all three in this splendid paean to Kane's ancestors.
ANCIENT HAWAII is a beautiful and understandable look at Hawaii before the arrival of Captain Cook. One would have to travel the world to see this collection of Herb Kane's paintings and drawings, and spend hundreds of hours in the library to get this sort of understanding and feeling for the precontact Hawaiian world.
Herb Kane is the real thing. The book is for everyone.
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on April 17, 2002
I purchased this book in anticipation of a trip to Hawaii, wanting to learn more about the cultural roots. This presentation was exceptionally beautiful (amazing paintings), simple in its presentation, and left the reader feeling a part of it all. I highly recommend this book.
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