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News and Events

“HA`AKULOU”

Lee Lacocca - Thursday, January 31, 2019

By Chucky Boy Chock

Cloak made by Loea Makanaaloha San Nicolas

Hawaiian feather cloaks, known as ʻAhu ʻula in the Hawaiian language, were worn with mahiole (feather helmets). These were symbols of the highest rank reserved for the men of the aliʻi, the chiefly class of Hawai`i. There are over 160 examples of these traditional clothing in museums around the world. At least six of these cloaks were collected during the voyages of Captain Cook. 

The cloaks were constructed using a woven netting decorated with feathers obtained from Hawaiian birds. The plant used to make the netting is olona Touchardia latifolia, a member of the nettle family. The coloring was achieved using different types of feathers.

Olona Touchardia latifolia

Black and yellow came from four species of bird called ʻōʻō. All species had become extinct by 1987, with the probable cause being the disease. Black feathers were also sourced from the two species of mamo, which are also now both extinct. The distinctive red feathers came from the ʻIʻiwi and the ʻApapane. Both species can still be found in Hawai`i, but in much reduced numbers.


Scientific name
Vestiaria coccinea (ʻIʻiwi )
Moho-ʻ(ōʻō )

Although birds were exploited for their feathers, the effect on the population is thought to be minimal. The birds are said to have not been killed but, rather, caught by specialist bird catchers “kia manu”, a few feathers harvested during molting season, and the birds then released.  Hundreds of thousands of feathers were required for each cloak. A small bundle of feathers was gathered and tied into the netting. Bundles were tied in close proximity to form a uniform covering of the surface of the cloak.

All `Ahu`ula were given sacred names. “Ha`akulou” is the sacred name given to this Royal Cloak, a gift paying tribute to Alii`Aimoku Kaumuali`i. The name Ha`akulou comes from Kekaiha`akulou the Parmount Chief’s favorite wife also known as Deborah Kapule. During his time of reign, Kaumuali`i had the highest lineage of Royal Blood over all other High ranking Chiefs throughout Hawai`i. This precious cloak was made by Loea Makanaaloha San Nicolas, and the Iron man created by Chris O’Conner.

Iron man created by Chris O’Conner

All `Ahu`ula were given sacred names. “Ha`akulou” is the sacred name given to this Royal Cloak, a gift paying tribute to Alii`Aimoku Kaumuali`i. The name Ha`akulou comes from Kekaiha`akulou the Paramount Chief’s favorite wife also known as Deborah Kapule. During his time of reign, Kaumuali`i had the highest lineage of Royal Blood over all other High ranking Chiefs throughout Hawai`i. This precious cloak was made by Loea Makanaaloha San Nicolas, and the Iron man created by Chris O’Conner.


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