A COLLECTION OF MORE THAN 60 PRICELESS NI'IHAU SHELL LEI ON DISPLAY AT BISHOP MUSEUM
HONOLULU, HI th Ni"ihau Shell Lei: Ocean Origins, Living Traditions, a unique exhibition showcasing the private collection of "modern" styled Ni"ihau shell lei, along with pieces from Bishop Museum's own Ni"ihau collections, is on display in the museum's J. M. Long Gallery until January 27, 2014.
(Media-Newswire.com) - HONOLULU, HI – Ni‘ihau Shell Lei: Ocean Origins, Living Traditions, a unique exhibition showcasing the private collection of “modern” styled Ni‘ihau shell lei, along with pieces from Bishop Museum’s own Ni‘ihau collections, is on display in the museum’s J. M. Long Gallery until January 27, 2014.
“While most Hawai‘i residents have seen Ni‘ihau shell lei, and perhaps glanced longingly at lucky wearers of strands of dainty pink kahelelani, or brilliant white, lengthy strings of laiki or momi shells, this exhibit also gets into the science of the shell and the creatures that produce these tiny gems,” said Betty Kam, director of cultural collections.
With the help of microphotography, gallery visitors will be able to see how the tiny mollusks ( most commonly Leptothyra verruca, Euplica varians, and Graphicomassa margarita ) build their own miniature homes. These extremely small creations become great treasures when fashioned into a beautiful and delicate necklace by skilled lei makers from Ni‘ihau, who create these precious adornments in various arrangements and styles.
The term “Ni‘ihau shell lei” is specific and even protected by law. In 2004, the Hawai‘i State Legislature passed a law that prohibits the selling of seashell products that incorrectly use the name “Ni‘ihau” in their description. Ni‘ihau shell lei and jewelry are made only in Hawai‘i and only with shells from Ni‘ihau. The shells gathered on Ni‘ihau have a certain luster, a special beauty, and a lasting resilience that make these lei unique and of high value.
Even before the passage of H.B. 2569 in 2004, Pamela Ka‘ilikini Dow, who represents a very skilled group of master “stringers,” recognized the importance in distinguishing Ni‘ihau shell lei apart from other shell lei and educating others to do the same. Today, those who purchase genuine Ni‘ihau shell lei receive a certificate confirming the authenticity of the lei, verifying that the shells are truly from Ni‘ihau. Many of the lei in the featured private collection were obtained with the guidance of Dow. She and her “stringers” will be at the museum all day this Saturday, Oct. 26 for the opening.
Bishop Museum’s upcoming exhibition will feature 60 such certified Ni‘ihau shell lei, made and purchased over the last two decades. The Rick & Chuna Ni‘ihau Shell Collection is the treasure of private collectors and avid admirers of this lei form. It was the collectors who approached Bishop Museum more than a year ago to offer their exquisite collection for exhibition. From Bishop Museum’s own historic Ni‘ihau shell collection, an outstanding wristlet uncovered from an archaeological site at Nu‘alolo Kai on Kaua‘i, a pair of remarkable momilani shell drapes that were once in the home of Prince Kuhiō and his beloved Kahanu, and strands of lei belonging to ali‘i wāhine will be a treat for the eye and the spirit.
The title, Ni‘ihau Shell Lei: Ocean Origins, Living Traditions, speaks of the undeniable mastery of nature—tiny creatures producing outstandingly detailed shells. It speaks of an island lifestyle, a special place, and a tradition of lei making that should be respected and preserved.
The exhibit runs through Jan. 27, 2014 and is sponsored by the Rapozo Kama‘āina Fund of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, Hiroaki Elaine & Lawrence Kono Foundation, and the Hawaiian Malacological Society.
For more information about the exhibit and museum, please visit www.bishopmuseum.org, follow @BishopMuseum on Twitter and Instagram, become a fan of “Bishop Museum” on Facebook, or call ( 808 ) 847-3511.
Admission into Bishop Museum: Adults - $19.95; Seniors ( 65+ ) - $16.95 and Youth ( 4-12 ) - $14.95; Hawaii residents and Military with ID – Adults $12.95; Seniors ( 65+ ) $10.95 and Youth ( 4-12 ) - $8.95; ( non-resident visitors accompanied by Military or a Hawaii resident with ID Adults - $16.95; Seniors ( 65+ ) - $13.95; and Youth ( 4-12 ) - $11.95 ); Bishop Museum members and children age three and younger are always free. Children age 16 and younger must be accompanied by an adult. Bishop Museum is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed on Tuesdays and Dec. 25. About Bishop Museum The Bishop Museum was founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop in memory of his wife Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last direct descendant of King Kamehameha I. Today, the Museum is recognized as the principal museum of the Pacific, housing the world’s largest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific artifacts and natural history specimens. More than 350,000 people visit the Museum each year, including over 40,000 schoolchildren. For more information, please call 808.847.3511 or visit www.bishopmuseum.org.
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