Oakland Art Museum

The Oakland Art Museum’s permanent Pacific collection is the oldest in the museum. The collection includes work from Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia, Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia -- all of the -nesias and more. Most of the artifacts in this collection come from John Rabe, who worked as a dentist and collected artifacts and artwork throughout the Pacific in exchange for dental work (not to be confused with the German business man and Nazi dissident John Rabe).

The museum’s current exhibit Pacific Worlds is on display from May 30, 2015 to January 3, 2016. Pacific Worlds features ancient artifacts from the islands of the Pacific ocean. In addition, visitors can find recently commissioned artwork and portraits created by members of the Pacific Islanders residing in the Bay Area. Characteristic of Oakland artistic endeavors, the Art Museum made their Pacific Islander exhibit a community based and grassroots project by involving the Pacific Worlds Community Taskforce. With the help of students and kumu from Academy of Hawaiian Arts as well as other Pacific Islanders in Oakland, the task force took charge of making the exhibit historically and contemporarily relevant. For example, the task force created kalihi feather stands to commemorate monarchs of the Kingdom of Hawaii. This commemoration for the kings, queens and chief of old comes at a time when the Hawaiian sovereignty movement is alive and well both in Hawaii and here in Oakland. The exhibit also features tapa, Hawaiian barkcloth, by Hawaiian and Filipino artist Charles Valoroso.

Featuring “contemporary California Pacific Islander artwork and community voices” ~Museum website

Th According to the museum’s website, visitors will “experience how Pacific Islanders in California today maintain cultural practices including dance and music, food, fiber arts, tattooing, surfing, and other practices.” In an SF Gate article on the Pacific Worlds exhibit, Maui-born Carolyn Melenani Kualii reminds us that “Pacific Islanders are not new to this area [...] We have an ancient — and contemporary — history to the West Coast of the United States.” The collection reminds us of the Hawaiian royalty who made connections in both Oakland and the larger Bay Area:

Prince David Kawānanakoa: The Hawaiian Prince attended Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Day School in San Mateo. Kawānanakoa was in line of succession of the throne at the time of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, a US military backed overthrow which President Bill Clinton later apologized for (100 years later). His daughters also attended the school and are credited with bringing surfing to Santa Cruz. David Kawānanakoa was born in Hawaii but died in San Francisco in 1908.

Quentin Kawānanakoa: San Francisco is the birthplace of would-be heir to the throne of the Hawaiian Kingdom Quentin Kuhio Kawānanakoa, born in 1961. After a career as a republican politician, Kawānanakoa now lives on Oahu with his wife and kids. He neither claims or rejects his place as heir to the Hawaiian Kingdom.

King Kalakaua: The King’s reign was marked by a revival of Hawaiian practices including hula, surfing and Hawaiian martial arts called Kapu Ku’ialua. The last king of the Kingdom of Hawaii before its overthrow, Kalakaua travelled far and wide to educate himself on methods of foreign rulers and to improve the international relations of his own kingdom. After growing ill, Kalakaua died in San Francisco in 1891. Read more about his facinating life here.

ku'u home o kahalu'u: The most riveting and nostalgic Hawaiian song I can think of, which always brings me to tears, was supposedly written in San Francisco. According to rumer, song-writer Jerry Santos wrote while in San Francisco longing for his Windward Oahu home community.

Street Address:

1000 Oak Street (at 10th Street)
Oakland, California 94607 [map]

Official Website:


Cite this Page:

Natanya Friedheim, “Oakland Art Museum,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed September 23, 2018, http://streetstoriesoakland.com/items/show/123.
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