Art and Divinity in Polynesia
Sunday 21 May – Sunday 13 August
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
University of East Anglia, Norwich
Sunday I went the Pacific Encounters exhibition in Norwich where, for the first time, important Polynesian materials from British and other collections have been housed together under one roof for public viewing. Yes, my head exploded.
Thanks to the likes of Cook, Bligh, Vancouver, Banks, et al, Britain holds the most comprehensive 18th and 19th century Polynesian collections in the world (with even more items than can be found throughout Polynesia). After 13 August, this exhibition ends and all the little (and some quite large) pieces will go back to their respective homes scattered acorss the UK and the world. If Polynesian art interests you at all and you can catch this exhibition, do catch this exhibition. Besides, the Norman Foster designed SCVA is a nice enough place to roam around (for me, the centre’s permanent collection was worth the trip from London alone).
I’ve viewed most of the great Polynesian collections in this world (the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Auckland War Memorial, Te Papa in Wellington, etc) and this temporary collection ranks among them. The over 250 objects on view include “major sculptures in wood and stone, feather and basketry images, feather cloaks, wooden bowls, decorated bark cloths, ornaments and valuables of ivory, shell, bone and nephrite, and other ritual items such as fly whisks, fans and drums.” All the major regions of Polynesia - Society Islands, Austral Islands, Cook Islands, Marquesas Islands, Hawaii, Easter Island, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa and New Zealand – are represented.
If unable to make it out to the SCVA before 13 August, I highly recommend tracking down the exhibition’s catalogue written by curator Steven Hooper and published by British Museum Press. It’s brilliant.
Visit the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts online:
Monday, July 31, 2006
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