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Rapa Nui (Easter Island)
Rarotongan Art (Cook Islands)
Distinct regional modes developed within a general Polynesian style. Deity images from Rarotonga and Mangaia in the Cook Islands and from Rurutu in the Austral Islands have multiple figures attached to their bodies. These carvings probably also represent clan ancestors, revered for their protective and procreative powers. All such images refer ultimately to the creator deities that play a central role in human fertility.
A god barkcloth:
The central Polynesian island residents of Rarotonga carved various kinds of deity figures, including at least three types of staff gods. An example shows a profile figure with multiple layers of barkcloth wrapped around its center. Although the exact meaning is lost, the figures suggest procreative symbolism, a trait found in central Polynesian art and religion.
33-15: Staff god, from Rarotonga, central Polynesia, nineteenth century. Wood, barkcloth, pigment, and sennit, 3' 9" high. Otago Museum, Dunedin. Marquesas Islands
Among the items produced by Marquesan artists were ornaments that often adorned the hair of warriors. Among the items produced were hollow, cylindrical bone or ivory ornaments (ivi p'o) that functioned as protective amulets and were worn until the death of a kinsman was avenged.
33-16: Hair ornaments, Marquesas Islands. Bone, 2 3/4" high.
Face to face:
Polynesian nobles and warriors accumulated various tattoo patterns to increase their status, mana, and personal beauty. An engraving illustrates a Marquesan warrior covered with elaborate tattoo patterns, which seem to accentuate different areas.
33-17: Tattooed warrior with war club, Nukahiva, Marquesas Islands, nineteenth century. Engraving. Hawaii
The Hawaiians developed the most highly stratified social structure in the Pacific.
Cloaked in majesty:
Because perpetuation of the social structure was crucial to social stability, most of the material culture produced (before American control) in Hawaii was intended to visualize and reinforce the hierarchy. Chiefly regalia was prominent part of artistic production.
33-18: ‘Ahu‘ula (feather cloak), from Hawaii. Red ‘i‘iwi, yellow ‘o‘o, and black feathers, olona cordage and netting. 4' 8 1/3" x 8'. Bishop Pauahi Museum, Honolulu.
A defiant war god:
Surrounded by ancestors:
The arts of the Maori peoples merge decorative embellishment with a bold human-figure style. On a door lintel (pare) from a Maori meeting house, a tatooed female figure probably represents an earth goddess (Papa) giving birth to the gods. Profile figures represent mythological creatures (manaia), which are associated with death and destruction. The panel symbolizes the dynamic between creative and destructive forces. Community members passing beneath this lintel were symbolically transformed from one state of existence to another.
33-20: Interior of meeting house (hotonui), Maori, Ngati Maru tribe, New Zealand (Aotearoa), built 1878. Wood, paint, and weavings, approx. 75'. Auckland Institute and Museum, Auckland.
|OCEANIC ART TODAY
Many of the traditional arts of Oceania are not practiced today, for they no longer have critical roles insuring cultural continuity and survival. Yet, in several places, these arts have been revitalized. New cultural awareness has led artists to express their inherited values in a resurgence of traditional arts.
Maori cultural renewal:
One example of cultural renewal is the school of New Zealand artists who draw on their Maori heritage for formal and iconographic inspiration. Historic Maori woodcarving reemerges in Cliff Whiting's Tawhiri-Matea (God of the Winds), designed for a modern environment, which depicts the Maori creation myth. In uniting native tradition with modernist design, the artist is renewing Maori cultural life in terms of its continuity in art.
33-21: CLIFF WHITING (TE WHANAU-A-APANUI), Tawhiri-Matea (God of the Winds), Maori, 1984. Oil on wood and fiberboard, approx. 6' 4 3/8" x 11' 10 3/4". Meteorological Service of New Zealand Ltd. Collection, Wellington.
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