Dance Headdress & Mask

Dance Headdress & Mask

Melanesian art encompasses a highly diverse set of cultures, and is perhaps most interesting for the complex trade, artistic, social, and historical connections and networks that art historical research can suppose between these. Even seemingly ‘outside’ cultures may have precedents in Melanesia, Read more

Pigment Dish & Bowl

Pigment Dish & Bowl

Bowls in Melanesian culture are used for much more than just holding objects or food and drink. They were significant cultural objects that were at times, both symbolic and functional. In the Admiralty Islands, bowls could be used to hold the skulls of ancestral spirits, a spiritual ship, express their relationship with the environment, and were often used for trade (D’Alleva 1998, 85). Read more

Masks

Masks

The Kavat and Mai masks are both masks from different ethnic groups in two different islands of Papua New Guinea. The Baining people inhabit New Britain, a large island off the eastern coast of Papua New Guinea. The Iatmul People reside on the mainland of Papua New Guinea on the Sepik River. Read more

Canoe Prow & Canoe Figurehead

Canoe Prow & Canoe Figurehead

In this module, I compare and contrast two objects associated with canoes and seafaring culture in order to reflect on regional influence and artistic differences across Melanesia. One is from New Guinea and the other is from the Solomon Islands. Both represent the role that nature and ancestral spirits, both manifested and otherwise, play across islands. Read more

Yam Mask & Malagan

Yam Mask & Malagan

In this summary, I compare and contrast two objects: the yam mask and the malagan carving, both of which are associated with manhood rites from two regions of Papua New Guinea.  I find these objects fascinating for their ability to facilitate interactions within and between communities, not because of how they were created but because of their involvement in ceremonies. Both objects demonstrate that artistic production Read more

Feast Bowl & Malangan

Feast Bowl & Malangan

Most Melanesian art informed the relationship between the community and spirits and ancestors. Held with high importance was the chain of ancestors and lineages as a continuous force in society. Funerary traditions and rituals were held to celebrate the deceased and to honor them as to earn or accumulated protection, wisdom, and power. Read more

Uli & Malangan

Uli & Malangan

In New Ireland, a complex system of memory production and ceremonial practices lead to the creation of two different types of figures related to funerary practices: the uli and the malangan. An uli is a figure formerly used to honor and remember an ancestor. These figures were kept in men’s houses and Read more

Currency Roll & Flute

Currency Roll & Flute

This intricate currency roll, also called tevau, measures 27 feet long when unrolled. The roll consists of fiber, shells, and feathers taken from scarlet Honeyeaters and grey Pacific Pigeon birds. Three different specialists, who earn their positions as artists through birthright, perform three different tasks to complete the roll. The first specialist gathers Read more

Masks

Masks

In this module I will be focusing on the importance of symbolism within New Ireland, primarily with malangan and the objects used in the ceremony. In this module, I use an artistic lens, placing emphasis on the materials used to create the objects above and how these materials help construct the elaborateness of the objects, which helps illuminate their importance. Read more

Masks

Masks

The emphasis on community-based art used in social organizations rather than focusing more on the individual and more on ceremonies is prevalent throughout the Melanesian islands (Grabski 2016). Objects of ritual, if not destroyed by the Melanesian people as objects were not meant to last, were taken and placed in museums to extend the life of the inhabitant’s beliefs Read more

Figure & Funerary Carving

Figure & Funerary Carving

The ethnic groups in the region of Melanesia had a very different perspective of the cycle of life compared to the perspective held within most western societies. Viewing this perspective on the life cycle through a Western lens was what drew my attention to the ways that death was handled in Melanesian society. Life went beyond the boundaries of the physical world, Read more

Skull Rack & Neck Ornament

Skull Rack & Neck Ornament

The Skull Rack was a figure from the Kerewa people who reside on the island of New Guinea. It represented an important part of their culture. The object was associated with headhunting, which was practiced by the Kerewa and other surrounding groups along the Sepik River. Multiple skulls would have been attached via prongs coming out of the figures’ lower torso. Read more

Mai Masks

Mai Masks

Papua New Guinea is one of the most geographically, ethnically, and linguistically diverse areas in the world. As such, hundreds of ethnic groups, who speak more than 850 languages, interact and use the environment in many ways. The Sepik River, one of Papua New Guinea’s most important geological features, is home Read more

Masks

Masks

Masquerade is a common theme across Melanesia; masks are often theatrical, flamboyant, and expressive (Kaeppler 1963, 119). These two masks, both from Papua New Guinea, are similar in that they are dramatic, have totemic references, and can be linked to the influence of trade practices. Read more

Funerary Carving & Ritual Board

Funerary Carving & Ritual Board

This summary compares two ceremonial objects from the Melanesian islands: a Funerary Carving (known as a Malagan) from New Ireland, and a Ritual Board (Wenena gerua) from the Siane people in Papua New Guinea. Melanesian cultures greatly valued ceremonies and rituals, and based their everyday actions upon cultural practices (Groves 1936, 220-245). Read more

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