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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Pacific Arts is the journal of the Pacific Arts Association, an international organization devoted to the study of the arts of Oceania (Aboriginal Australia and the Pacific Islands). The journal was established in 1990 and is currently issued as an annual volume in a new series that began in 2006. In 2020, the journal moved to eScholarship, the open access scholarly publishing program of the University of California/California Digital Library.

Issue cover

Front Matter

Pacific Arts N.S. Vol. 23 No. 2 (2023-24)

Pacific Arts Vol. 23 No. 2 (2023-24) with Special Section: PAA-E Conference

Full Issue

Pacific Arts N.S. Vol. 23 No. 2 (2023-24)

Pacific Arts Vol. 23 No. 2 (2023-24) with Special Section: PAA-E Conference

Special Section: “Gendered Objects in Oceania,” Part 2

Special Section on Pacific Arts Association– Europe’s Annual Meeting: “Gendered Objects in Oceania,” Part 2

Fanny Wonu Veys, president of the Pacific Arts Association­–Europe, describes the 2022 annual meeting held at the Musée du quai Branly—Jacques Chirac in Paris. She introduces five essays based on papers presented at the meeting, focused on the theme “Gendered Objects in Oceania.”

Shell Rings of Power: Gender Relations in Material Culture Production on the Aitape Islands, Papua New Guinea

This article first introduces shell ornaments and pottery on the Aitape Islands in New Guinea, discussing the role of women in their production during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It then turns to material culture produced by men—cult houses and canoes—that depended on supplies obtained by trading women’s products like shell valuables. By discussing these two gendered art forms together, this article shows how integral women’s labour was to the larger social and economic structures in New Guinea that have predominantly been associated with men. It concludes by discussing how colonisation, missionisation, and the introduction of a monetary economy impacted the gendered relations of art production in the islands.

“Tattoo the Women, but Not the Men”: Female Tattooing in Tonga

Whether the tattooing of women was practiced in Tonga before the general ban on tattooing in 1839 is debated among both researchers and the contemporary tattooist community. This research note explores oral histories, written sources, and pictorial materials to paint a balanced picture of the history of female tattooing in Tonga and possibly break gender binaries.

Studying and Conserving a Barkcloth from the Musée Cantonal d’Archéologie et d’Histoire, Lausanne, Switzerland

This research note presents a conservation project of a Polynesian barkcloth belonging to the Musée Cantonal d’Archéologie et d’Histoire in Lausanne, Switzerland. The aims of this project were to deepen existing knowledge about the history of this barkcloth using information gathered from available archives, to place it in time using macro- and microscopic observations and analysis of its materials, to place it geographically through a comparison with other barkcloth pieces kept in different museums, and to consolidate and secure the object for future studies or exhibitions.

Adorning the Ears: On Marquesan Ear Ornamentation

This article explores historical developments in ear adornment on the Marquesas Islands by examining their descriptions in historical sources—both written and pictorial—and ear ornaments in museum collections. From the first historical records onwards, Marquesan men and women were reported to have pierced earlobes, but the extent to which outsiders observed they wore ornaments in their ears changed over time. Four main types of ear ornaments are discussed and placed in a historical perspective. Large, oval-shaped wooden ones (kouhau) were worn by men of rank and S-shaped ear ornaments made of turtle shell (uuhei) were worn by women. Oval-shaped ear ornaments made from whale tooth (haakai) were worn by certain women and men in a ritual context. The last type, composite ear ornaments with a shell front (pūtaiana), of which a typology is presented, seems to have changed both in appearance and gender-use over time; initially they were worn by a few men, later on more men wore them, and finally, around the 1840s, they were worn by both men and women.

The Mataisau Clan of Fiji: Roles and Responsibilities

Mataisau is the Fijian word relating to a clan in Fiji known as the “born carpenters.” They were a group of individuals gifted with carpentry skills—especially in building houses, boats, furniture, and tools—passed down by their ancestors through many generations. My paper is devoted to highlighting the role of the mataisau and to reaffirm how highly regarded and integral they were to Fijian society. I believe it is a traditional role that has been undervalued, underappreciated and overlooked in the literature of Pacific ethnobotany and cultural studies. Visitors to Fiji and the Pacific two centuries ago documented the vast botanical knowledge possessed by the Indigenous islanders. They utilised this knowledge to access and extract plants and trees for their survival. The islanders then incorporated a barter system to trade and exchange resources to which they did not have access. One such example was the trade route between Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. Over many centuries, they traded various resources, including people who knew how to build and carve ocean-going vessels such as the drua (double-hull canoes). During my research visit to the island of Kabara in 2006, I was able to witness the remnants of such ancient trade through the presence of the Lemaki clan descendants who are still proud to be engaging the craft of their forefathers. Although the number of carvers is dwindling, the knowledge of and appreciation for the mataisau still exists in the Lau islands.

Articles & Creative Work

Recollections: Australian Connections, Collaborations, and Collections in the Sepik Region of Papua New Guinea, 1960s–1970s

This paper traces collecting practices and field research in the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea during the 1960s and 1970s, when there was heightened interest in the cultural heritage of Papua New Guineans in Australia. It begins with William Dargie, chairman of the Commonwealth Arts Advisory Board, who went to the Sepik in 1968–69. It then investigates the collecting activities of several other Australians working in the Sepik region at that time: Robert MacLennan, Helen and Paul Dennett, and Percy and Renata Cochrane. The paper also discusses exhibitions and collaborative projects that have arisen from these collections and field trips, signalling that a wealth of information remains to be discovered by researchers examining these archives.

Between the Betweenness: Restoring the Vā

Artist and designer Linda Vaʻaelua’s work explores her identity as a female of mixed Samoan and Scottish heritage who grew up as part of the Samoan diaspora in Aotearoa New Zealand. She reflects on cultural and language loss, vā (relational space), and weaving cultures together harmoniously. She expresses her gafa (genealogy) through her arrangement of patterns, shapes, colours, composition, and materials.


Book Review: Rapa Nui Theatre: Staging Indigenous Identities in Easter Island, by Moira Fortin Cornejo, 2023

Book review: Moira S. Fortin Cornejo, Rapa Nui Theatre: Staging Indigenous Identities in Easter Island, London andNew York: Routledge, 2022. ISBN: 9781032277356, 226 pages, 33 black-and-white illustrations. Hardback $170.00, Ebook $52.95.

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