Exhibition: Oceania

Exhibition dates: 29 September – 10 December 2018

In 1768 Captain James Cook left Plymouth on HMS Endeavour on the first of three voyages. Across the Pacific he encountered a world that was both highly sophisticated and, thanks to ocean-going canoes and navigational aids, interconnected – despite the significant distances between islands. Oceania draws on rich and well-documented historic collections to explore this history and, in so doing, presents new contexts in which these objects can be better understood and appreciated.

With a focus on art made in the Oceanic region by Pacific Islanders, the exhibition is organised around three main themes: ‘Voyaging’ looks at life on the water as revealed through the extraordinary stories of indigenous navigation and the arts of the canoe and canoe accoutrements such as carved prows and paddles. ‘Place-making’ explores the settlement of communities; and ‘Encounter’ focuses on trade and exchange in Pacific cultures. Highlights of the exhibition include a 14th-century wooden Kaitaia carving (from the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland), which was excavated in 1920. This is one of the oldest known objects to have been found in New Zealand to date.

Oceania will bring together around 200 exceptional works from public and private collections worldwide, and will span over 500 years. Highlights include shell, greenstone and ceramic ornaments, huge canoes and stunning god images . The exhibition draws from rich historic ethnographic collections dating from the 18th century to the present, and includes seminal works produced by contemporary artists exploring history, identity and climate change.

For more information visit the website of the Royal Academy of Arts, London.

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