Monday, April 28, 2008

Tanes Easter Island


Easter Island, or Rapa Nui by the natives, situated in the southeast Pacific over 1,000 miles from the other islands of Eastern Polynesia and some 1,400 miles west of South America, is one of the most remote inhabited places in the world.

The art of Easter Island mostly
centers on the creation of religious images. The
most recognizable art form from Easter Island are
its colossal stone
figures, or moai, images of ancestral chiefs whose
supernatural power protected the community.Other art forms
on the island include
many depicting birdmen
and other
fantastic creatures,
(bottom left)
as well as a
variety of wooden
sculptures (left).
One type of
wooden image,
the naturalistic
male figures known
as moai tangata,
may depict family
ancestors.. With
their enlarged heads, frontal
orientation, prominent
stomachs, and arms
that extend down the
sides of their bodies, both types of image
embody a classically Polynesian conception of the human form.

Easter island cultural art is distinctively Polynesian,
as organic lines and shapes are dominant; possibly as
a reflection of the abundance of water and bountiful
nature of their land (island paradise!). 
The religious Birdman forms seen here employ
stark contrast as methods of standing out legibly from the rock (top right uses shadows). We can see there is rhythm flowing in the organic lines as they curve and
twist with no apparent straight edges.
Easter island native art stands out among the island crowds with their big stone moais, yet draw their art culture from much of the Polynesian art styles surrounding them, including Tahiti and the Cook Islands. The art
characteristically mirrors the organic beauty of
human and natural forms.

Easter Island art also includes barkcloth images, wooden
ornaments, and featherwork. Apart from the stone figures
and petroglyphs, virtually all surviving works from the
island date to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Leilani; Samoan ie-Toga


The term "fine mat" is not an accurate English translation for the word Ie-Toga, a most valued possession of the royal families of Samoa. The Ie-Toga is never used as a mat; it never was and it will never be, it is much too valuable. The wealth of the chief is measured according to the number of Ie-Togas he has and the history attached to each robe in his collection.

The Ie-Toga is woven by hand from cured leaves of the finest grade of the pandanus plant. Like siapo (bark cloth), the production of Ie-toga (fine mats) remains firmly within the domain of Samoan women. In fact, the Ie-toga is unequivocally the most culturally valued artistic product created in Samoa. To achieve the mat's incredible softness, women remove the dull underside of the leaf before plaiting, then use a double-layered weft technique to give a smooth finish to both sides. The production, use and exchange of all fine mats reinforce social position and gender roles, while allowing the artistic creativity of women to flourish.

Made and controlled by women, Ie-toga are given as gifts at events marking major life events (births, weddings, funerals, title taking). While lesser mats are also exchanged during these events, fine mats hold the most prestige. If fine mats are included in the gift exchange, it bestows great honour on the recipient, and increases the standing of the gift-giver. Ie-toga are quickly noticed and appreciated by event spectators. Women gesture gracefully during the presentation, signalling the mat's importance and bringing attention to its beauty.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Europe: Glass

Gold-glass alabastron, 1st century B.C.
Glass; H. 7 1/8 in. (18 cm)
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.194.286)

This vessel is made from alabaster, the soft, white, and see-through stone used in Egypt dating back 2000 B.C. to make bottles used to store the oils and perfumes. Over the next 2000 years the style became thin and beautiful. Except for the one-colour neck, the dark and light colours contrast and the shape of the bottle and swirl design give a flowing rhythm.

Gold-glass bottles, first half of 1st century A.D.
Glass; H. 2 15/16 in. (7.4 cm); H. 3 3/16 in. (8.1 cm)
Theodore M. Davis Collection, Bequest of Theodore M. Davis, 1915 (30.115.16)
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.194.259)

These Roman glass bottles of 50 AD were made to hold scented oils and perfumes. These bottles have thin necks and large rounded bottoms, vertical repeated line patterns are swirled and marbled with a shiny finish having eye-catching gold leaf inside the glass. This gold against the blue and earth coloured backgrounds adds to the texture.

Garland bowl, late 1st century B.C.–early 1st century A.D.; Augustan
Glass; H. 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm), Diam. 7 1/8 in. (18.1 cm)
Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891 (91.1.1402)

This wide circular Roman bowl is from between 1st C BC and 1st C AD and was cast using the three primary colours and a fourth section of translucent glass. This bowl is a rare example of one using large sections of coloured glass with melted on decoration. These decorations are four hanging bunches of millefiori glass which have been melted onto each of the four coloured sections. The colours are contrasting and in the quarters give a symmetry to the bowl. After this period the glass making technique evolved into glassblowing rather than casting.


Americas: Ceremonial Vessels

Pair of Figure Vessels, 12th–15th century
Mexico; Mixtec-Colima
Ceramic; H. 9 5/8 in. (24.4 cm)
Louis V. Bell Fund, 1993 (1993.16.1,2)

Around two thousand years ago in the west of Mexico people buried the dead with ceramic vessels in human and animal forms. The shape of these vessels is very complex and detailed. The patterns are mainly made up of lines and circles that are repeated. Later the style of these vessels became simpler but with many different colours and designs.

Vulture Vessel, 15th–early 16th century
Mexico; Aztec
Ceramic; H. 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm)
Gift of Carol R. Meyer, 1981 (1981.297)

Ceramic vessels were often made in the forms of animals and related to myths. Precolumbian people believed in the supernatural world, and birds were messengers which could bring messages from the supernatural world of the sun, moon and planets etc. to the world of the living. This vessel is in the shape of a bird with simple decoration
and interesting texture.
The vessel is well-balanced, with the lines of the wings matching the angles of the legs - and the chest of the bird is in the middle of the two legs. The shape is simpler than the earlier figure vessels of the 12th to 15th century. The smooth, shiny dark red and black surface contrasts with the rough, matte texture of the head and feet.

Jar with Ritual Scene, 15th century
Mexico; Mixtec/Nayarit
Ceramic; H. 10 1/2 in. (26.7 cm)
Purchase, Mary R. Morgan Gift, 1992 (1992.3)

A few centuries before the Spanish conquest vases of this style were made. They were ceremonial vessels large surfaces. These were decorated with red all over, including the neck, and complex designs of people in different positions in other colours with black outlines. The graphic designs and patterns are repetitious and this helps create unity and have become a lot more intricate than the earlier more simply decorated vessels. The shape of the vessel is simple compared to the earlier vessels.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

LEE: Hawaiian Tattooing

Tattoo’s are an integral part of Polynesian culture, and Hawaiian culture is no exception In regards to the importance of tattoos.

The process of tattooing was seen as an elaborate ritual that had to be respected.

When compared to today’s methods of tattooing old style Hawaiian methods seem primitive and dangerous. Using tools such as bird beaks, claws and fish bones the process was often painful and brought with it, a high risk of infection.

The sharp tool was dipped in a dye (made from burnt seed pods and sugarcane juice giving the dye a black inky look) and run over the body while being gently hit by a stick causing it to pierce the skin and depositing the dye under the skin.

The risk of getting a serious infection was usually dismissed as getting the tattoo was a very important part of the culture.

Unlike today where tattoos are more of a lifestyle decision, traditional Hawaiian tattoos on a mans body were used as signs of achievements or status. While women usually only had tattoos on places like hands, arms, feet, ears, tongue etc.

The design of Hawaiian tattoos traditionally were usually geometric is design with use of curved lines, circles and “pointy” like designs. This style of tattooing has heavily influenced modern tattooing with a popular style currently known as “tribal” that is quite commonly seen of football players and fitness buffs.

After European influences began the tattooing moved from abstract designs and began a more pictorial approach. Tattooing animals and objects onto themselves.


google images

Monday, April 7, 2008

Tracy Hurley: The Currency of Oceania

Tracy Hurley: The Currency of Oceania

The piece below is a currency piece called a women’s money brooche. It is an artifact from New Guinea. It has a reticulated stirling disk which holds a singular oceanic tribal currency shell. The shell itself is from the opening of a larger shell fish and acts as a door in the natural home of the creature.The silver disc may have been a modern inclusion, although the western visitors who originally visited the tribes did swap metal objects from Europe such as nails and trinkets which may have been fashioned into more intricate pieces by the natives. The background has been developed using traditional weaving techniques.

 brooches women's money brooche

 The piece below is similarly surrounded by reticulated sterling silver and sits on a modernist ground.

 brooches singular shell of women's money brooche

An unusual boar’s tusk pectoral from the Boiken culture of Papua New Guinea. With one full tusk lashed to the fiber center, several tusk fragments fill out this quirky asymmetrical Pendant. A broken bailer shell hold anchors a tiny nassa shell and a strand of white and red beads with a nice old cone shell at the end. Nassa shells embellish the braided fiber and it measures 4.5” in width and height. The tusks have a wonderful patina from age and wear.

Oceanic Art - Boar's tusk pectoral, Boiken, Papua New GuineaOceanic Art - Boar's tusk pectoral, Boiken, Papua New Guinea

A dramatic boar’s tusk pectoral from the Boiken culture of Papua New Guinea. Cassowary feathers anchor this fiber and nassa shell pectoral with five slivers of boar’s tusk lashed together, and two more tusks attached to the braided neck cord. Please see the finely woven pouch on the back that contains fragments of special shells or stone (, 2008)

 Oceanic Art - Boar's tusk pectoral, Amanab, Papua New GuineaOceanic Art - Feathered dance belt, Teptep, Papua New GuineaOceanic Art -  Shell currency with pouch, Massim, Papua New GuineaOceanic Art - Black-lipped kina shell necklace, West Sepik, Papua New Guinea $400

 Oceanic Art - Black-lipped kina shell necklace, Papua New GuineaOceanic Art -  Boar's tusk necklace, Massim, Papua New GuineaOceanic Art - Cassowary bone dagger, Abelam, Papua New Guinea

Above are a cluster of objects which are typical of the types of objects used in  Papua New Guinea as currency pre 20 Century.

Oceanic Art - Dog's teeth pectoral, Sassoya, Papua New Guinea

This triangular pectoral of dog's teeth and nassa shells is from the Sassoya area (Boiken culture) of Papua New Guinea. It measures 9" long and has 23" of woven string for the neck, not visible in photos. It hangs on a 6" hardwood stick. It was created in the early to mid-20th century.























Jamie: New Zealand Tattoo

The Maori people are the native indigenous people of New Zealand. They are believed to have lived their since 800 to about 1300AD. They are believed to have come in migration waves from Polynesia, in large ocean going canoes. One of their most idealistic and most recognisable attributes to their history is their traditional tattoo’s.

According to Maori mythology the idea of tattooing derives from an ancient story of love. The young man fights with the princess and she goes to her fathers heavens. The man, filled with guilt goes after the princess. After many trials and obstacles he reaches the fathers realm. His face paint being messed th
e family laugh at him. Then in his state he asks for forgiveness, she accepts and her father then offers to teach the man tattooing. Then after learning the art, he and his princess return as human, with his newly found tattooing skills.
Early Polynesia tattooing was done with bone, or ivory, tools and applied in a chiselling manner. The tattoo’s represented status and those without were considered to have no social class. The head was considered to be the most sacred part of the body and most respectful place to apply the fine art.
The process would begin with the firstly carving deep cuts into the face
 and then applying a deep pigmented soot, or burnt gum, into the face through tapping it into the skin. This process would be very time consuming.

The patterns each have their own meaning and styles. The face was usually divided into eight different sections, each having their own meaning. For men it could act like a passport almost
, showing their rank, lifestyle, marriage and birth status, as well as work.
The male facial tattoo also known as the ‘Moko’, the eight sections are:Ngakaipikirau (rank), The center forehead area
Ngunga (position), Around the brows
Uirere (Hapu rank), The eyes and nose area
Uma (first or second marriage), The temples
Raurau (signature), The area under the nose
Taiohou (work), The cheek area
Wairua (Mana), The chin

Taitoto (birth status), The jaw

The women weren’t as extensively tattooed as the men. Usually they would just get it applied 
to the upper and bottom lip. This ancient tradition has kept on even today in some New Zealanders, though the technique is obviously a lot different.


The Maori people along with many other Polynesian people believed that a persons life force or ‘mana’ is displayed through their tattoo.  The Ta moko a Maori form of facial tattoo was given to Maori tribesman to indicate their heritage, decent and status in the tribe.  They were also given to signify their exploits and great events in their lives.

 The Maori people were and still are renowned as master carvers and their magnificent wood and stone carvings have covered their totems, buildings, implements and jewellery for hundreds of years.  This carving skill was translated across into tattooing, with moko tattoos literally being carved into the skin with a chisel.  In early times the chisels used were crafted from bone and the blade was quite wide. This supports the fact that early moko designs were quite rectilinear in pattern. However as the art progressed the patterns became more spiral and curvilinear.  These spiral designs have become a major part of what the Maori people are recognized for.

Maori tattoo art has set itself aside from tattooing in the traditional sense due to the fact that Maori tattoos are carved into the skin rather than being punctured.  This slow and painful process gives the tattoo a unique look that you are unable to achieve with a needle.

Maori tattoos have made somewhat of a renaissance in recent years, with the tribal style of tattooing becoming increasingly popular.  However, it is never ok to use a moko pattern for your own design, as they are individual to a Maori person and to replicate them is the ultimate form of plagiary and a direct insult to Maori people.