Thursday, January 30, 2014

'Made in Oceania' exhibition at the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, Cologne, Germany

Last week, I was in Germany.  I had been invited to present a paper at the 'Made in Oceania' exhibition at the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne. 

This exhibition finishes on the 27th of April 2014 ... so if you are in Europe, and are interested in all things Pacific - this is a magnificent exhibition:

My presentation was scheduled straight after the symposium 'Made in Oceania, Social and Cultural Meaning, Conservation and Presentation of Oceanic Tapa'.  I was delighted to reconnect with curators and collectors that I had been in contact with over the years. Mark Nesbitt from Kew Gardens, Julie Adams who is now at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, Adrienne Kaeppler of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC and the collector Mark Blackburn.  By coincidence, we have even been able to identify another Pitcairn tapa in Germany ...

The previous post shows a YouTube video filmed by Simon Quintal of my presentation which was followed by a gallery talk at the area reserved for the Pitcairn tapa which was accompanied by the  lovely video made by Arthur and James Baysting, which was continually showed during the day.

The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum exhibited the Pitcairn tapa cloths in a Pacific context - where the Bounty narrative is usually placed in a European context.  Reworking this narrative in this way is an important step forward ...


You may wonder why we called this blog 'Tattoo and Tapa'. Tihoti's passion is design using the ancient symbols used by his tupuna or ancestors. Mine is the same, but applied on a different surface.

The designs used by Tahitians in 'tatau' (tattoo) often crossed over into the designs used in 'ahu (tapa) decoration. Some of the deep symbolism used in tatau today in Tahiti is lost, although Tihoti feels that by using nature as our inspiration we can come to understand these designs again, and from there evolve those designs beyond our misunderstandings. But that understanding has to come from a Polynesian perspective.

I am fascinated by the designs and colours used in the ancient 'ahu - everything was symbolic. Much of this knowledge is forgotten today: but not entirely. For me it has become an exhilarating adventure of rediscovery.