News and events that have passed will be archived here for future reference and will be available to view for the duration of the project.
Project Research Continues on Collections of Fijian Art at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (10/12/2012)
Project staff have continued to document important collections of Fijian art in UK museums, gaining new insights into the cultural heritage of Western Polynesia. MAA’s Lucie Carreau and the SRU’s Andy Mills recently paid a visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum to continue exploring the hidden treasures of Oxford University’s vast collections.
Although the objects that Andy and Lucie examined were mostly transferred to the Pitt Rivers Museum during the 1880s, many of these objects were previously in the private museum collection of General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers, or had been in the Ashmolean Museum for decades. Some of the greatest Fijian treasures in the Pitt Rivers Museum include objects collected in Tonga during the mid-1770s by the naturalists Johann and Georg Forster on James Cook’s 2nd and 3rd voyages of Pacific exploration. These are some of the oldest dateable Fijian artworks in existence.
During the visit, Andy also met with the Pitt Rivers Museum’s Jeremy Coote and Christopher Morton to discuss the mounting of a small exhibition package of early Fijian photographs from the Museum’s collections. As well as hoping to display little-known 19th-Century images from the founding collection, Chris and Jeremy intend to exhibit unique early 20th Century images of Lau and Colo from the anthropological fieldwork of the Oxford scholar Arthur Maurice Hocart.
workshop a great success (1-2/10/2012)
In association with the first London Pacific Fashion Show, Fijian Art research project staff Karen Jacobs and Katrina Talei Igglesden joined with artist, designer, performer and cultural educator Rosanna Raymond and a collective of Pacific fashion designers to mount an artist-led workshop. Within the space of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Rosanna and the team brought together couture talents such as Linda Lepou, Shona Tawhiao, Jeanine Clarkin, Natasha Lewis, Hupfeld Hoerder and Robert Kennedy, alongside a range of academics, museum curators and students of the arts. Following a research trip for the designers to examine collections at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and designer showcases on the first day, sessions on the second day focused in on barkcloth, weaving and patterns, allowing academics, museum professionals and artists to share their knowledge, concerns and findings to mutual benefit. The workshop's strength emerged from the spirit of sharing that developed between its diverse participants over the two days, and the team want to say a big thank you to everyone who got involved!
Fijian Art Research Project team undertakes a major research visit to Fiji, Australia and New Zealand (24/9/2012)
Several members of the project team visited Fiji, Australia and New Zealand this September, conducting research into museum collections and archives. From mid-August, Lucie Carreau was conducting research in Fiji, tracing the subject locations of watercolour landscape paintings made by Constance Gordon Cumming during the 1870s. In New Zealand, Steven Hooper spent the early part of September examining Western Polynesian collections at the Auckland War Memorial Museum with curator of Pacific material Fuli Pereira, and discussing the project with staff at the University of Auckland's Department of Pacific Studies.
In Fiji, Steven and Lucie were joined by Anita Herle, Karen Jacobs and Fiji's own Fergus Clunie. While Steven, Fergus and Karen focused their attentions on the unparalleled collections of the Fiji Museum with the assistance of Sagale Buadromo and her staff, Anita was particularly keen to also review rare documents in the National Archives of Fiji. The highlight of the team's visit was an audience with His Excellency, the President of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, to update him on the project's progress. The team had the rare honour of paying a visit to the historic chiefly island of Bau, realising an ambition that some had held for many years. During their time in Fiji, the team also discussed issues of Fijian heritage with representatives of the iTaukei Trust Fund Board.
The second half of September saw the team move on to Australia, where they examined the fine Fijian collections of the Australian Museum in Sydney and the University of Sydney's Macleay Museum. Much valuable research work was also conducted on the unique archival collections of the Mitchell Library.
On 28 July 2012, Dr Anita Herle and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology received a visit from the President of Fiji, His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, and the Fijian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Mr Solo Mara. Members of the project team were delighted to meet the President, in the United Kingdom for the Olympic Games, and his delegation and were greeted with much interest from the visiting group. With Dr Kate Pretty presiding as the representative of the Vice Chancellor of the University, the honoured guests were given a briefing of the Fijian Art Research Project as well as shown a number of the extraordinary Fijian objects in the museum's collection. During his visit, the President pledged the support of the Government of Fiji to the project and promised to keep in touch regarding the project's future endeavours. It was an exciting day for the project team and we are very honoured and privileged to have had this wonderful opportunity.
In other news, while work has been continually progressing at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, project members have also been focusing their research on overseas collections. Most recently, a trip was made to the Eastern United States where project members visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, New York), the American Museum of Natural History (New York, New York) and the Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, Massachusetts). The visit to Salem proved to be very exciting as material with early dates was looked at and documented. Project members also came across a unique Fijian canoe. Acquired by the museum in 1835, the canoe is distinct in that it may be the only one found in museum collections to have its front hull constructed using the planking technique and sewn together on the inside with coconut coir. Fine collections of liku were also seen in Salem; such objects are thought to have stopped being made in the 1880s, so it was extremely beneficial for the team to document and analyse examples from the early 19th century.
Members of the project team recently attended the Pacific Arts Association Europe annual conference, this year held in Munich from 28-30 June at the Staatliche Museum fur Volkerkunde.
As the theme of the conference was 'histories of collections', it was very interesting for the project team to attend and listen to the various papers and reports, as a large part of our work involves the history of the MAA's dynamic Fijian collections. Anita Herle and Lucie Carreau presented a paper entitled Chiefs and Governors: The History of MAA's Collections from Government House in Nasova, Levuka, Fiji (1875-present), which gave fascinating details on the contours of the collections as well as highlighted the ongoing revelations being made regarding collecting patterns and the understanding of Fijian regional styles. Steven Hooper, Karen Jacobs and Katrina Igglesden presented a short report to introduce the project to members of the PAA-E, many of whose museums hold significant Fijian material.
As part of the conference, we were very lucky to be able to visit the stores of the Staatliche Museum fur Volkerkunde and look at some of the Fijian objects in their collection. There was some very interesting material seen, especially some handsome clubs and kava bowls with early dates. Many thanks to Michaela Appel and the staff at the museum for allowing us to view and take photographs of their Fijian material.
The visit to Munich was a great success for the Fijian Art Research Project and we wish to thank the organisers of the conference, the host venue and the members of the Pacific Arts Association Europe for an engaging and interesting event.
The Fijian Art Research Project is extremely happy to announce that we have welcomed a new member to our core project personnel team. Dr Andy Mills, our new post-doctoral research associate based at the SRU, officially joined us this week. We are very pleased to have Andy on the team as he brings a vast amount of knowledge to the project which relates to Tongan art history, mainly focusing on weapons, with specific reference to the transnational activities of Tongan carvers (tufunga) in Fiji and Samoa.
Andy's general and specific research interests range from the cognitive anthropology of artefacts and the development of chronological analysis methods for ethnographic artefacts to the development of methods and theory in relation to the proportional analysis of ethnographic artefacts and methods of typological classification.
During his time on the project, Andy intends to focus on expanding his analytical approaches to explore the changing stylistic relationship between Fijian and Tongan weapons from a Fiji-centred perspective, as well as explore the stylistic relationships between Fijian and Tongan bowls, headrests, figures and other sculptural art works. This will ultimately lead to the production of a number of articles and a monograph over the next few years.
This latest update comes slowly on the heels of the last one, but we are very happy to report that as of 1 May 2012, the second year of our 3-year project has begun! We thank everybody involved for their support and interest and we look forward to sharing the results of our research throughout this upcoming year.
Project members have been very busy with different aspects of project work in the past month and have been making great progress with research over this time. Our participation at the MEG conference was very well-received; due to the interest in the papers presented, we will be posting summaries of each on the website in due course.
The project has been gaining new project associate museums over the past few months. We are very happy to be collaborating with such institutions and look forward to working with them more closely in the future. For more information on our project associate museums, and how to become one, please click here.
As mentioned, project members have been making progress with researching Fijian material. Most recently team members travelled to Germany where they visited Leipzig, Dresden and Berlin. The week-long research visit was very productive, with our team members being able to look at and document a vast number of objects from the 3 different museums. As our Arts of Fiji exhibition will be travelling to Bonn, Germany in 2015, this was a wonderful opportunity to see some of the objects that we may choose to showcase during such an exhibition. In addition to conducting research trips, we are also busy planning visits, both international and within the UK, that will take place over the summer and into the autumn. On the planning board right now is a trip to the eastern United States and a trip to Fiji. The research visit to Fiji will most likely take place in September and project members are looking forward to spending time working with the staff at the Fiji Museum.
Last, but certainly not least, MAA reopened its doors to the public on 25 May 2012. After 18 months of refurbishments, the galleries have been reopened and look absolutely fantastic! Our team members and their colleagues have done an incredible job and we are very proud of all of their efforts and hard work. There are quite a few Fijian objects displayed in the museum, both in the new temporary exhibition Gifts and Discoveries as well as in the World Anthropology gallery - so if you are in the area, be sure to pay them a visit!
The project team recently attended the 2012 Museum Ethnographers Group conference held at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh on 16-17 April.
While there, Lucie Carreau and Katrina Talei Igglesden gave a report on the Fijian Art Research Project's research objectives and progress to date. In the report we announced plans for forthcoming exhibitions which includes the creation of exhibition packages that will allow regional museums in the UK to mount Fiji-focused displays using text and illustrations prepared by the project and their own collections. Furthermore, we were able to announce plans for an upcoming curators' forum that will focus on Fijian and Pacific textiles that are housed in museum collections. Finalised details will be shared in due course and all curators dealing with such textiles are welcome to attend.
Professor Steven Hooper and Dr Anita Herle also presented a paper at the conference, which was entitled 'Exhibitions and Objects/People Without History: 'Fiji' and 'Fijian' History''. The presentation was extremely informative and allowed for some great discussion and dialogue in the following question period.
The project wishes to thank the organisers of the conference, as well as the host venue, for an interesting and engaging conference. We look forward to the 2013 event in Brighton.
The Fijian Art Research Project is continuing to gain momentum as we move into April and project members are hard at work visiting collections, planning exhibitions and coordinating exciting ventures for our second year of operation.
In February we announced that the project had launched a Facebook page and we are very happy to report that, as of last week, we reached our 100th fan. The number continues to rise and we thank everybody for their interest and support. One of the goals of the project is to disseminate our research to as wide of an audience as possible and we are very pleased and thankful to be reaching, and interacting with, so many people via Facebook. Vinaka sara vakalevu.
Exciting work continues at MAA, both with our project members and with the museum getting ready for its grand re-opening on 25 May 2012. The re-discovery of T.A.G. Strickland's unpublished manuscript, entitled Fiji Before the War (MAA, OA2/7/2), will be a valuable document for the project as it will help to shed some light on Strickland's collection of photographs from Fiji that are also housed at MAA. The manuscript, based on Strickland's visit to Fiji from 1926-1939, has now been photographed and excerpts of it have been used to corroborate some of Strickland's photos that we have posted on Facebook.
Also happening at MAA is yesterday's arrival of two visiting students, whom we are thrilled to welcome to the project. Rachael Murphy, a Masters student in Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies at the School of World Art Studies and Museology (University of East Anglia), will be helping Lucie Carreau with project work throughout the month of April. Also helping with the project is Alice Christophe, a Masters student with the Ecole de Louvre (Paris). Alice will be working with the project until the end of May.
In other news, project members made a few research visits in March. A trip to the British Museum was very productive as project members were able to view the missionary collections relating to Fiji that are held in the museum's stores as well as the collection of Sir William Allardyce, the 7th Governor of Fiji (1901-1902). An interesting discovery was made in that we found an object that once belonged to William 'Fiji' Wilson, a Wesleyan missionary who we mentioned in our last update (7/3/2012). Through learning of and reading Bradbury's book on Wilson we discovered that Wilson's diary is housed at the Derby Museum & Art Gallery, with whom we have been in contact and have kindly provided us with a transcript of the diary itself. Museum professionals in Derby did not know to what extent Wilson had collected while in Fiji or where the objects went, so they were very happy to learn that we had found one of his objects at the British Museum! A trip to Oxford in mid March led project members to the Bodleian Library, where we managed to have the opportunity to look at the only UK library-based copy of another previously mentioned book, Arthur J Webb's The History of Fiji, of which a privately owned copy was being auctioned in London in late March. Webb's book holds amazing photographs, some of which may not have ever been seen outside of this publication. Along with the photos are detailed descriptions of each photo, some of which dictate who is depicted in the photos and who they are related to in Fijian society. What valuable information! Webb's book indeed went up for auction on 27 March and fetched £5250 (inclusive of the buyer's premium).
Members of the Fijian Art Research Project team have been busily working on various project-related activities in the last few months and it is hard to believe that we are quickly approaching the end of our first year!
In addition to object-based research and research visits, project members will be presenting papers at two conferences this Spring. The first will occur in April at the Museum Ethnographer's Group annual conference, which is being held in Edinburgh at the National Museum of Scotland. The second conference is taking place in Munich at the end of June and is hosted by the Pacific Arts Association Europe. Project members are also planning to attend the next Pacific Arts Association International Symposium, which is being hosted by one of our project associate museums, the Museum of Anthropology (at the University of British Columbia) in Vancouver, Canada. It is scheduled for August 2013 and project members are currently in plans to host a half-day session on Fijian art and culture.
Planning for the MAA Fijian exhibition in 2013 is coming along well as are plans for the project's Arts of Fiji exhibition. A major exhibition centre in Bonn (Germany), the Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, has agreed to host a Fijian art exhibition from September 2015-January 2016. Discussions continue with at least two other venues.
We are very happy to report that graduate students at the SRU have shown a keen interest in Fijian art and culture and a number of students are conducting both course work and dissertation work on Fijian topics.
Finally, along with object-related research, project members have been finding new (and old!) and interesting books about Fiji. Ruth M Bradbury has authored and self-published (2010) a book about a missionary who spent 5 years serving in Fiji with his wife and children. Entitled Fiji Wilson: Wesleyan Missionary and Minister Fiji and Britain, Bradbury gives a narrative of Wilson's entire life, with a great amount of detail given to the years of 1854-59, in which he travelled all over Fiji preaching the word of God. Also, a tip provided by a colleague at one of the project's partner museums has led to the project team learning of a rare book on Fiji, which includes 36 albumen prints, being put up for auction at Bonhams on 27 March 2012. The History of Fiji by Arthur J Webb was published in 1885 by John Sands in Sydney. This particular book is a first edition copy and is estimated to reach a purchase price of £4000-£6000! For more information on the book and the auction, please visit: http://www.bonhams.com/eur/auction/20135/lot/90/
Exciting work is being undertaken at MAA in Cambridge! As the Museum approaches its re-opening date in Spring 2012, select Fijian objects are being conserved and mounted in order to be displayed in the 'Introduction to Anthropology' section of the museum galleries.
Lucie Carreau continues to conduct object-based research and has moved on to the many stone tools in MAA's Fijian collection. It's a large task and she is doing a great job!
As of today, the Fijian Art Research Project has a facebook page! We will be updating the page regularly and we are looking forward to sharing project news, photographs and stories.
To keep up to date with all of the project's latest news on facebook, and to 'like' us, please visit: www.facebook.com/fijianartproject
The Fijian Art Research Project team held its first meeting of 2012 yesterday at MAA. The day was divided between a very productive meeting concerning MAA's 2013 Fiji exhibition and some object-based research. Concentrating on models, three bure kalou (spirit houses), two bure (houses) and eight canoes were brought out from the stores for the occasion.
On 5 January 2012, Professor Hooper visited MAA to look at some of the Fijian objects that Dr Lucie Carreau and her project volunteers have been busy working with. Also at the museum were two international visitors, both of whom work with Fijian art and culture. Dr Paul Geraghty, a linguist, is an associate professor at the University of the South Pacific (Suva, Fiji) in the School of Language, Arts and Media. He has resided in Fiji for many decades and is fluent in standard Fijian (Bauan) as well as a number of other dialects. Dr Carol E Mayer is the head of the curatorial department at the Museum of Anthropology, a project associate museum of the project, in Vancouver, Canada. She has worked extensively with the Fiji Museum, both travelling to Fiji to conduct workshops and also having members of the Fiji Museum staff travel to Vancouver for work experience. Carol is also active within the Fijian community that resides in Vancouver.