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 staff members Steven Hooper and Karen Jacobs recently undertook a research visit to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to examine their collections. The Museum's Curator of World Cultures, Adam Jaffer, hosted the team's visit, and enabled Steven and Karen to see some truly unique artworks.
Foremost among these was a female matakau ancestor figure from the central highlands of Viti Levu. She is characteristically marked with pigment and wears both a liku and a necklace of shell beads. This figure was collected in Colo in 1878 by Herbert and Walter Chamberlain, the owners of a cotton plantation on Naitauba island in northern Lau.
Project staff recently undertook a research visit to the Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery to review thier little-publicised Fijian art collections and build working relationships wuith museum staff. The Museum's Curator of Human History Tabitha Cadbury and project researcher Andy Mills examined a number of very fine artworks, including barkcloths, fishing equipment, fine baskets, ceramics, musical instruments and weapons.
One star find of the visit was an exquisite bone-handled fly whisk, used by 19th century chiefs to emphasise their oratory. Another important discovery, which Andy intends to discuss at the conference of the Pacific Arts Association (Europe) in April 2014, was a unique forked longbow. This intriguing weapon retains its string and possesses formal features which suggest that we have long underestimated the sophistication of archery in Western Polynesia.
The Plymouth Museum, with the financial and advisory assistance of the Fijian Art project, will mount a temporary exhibition of their Fijian and other Western Polynesian collections, opening on Fiji Day (October 10th) 2015, and coinciding with England's hosting of the Rugby Union World Cup.
The 'Reviewer Meets Reviewed' event organised by the Museum Ethnographers Group (MEG) took place at the MAA last week on Friday 8 November 2013. The day started with a guided tour of the Chiefs & Governors: Art and Power in Fiji exhibition led by co-curators Anita Herle and Lucie Carreau. Following the tour, a discussion was lead by the MEG exhibition reviewer Catherine Cummings of the University of Exeter.
The project would like to thanks the Museum Ethnographers Group for a very rewarding and interesting day.
As part of the University of Cambridge's Festival of Ideas, MAA hosted a Fijian Day at the museum on Saturday 26 October. A family themed event, activities relating to Fijian art forms took place on all floors of the museum, including in the temporary exhibition gallery where Chiefs & Governors is currently showing.
During the day, visitors had the opportunity to learn how to weave by making a woven paper purse, learn about barkcloth decoration by making their own stencils and using pre-made rubbing boards and learn about breastplate construction and design by making their own breastplates. In the exhibition space, visitors also had the chance to handle Fijian objects from the museum's teaching collection.
Below are some photos from the fun-filled day!
A series of photos from the Fijian Day at MAA on 26 October 2013 (Photo: MAA, University of Cambridge).
Research Associate Andy Mills has been very busy in the last few months facilitating the realisation of several of the project's Exhibition Packages in smaller regional museums around the UK. As mentioned in a previous update, the Torquay Museum has recently opened an exhibition on Fiji (which will remain open until February 2014) and on 8 October, Andy visited Torquay to give a talk entitled Masterpieces from the South Pacific: The Visual Art of Fiji & its Neighbours. Part of a series hosted by the Torquay Museum Society, Andy gave the inaugral lecture of the Autumn Series. The audience, numbering about 80 in total, was extremely engaged and receptive and asked numerous incisive questions in the subsequent discussion period. Both the project and Andy would like to thank the Torquay Museum Society, its President Audrey Berrie and the Torquay Museum for inviting him to speak; it was a valuable and much enjoyed experience.
Later in the week, on 10 October, Andy visited Museums Sheffield where he met with Clare Starkie and Alan Silvester to record a short film on the Fijian collections housed at the museum, of which many objects were collected by Reverend J.S. Fordham of the Methodist Missionary Society. This short film, along with multiple objects and photographs, will make up both an online and in-museum exhibition. We are looking forward to facilitating the development of this Exhibition Package, which will come into realisation by early 2014. Many thanks to Clare and Alan for a productive visit and an enjoyable time.
On Monday 30 September 2013, High Commissioner Mr Solo Mara brought a delegation of special guests to view the exhibition at the MAA. In the UK on a very short visit, Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama visited Cambridge and showed great enthusiasm for the exhibition, the objects on display and the ongoing work that is being carried out by project members. After visiting the MAA last November when he met with Anita Herle and Lucie Carreau, it was a wonderful opportunity for the project to show the Prime Minister the results of the work that he witnessed being undertaken then.
MAA's photograph collection was something that the Prime Minister did not have the chance to see last year and he was delighted to see so many photos on show in the exhibition, almost all of which he studied intently.
It was a pleasure for project members to host this wonderful visit and all of the guests and we thank the High Commissioner for requesting and facilitating this visit.
The Torquay Museum, on 21 September 2013, opened an exhibition featuring its Fijian material. Helped by the Fijian Art Research Project, namely Andy Mills and Karen Jacobs, Far Side of the World: Torquay's Fijian Connection, is the first of the project's exhibition packages to be realised.
Curated by Mr Barry Chandler, Torquay's exhibition highlights aspects of Fijian art, society and culture using significant objects from their own collection, supplemented by historical photographs from the MAA. The museum's Fijian material was donated by three prominent members of colonial 19th century Fiji: Adolph Brewster Brewster, Arthur Hebden Ogilvie and the Honourable Charles Richard Swayne. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see adornments, weapons, tools, pottery, barkcloth, baskets and many more interesting objects until it closes on 22 February 2014. For more information on the exhibition and the museum, please visit their website.
As an additional supplement to the exhibition, Andy Mills will be giving a public lecture on Fijian art and culture on Tuesday 8 October 2013 at the Torquay Museum.
The project is very pleased that it was able to help Barry and the Torquay Museum realise this exhibition through our exhibition packages and wish them congratulations on its opening!
On Friday 30 August 2013, Vosa Vakaviti UK held a Fijian language and culture workshop in the courtyard at MAA. This was the third in a series of workshops which also saw Fijian specialists Tarisi Vunidilo and Dr Paul Geraghty visit the United Kingdom to teach Fijian children about Fijian language and culture. All three workshops were conceptualised and carried out by Ana Lavekau.
The first workshop took place at the Connaught Leisure Centre in Aldershot on 01 June 2013; it was there that Tarisi Vunidilo began to work with the children on aspects of the Fijian language such as letters and colours. On 27 July 2013, the second workshop took place at the Royal Military Academy Community Centre at Sandhurst, where Dr Paul Geraghty continued helping the children grasp the Fijian language.
We, at the Fijian Art Research Project, feel very privileged that Ana approached us to help with the third workshop as it was her goal to have both the children and their parents see the MAA exhibition Chiefs & Governors: Art and Power in Fiji. The workshop included a guided tour of the exhibition, a pottery lesson and, finally, a meke performance by the children for MAA's visitors and staff. The children learned a great deal in their pottery lesson with Ana and it was very refreshing to see the exhibition and the importance of Fijian objects and culture through their eyes when they were on their guided tours. At the end of the day, the children each received a certificate of participation for their hard work and efforts as well as a MAA goodie bag.
The workshop was a huge success and we thank Ana and Vosa Vakaviti UK immensely for wanting to include the project in their programme of events. It was a wonderful treat to have them come to see the exhibition and perform for us and we do hope that we can collaborate more in the future!
Below are some photos of the day, but for a wider range of pictures, please see the photo album on our facebook page.
The Pacific Arts Association (PAA) 11th International Symposium, 6-9 August 2013 at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) in Vancouver, Canada (3/9/2013)
All 6 core members of the Fijian Art Research Project were very privileged to attend the 11th International Symposium of the PAA in Vancouver at the beginning of August. The Pacific Arts Association was founded in 1974 and is an organisation devoted solely to the arts of Oceania. The conference was very interesting and allowed to the team to be both reunited with and introduced to colleagues from around the world who specialise in Pacific arts and culture.
Papers were given by each of the project members and it was an extremely valuable experience for all involved. The paper titles are as follows:
Presences and Absences (Lucie Carreau)
Chiefs and Governors: Displaying Colonial Relations (Anita Herle)
Uncharted Histories of Ivory-Carving Canoe Builders and Canoe-Building Ivory Carvers in Western Polynesia (Steven Hooper)
Patterns in Transition? Following the Path of Masi in Diasporic Fijian Communities through Contemporary 'Fashion' Statements (Katrina Igglesden)
My Liku-ed Beauty: Female Adornment in 19th Century Fiji (Karen Jacobs)
The Migration of Weapons, their Styles and their Makers: Some Interim Findings of the Fijian Art Research Project (Andy Mills)
The Fijian Art Research Project would like to thank the Musqueam Indian Band, the Museum of Anthropology and the Pacific Arts Association for welcoming us to Vancouver and hosting a wonderful and insightful conference.
The exhibition at MAA has been receiving attention in the press, both in the UK and abroad. Below are the articles/reviews that we know of thus far. The list will be added to as we find out more information. Please feel free to email the project if you see any pieces of publicity regarding the exhibition or the project itself.
Chiefs and Governors: Art and Power in Fiji (The Culture Trip - London, England)
Review: Chiefs and Governors: Art and Power in Fiji, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge (The Independent - London, England)
Fijian Art on Display in UK Exhibition (The Fiji Times - Suva, Fiji)
Last week saw the Fijian Art Research Project team and MAA receive visits from both the Fiji High Commission London and the incoming British High Commissioner to Fiji.
On Friday 21 June, First Secretary Mr Wainiu of the Fiji High Commission escorted Mr Sili Lomalagi, a senior official in the Fijian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to Cambridge to meet with team members Steven Hooper, Fergus Clunie, Anita Herle and Katrina Igglesden. Mr Lomalagi showed great interest in the exhibition and the narrative being explored via the assemblage of objects, photographs and archival material. He also expressed his support for the project as well as future endeavours such as the upcoming larger travelling exhibitions.
Incoming British High Commissioner to Fiji, Mr Roderick Drummond, and his wife visited the exhibition on Saturday 22 June and were hosted by project members Steven Hooper and Katrina Igglesden. The Drummonds' were keen to learn as much as possible about Fijian culture, customs and traditions before taking up residence in Suva in the summer. As with Mr Lomalagi, Mr Drummond showed his support and interest when learning about the future endeavours of the project, specifically the above mentioned exhibitions.
We are looking forward to keeping in touch with both Mr Lomalagi and Mr Drummond and thank them for enquiring about the project and visiting the exhibition.
Along with spending some time in the MAA stores, Tarisi Vunidilo and Sagale Buadromo also visited the British Museum stores to look at some of their Fijian material. On Friday 14 June, accompanied by Andy Mills, Tarisi and Sagale spent the day looking at the collections of two Governors, Allardyce and Gordon, and objects relating to Cakobau.
Sagale was especially interested in the Allardyce material as it was Sir William Lamond Allardyce who donated the objects that became the founding collection of the Fiji Museum to the Suva Town Board in 1904. Tarisi was interested in looking at the Gordon collection and how it related to material attributed to Cakobau.
Many thanks to the British Museum, and especially Jill Hasell, for hosting Tarisi and Sagale. They thoroughly enjoyed their time looking at the collections and have taken much valuable information back overseas with them.
On Thursday 13 June, Tarisi Vunidilo (Secretary-General, Pacific Islands Museums Association) and Sagale Buadromo (Director, Fiji Museum) visited MAA to have a closer look at some of the museum's Fijian material. In the UK for the opening of Chiefs & Governors: Art and Power in Fiji and also for the project's first symposium Researching Fijian Collections: Revealing & Developing Relationships, Past and Present, Tarisi and Sagale focused their research on some of the smaller pieces of masi that are housed at MAA. The majority looked at were either collected by Baron Anatole von Hugel during the 1870s or an unknown collector and most had a loose 'Fiji' provenance. Due to collections research visits already conducted by project members, some of the pieces can be given a stronger provenance as they are virtually identical in style to strongly provenanced pieces housed in the Fiji Museum. It turned out to be a very successful day as pieces which once belonged together were identified and important notes were made on design motifs and arrangement, thanks in part to the masi collections of G.K. Roth. A big thank you is owed to Lucie Carreau and MAA student Anna Merlini for accommodating this visit.
The Fijian Art Research Project's first symposium was held on 7-8 June 2013 at the McDonald Institute for Archaeology in Cambridge. A total of 18 papers were presented over the two day period with topics ranging from the Fijian collections housed in UK and overseas museums to specific object types such as liku and masi to overarching themes which discussed material embodiment and valuables. The project would like to thank all participants for attending and for contributing to interesting discussions raising thought-provoking points. A list of speakers and titles can be found on our Workshops & Conferences page.
The evening before the exhibition opened to the public, the Fijian Art Research Project and the MAA hosted a group of invited guests to partake in a private viewing of Chiefs & Governors: Art and Power in Fiji. The project team was very honoured and privileged to have the exhibition officially opened by His Excellency Mr Solo Mara, High Commissioner of the Republic of Fiji. HE Mr Mara attended the opening with his wife and the Fiji High Commission London staff, who were very kind to assist in providing the guests of the opening with meke and song performances as well as Fijian food. Ms Jane West of Tourism Fiji was also instrumental in assisting with the entertainment portion of the evening.
The exhibition was well received by those in attendance, including people of all ages, and we look forward to sharing the exhibition with patrons of the museum until 19 April 2014.
Our great thanks and appreciation goes to the High Commission, particularly HE Mr Mara and First Secretary Mr Wainiu, and Ms Jane West of Tourism Fiji for their support and enthiusiasm towards the project.
The Fijian Art Research Project is very proud to be hosting 'Researching Fijian Collections: Revealing & Developing Relationships, Past and Present' on 7-8 June 2013 at the MacDonald Institute for Archaeology, University of Cambridge.
Celebrating the arts of Fiji and Western Polynesian in conjunction with the exhibition 'Chiefs & Governors: Art and Power in Fiji', this symposium aims to bring together scholars, academic, students and art enthusiasts to discuss shared understandings and insights as well as highlight areas of difference.
For more information on the symposium, including the programme of events, please go to our workshops & conferences page.
Collections Research Visits Continue as the Project Prepares for the MAA Exhibition Opening (21/5/2013)
While the MAA based members of the project team are busily working on getting Chiefs & Governors: Art and Power in Fiji ready for its June opening, the project team in Norwich are continuing to make collections visits around the United Kingdom. All conducted within the last week, the first visit made was to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (Exeter) by Steven Hooper. Although only a one day visit, Steven managed to look at a variety of objects, in particular numerous tabua. Carrying on from Exeter, Steven was joined by Karen Jacobs where they spent two days examining the Fijian material in Torquay. Many interesting objects were seen including a liku and a handsome breastplate. Finally, Andy Mills and Katrina Igglesden travelled north to Glasgow where they spent some time at the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow. One of the high points of that visit was discovering 10 more Fijian spears than the museum originally thought they housed and also documenting some very fine pieces of barkcloth.
The team greatly thanks Tony Eccles (Exeter), Barry Chandler (Torquay) and Sally-Anne Coupar (Glasgow) for allowing us to visit and for being so hospitable. We look forward to working with each museum on individual and unique 'exhibition packages', which are one of the outputs of the Fijian Art Research Project.
Fijian Art Research Project Invited to Attend Tourism Fiji Event at the Fiji High Commission London (18/4/2013)
On 11 April 2013, members of the project team were invited by Ms Jane West of Tourism Fiji and His Excellency Mr Solo Mara, Fiji's High Commissioner to the UK, to take part in an event designed to promote Fijian culture, its people and Fiji as a tourist destination. As the project is working closely with the High Commission, His Excellency felt that the project's presence at such an event would help to promote the aims of the project as well as the upcoming exhibition Chiefs & Governors: Art and Power in Fiji. The day was spent with approximately 45+ national and international journalists and business representatives who were treated to Fijian delicacies, sigidrigi (singing), yaqona (kava) drinking and meke (dance) performances. Along with informing the journalists about the project and its future outputs, as well as being interviewed for promotional material, project members were able to connect with UK-based Fijians, some of whom are already involved in the project and others who we hope to see again in the near future.
Vinaka sara vakalevu for a wonderful day!
April has been a busy month for project members, attending two conferences relating to museums and pacific art.
Professor Steven hooper and Dr Karen Jacobs presented a short paper entitled 'Exhibition Packages' as a way for smaller museums to exhibit their collections at the annual Pacific Arts Association Europe conference, convened from 3-6 April. Held in Hildesheim, Germany, in conjunction with the Roemer-und Pelizaeus-Museum, Hooper and Jacobs had the opportunity to examine some of the museum's little-known collections including a fine piece of scrimshaw. As part of the conference excursions, they also had the chance to look at collections in Hannover at the Landesmuseum Hannover and at the Stadtisches Museum in Braunschweig.
About 10 days later, Dr Lucie Carreau gave a talk at the annual Museum Ethnographers Group conference, held in Brighton in association with the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery and the University of Brighton. The theme for this year's conference, held from 15-16 April, was Brave New Worlds - Transforming Museum Ethnography Through Technology; Carreau's paper drew on research she conducted in Fiji in August 2012, when she travelled to the Ra coast and to Ovalau to try to identify the geographical locations of some of Constance Gordon Cumming's watercolour paintings made between 1875 and 1877. The talk, titled Let your fingers do the walking: exploring Fijian landscape with an iPad, was very well received.
Many thanks to the organisers and institutions of both conferences for a fruitful and enriching experience.
Collections Research At The Horniman Museum, South London Reveals Little-Known Treasures from Western Polynesia (28/2/2013)
Fijian Art project staff recently visited the stores of the Horniman Museum in South London. Assisted there by the Keeper of Anthropology Robert Storrie and the project coordinator of the Horniman's Ethnography Re-Envisioned initiative Sarah Byrne, Steven Hooper, Andy Mills and Pacific artist Rosanna Raymond explored the holdings of the Horniman's stores in Greenwich.
Often overlooked due to the Museum's recent reputation as a collection of African art, the Horniman's Pacific collections are among the largest in the UK and of international significance. From the 1890s through to the beginning of World War Two, the influential British social anthropologists A.C. Haddon and H.S. Harrison played a central role in the Museum accumulating a strong and diverse collection of Pacific artworks from colonial administrators, prominent academics, smaller British museums and the vibrant London art market.
The Horniman's collections contain important Fijian, Samoan and Tongan material from well-known collectors such as James Edge-Partington, the Longuet-Higgins family of Turvey Abbey, Baron Anatole Von Hugel, and Sir Everard Im Thurn (the 9th colonial Governor of Fiji). The Horniman Museum and the Fijian Art project are currently developing a micro-exhibition collaboration which will see some of these Fijian masterpieces displayed in other venues around London as part of the Horniman's Objects in Focus scheme.