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Welcome to the Fijian Art Research Project

Fijian Art: political power, sacred value, social transformation and collecting since the 18th century is an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) sponsored research project that is being jointly hosted by the Sainsbury Research Unit (SRU) at the University of East Anglia and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) at the University of Cambridge. The collaborative 3-year project, set to run from 1 May 2011 to 30 April 2014, aims to unlock the potential of the outstanding collections of Fijian art, material culture and associated photographs and archives held in museums in the United Kingdom and abroad. The bulk of these Fijian collections have never been displayed, nor have they ever been thoroughly researched or documented.

Fijian artworks are visually impressive and beautifully made; they include sculptures in wood and ivory, shell and ivory regalia, ritual equipment, weapons, pottery and large decorated textiles. Central to pre-Christian and post-conversion religious practices, and often heavily Tongan-influenced, many of these objects played an active role in British-Fijian relations because of their voyaging, missionary and colonial ties, resulting in significant collections being held in UK museums. The project’s most extensive collections-based research will be conducted at the MAA in Cambridge, which holds probably the most important collection of Fijian objects, outside of Fiji, in the world.

By collaborating with other museums, in particular the project’s nine official project partners, the dynamic diversity of Fijian art since the 18th century will be systematically researched, analysed, documented and identified. Other museums housing Fijian material will also participate in the project, as will the National Archives. These collaborative partnerships will allow Fijian collections to be made more accessible and also enhance existing museum records via expert identification and analysis.

Among the main objectives of the project is to contribute to significant knowledge-transfer by disseminating research results to the broadest range of academic and public audiences. This objective will be achieved through exhibitions, catalogues, publications, outreach programmes and conferences. The project's outputs will enable UK and overseas museums to display and interpret their Fijian material for the benefit of multiple stakeholders, including the British-Fijian communities in the United Kingdom as well as the global Fijian population.


Site designed by Katrina Talei Igglesden, Jeremy Bartholomew, Karen Jacobs and Steven Hooper at the Sainsbury Research Unit