Oceania

Peoples of the Pacific Islands

Papua New Guinean Mask

Papua New Guinean Mask

Papua New Guinean Mask

Geographers argue about the boundaries of Oceania. This exhibition adopts the broadest definition—the vast expanse of ocean between the mainland of the Americas and the mainland of Asia. This huge territory includes not only the scattered islands of Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia but also Australia and the great island nations of Indonesia and the Philippines.

In the entire Pacific there is no country more diverse than Papua New Guinea, the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and the world’s second largest island. Papua New Guinea, with a population of just under 6 million, is home to 850 tribal groups who live scattered over rugged mountains and dense rainforests. Geographic isolation has preserved their unique languages and customs.

Most of the artifacts on display in this exhibition come from Papua New Guinea’s East Sepik Province, named for the Sepik River, one of the world’s largest waterways. These carvings and masks are made of wood, basketry, fiber, shell and feathers.

Balinese Rangda Mask

Balinese Rangda Mask

Balinese Rangda Mask

The Rangda mask from Bali is a main character in the Balinese Barong play which ritually enacts the battle between good and evil. Balinese believed that the masks were possessed by powerful forces. Rangda is the demon queen of the Leyaks in Bali, according to traditional Balinese mythology. The Barong-Rangda dance was a dangerous rite of exorcism until, in the 1930s, the German painter Walter Spies modified it into dance drama for tourists.

Phlippino Ifugao Tribal Figure

Phlippino Ifugao Tribal Figures

Philippino Ifugao Tribal Figures

Two Ifugao tribes people stand together, he wearing a rain cape and a feather headdress. The tribes of the northern Cordillera of Luzon in the Philippines are very distinct from each other. They are agricultural people who maintain the largest irrigated rice terraces in the world.

Papua New Guinean Basket Figure

Papua New Guinean Basket Figure

Papua New Guinean Basket Figure

Basket figure from East Sepik, Papua New Guinea.

The Navigators of the Pacific

Pacific Navigation Grid

Pacific Navigation Grid

Outrigger canoes carried people, livestock and supplies over the immense waters of the Pacific. The navigators of the Pacific could calculate their location by reading the patterns of the waves, patterns observed and recorded by generations of their ancestors and recorded in these wooden grids.

Mindanao

Maranao Sarimanok

Maranao Sarimanok

The Maranao, or “People of the Lake,” live in the region of Lake Lanao on Mindanao, the predominantly Muslim island at the southern end of the Philippine archipelago. In Maranao belief, this bird, the “sarimanok”, is a medium to the spirit world through an unseen twin spirit bird.

Palawan Basket

Palawan Basket

Palawan Basket

A four legged rattan basket with a square wooden base and shoulder straps from Palawan, the island in the far west of the Philippines that nearly touches the north end of Borneo.

Tapa cloth

Tapa Cloth

Tapa Cloth

Tapa cloth made from the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree. The strips of inner bark are beaten with a flat-faced wooden club against a resonant length of hardwood. The first beating expands the material some 6 to 8 times its former width and reduces it to tissue-paper thickness. Sheets of this material are carefully folded, wetted, unfolded, and placed one over the other. The double or triple thickness is then beaten again to “felt” it and make one sheet. In a similar way, these sheets are joined to other sheets to make a large piece of tapa.