More Oceanic Art

Here are some more photos from a recent visit to The National Museum of Scotland.

Ceremonial Adze from HawaiiCeremonial Adze

First up, a close up of the decorative figure carved into the handle of this adze or ‘Toki Poutangata’.

The carved handle would be lashed to a sacred blade made from Pounamu (Greenstone) or Argillite (a type of basalt).

The adze would have belonged to a  person of ‘Mana’ — someone of great importance, probably a chief.#

The adze would to begin an important project such as the carving of  a new canoe or a post for the meeting house.

When the owner died, the handle would be buried with him and the sacred blade passed to an heir, to be lashed to a new handle.
See more examples of ceremonial adzes here

A Papuan shield decorated with an ancestor faceA tall New Briatain shield made from planks bound together

War Shields

On the left you can see a Papua New Guinea shield and on the right, one from New Britain. Both shields are decorated and the colours would have originally been quite bright. The colours and designs were intended to distract and intimidate enemies.

The New Guinea shield may be a ceremonial one used to decorate the men’s house or in ritual dances rather than in battle as it does not protect the whole body. The New Britain shield on the other hand is almost as high as a man and would have covered the warriors body while he advanced sideways, armed with a spear or bow.
See more shields at the British Museum

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Art from Oceania

A carved wooden figure from Easter islandHi All,
just got back from visiting friends in Edinburgh. While we were there, we went to the National Museum of Scotland , planning to learn a bit more of the history of the charming city of Edinburgh.

As soon as we got through the door though, we noticed that there was a collection of Oceanic art in a section called ‘Facing the Sea’ so Scottish history went out the window…sorry Scotland!

The photos aren’t great as I wasn’t expecting to find this stuff in a museum of Scotland so I didn’t have a camera with me and took them on my phone…

First up was this Easter Island figure which I recognised from the work of some of the Tiki carvers I’ve been following.

I don’t know if it served any function other than as an ornament, I guess it could be an Ancestor figure. It’s made of wood and inlaid with obsidian.

There were loads of interesting videos and stories accompanying the artefacts in the museum and I really recommend a visit if you’re around those parts.

The sea dominates island life and provides a lot of the materials that are used for food, clothing and tools. For instance, a nautilus shell was commonly used as a bail for canoes, sharks teeth are used for knives and weapons and shells were used as money and jewelry on some islands.

Every day objects were routinely decorated and if they were to be used in ceremonies or rituals, the designs could be very intricate.

This is  a detail of a feast bowl from the Marquesan islands. It’s hard to understand the scale from a photo but the fine detail is very impressive, especially when you consider it was probably done with animal teeth or sharpened shells rather than metal tools…

A Papua New Guinea dance maskNext door to the Facing the Sea room was a collection called ‘Performance and Lives’ which displayed ritual objects from many different cultures and countries.

Included was this Papua New Guinea mask in  a style that I haven’t seen before. The museum aren’t sure which region or tribe it comes from. It was probably worn during ceremonial dances to represent the role of an ancestor spirit.

Equally important in rituals and dances were drums like the one below. As usual this drum is highly decorated with interlocking spiral patterns and representations of spirits.

I plan to make one of these sometime…

thanks for looking!

Papua New Guinea Comb Print

hi all,
here’s a new Giclee print I finally got round to listing in my shop. It’s based on a sketch of an ornamental comb.

decorative Papua New Guinea CombThe comb may have be used as a household object and many everyday items in New Guinea are decorated or customised with patterns or anthropomorphic representations of ancestor figures but it’s equally likely that this was a ceremonial object and may have been used for magic purposes.

Sometimes the tribes warriors would wear a comb decorated with an ancestral figure before battle in order to draw magic powers from the ancestors before going into battle.

In any case it made a good subject for a drawing which I then inked, scanned and coloured digitally.

Thanks for looking!