Oceania at the RA


Here are some pictures from my visit(s) to the Oceania show at the Royal Academy.  The show marks 250 years since captain Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific.

a stylised human head holding a bird

The show is arranged in themes. The Nguzunguzu carving above is a canoe figurehead from the Solomon Islands which features in the first room along with canoes, paddles, maps and other voyaging art and objects.

There were some familiar works like the Papua New Guinea flute stopper above left and some things I’d never seen before like the fantastic necklace made of whale’s teeth, above right.

There are works from many parts of Oceania, contrasting the different styles that have evolved in different islands and regions. The first crocodile above is a canoe prow carving from Papua New Guinea while the second is from the Solomon Islands.

Styles vary within a region, such as the gods Ku and Lono from Hawaii above left and center, and from region to region— like the Papua New Guinea ancestor figure on the right.

The show is on until the 10th December so  there’s still time to go, don’t miss it!


New Guinea Ancestor figure Carving

Hey all,

here’s a new carving, based on a Papua New Guinea ancestor figure. Crocodiles feature heavily in New Guinea art and are considered to be important spirit figures. Some tribes even celebrate a crocodile as the creator of their world.

I made this from a table leg I found outside, it’s Beech I think, about 28cm tall.

New Guinea Spirit Board

a relief carving with spiral designsHi All,

here are a couple of  relief carvings I made last year. They are based on Papua New Guinea Spirit boards and war shields.

Spirit boards or Gope boards are magical objects used in tribal rituals such as the initiation ceremonies of young men. Gope boards may also be used for protection from malevolent spirits and are even consulted on tribal matters such as warfare.

a relief carving featuring loops and roundelsThe carved designs represent ancestor spirits and it is believed that these spirits reside within the board. These spirits can give courage to the warrior who holds the board or shield and can even attack the enemy and sap his strength.

The boards are stored in the men’s house where they protect the sleeping warriors and are consulted about head hunting raids.

As with many other new Guinea objects, the boards serve a practical as well as a magical function. The elliptical style Gope boards are also used as shields for canoes during water based attacks.

The more rectangular shields are used in land based warfare involving spears, bone daggers and arrows.

Over time the shield is recharged through magic spells, rituals and repainting. These designs are carved into scrap wood I found and painted with acrylics.

Thanks for looking!