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!


Fisherman’s God

Hi all,

here’s my attempt at carving a Fisherman’s god or ‘Tang’ as Tiki fans like to call them. This is a bit of a classic Tiki carving which has been done by many carvers in the past and is regularly the basis of Tiki mugs and artworks.

You can even see it on the cover of The Future Sound of London‘s Single ‘Papua New Guinea’ even though the fisherman’s god is actually from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.

This is the first Tiki I’ve carved that is a direct copy of a real sculpture. Normally I take an influence from here and there and try to put my own spin on it. This was more difficult as there was no room for improvisation.

Mine’s anatomically correct unlike some that suffered at the hands of the missionaries that collected them…

Thanks for looking!

Fijian ‘Cannibal’ Fork

Hi all,

carved wooden cannibal fork with incised patternshere is a newish carving of a ‘cannibal’ fork. These forks were originally used to feed tribal chiefs and holy men who were not allowed to touch food.

Cutlery was not used in ancient Fiji but these forks would be used in ceremonial feasts. An attendant would feed important members of the tribe for whom touching food was Tapu.

Although cannibalism was part of Fijian culture for centuries, it is not clear that these forks were reserved only for human flesh, as all food was subject to spiritual restrictions.

Modern anthropologists consider the reputation  of these forks to be exaggerated, initially by missionaries eager to justify their work with tales of ‘savage’ natives in need of Christian guidance and later by the Fijian artists who quickly realised that they could sell more forks to tourists and collectors if they gave their work a macabre back story.

Artist Alana Jelinek investigates the myths in her Tall Stories: Cannibal Forks art project although you can see from this cannibal fork auction that these artefacts have lost none of their exotic appeal…

Read more about making a cannibal fork at the Aretactual Blog