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…
Next 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!