Solomons art coming to Waikato Museum
Waikato Museum will soon be exhibiting a series of artifacts collected by Sir Hirini Moko Mead in the south eastern Solomon Islands in 1973.
Waikato Museum will soon be exhibiting a series of artefacts collected by Sir Hirini Moko Mead in south eastern Solomon Islands in 1973.
The exhibition, Searching for Karemanua, contains 24 wooden pieces including figurines, eating and sacrifice bowls, and carved house posts.
Moko Mead is an artist, anthropologist and Maori leader.
The curator of the exhibition Dr Daniel Morrow spoke with Esther Zweifel about Moko Mead's trip to the Solomon Islands in the 1970s.
DANIEL MORROW: He was doing some research as part of a study he was doing about material culture on the Solomon Islands and he was doing that in association with the Auckland Museum. He was actually living overseas at the time at a university in Canada. He was doing a fellowship there and he won a grant that enabled him to do some field work in the Solomon Islands in 1973 and he was then approached by Ken Gorbey the director of the Waikato Museum and he was asked to collect the artifacts on behalf of the museum, which then had yet to open its doors and Ken Gorbey was looking to build the Oceanic collection of the museum.
ESTHER ZWEIFEL: Did the artifacts and the art of the Solomon Islands stand out to Ken Gorbey in any particular manner?
DM: I mean from what I've been able to gather we sort of didn't know what we were getting until Mead brought them back. What's distinctive about most of the objects is some of them are traditional artifacts but the majority of them are actually artworks that were produced during the 1960s and 1970s for sale to visitors from the Solomon Islands.
EZ: Okay, so if you could describe to me what sort of artifacts they were and which ones were for visitors?
DM: So the ones that were produced for visitors to purchase which are called roughly "new artworks" tend to be small figurines depicting people and also using animals and motifs from the traditional culture. They're made out of wood that's been stained black and a distinctive feature of them is the use of nautilus shells to accentuate features of the carving, particularly eyes.
EZ: Was it unusual that the Solomon Islands were producing artifacts for visitors at that time?
DM: No, I mean it's something that's pretty common in countries that are undergoing modernisation or infiltration of the cash economy, which was happening around that time in the Solomon Islands.
EZ: What have they been doing since 1973, have they just been in the archives?
DM: Yeah, they've been in our museum and they've actually been on display several times throughout the years but this is the first time we've had them out for maybe five years or so at least.
EZ: What role has Dr Hirini Moko Mead had in advising you on this exhibition?
DM: He gave us some help, particularly with responding to inquiries about the nature of his trip to the Solomons and he also gave some interesting information about how he acquired the items whilst he was in the country.
EZ: Can you tell me more about what you mean by how he acquired the artifacts?
DM: Well I mean, he explained the process of how people in the Solomon Islands would lay out the carvings on the beach for visitors to look and sort of contextualised that for us.
The exhibition will run in Hamilton from October 22nd until February next year.
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