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Envisioning the Pacific Islands: Indigenous, Colonial and Contemporary Arts

Art History 105G


Winter Quarter 2001

Professor Margaret Jolly

Office Hours: Friday 2-4, Porter College 205; 831-459-2085

Teaching Hours and Locale, Monday, Wednesday, Friday 12.30-1.40, Social Sciences Two, Building Room 75

Teaching Assistants: Pamela Kido and Heather Waldroup (All sections in Porter 248, Pamela on Monday, 2-3.10, 3.30-4.40, Heather Friday 11-12.10, 2-3.10)


This course will consider Indigenous and European arts and their entanglement in the colonial and contemporary visual cultures of the Pacific.  We will start by pondering  preliminary problems in conceptualizing art and visual culture in cross-cultural and historical context. We will also ponder changing conceptions of the place of the Pacific. We will then consider a range of indigenous arts and their transformations – tattooing and body arts; architecture, sculpture and masks; indigenous and introduced cloth. We will subsequently explore a range of European arts, engravings, drawings, paintings and photography which depict the Pacific. In looking at the mutual influence of Indigenous and European arts we will consider the consequences of colonial power, questions of appropriation in museum collecting and how commoditization has shaped contemporary arts in the Pacific. But we will also explore how contemporary Pacific arts embody cultural resistance and survival in the face of colonialism.



Evaluation (subject to discussion at the first lecture)


Attentive attendance is required at all lectures and sections. Students who miss lectures and sections and who do not submit papers by the deadlines below will be penalized unless there are compelling medical or personal reasons presented in writing.


First paper due week 5, Monday February 4 on topics 1-4, 6 pages 25%

Second essay due week 8, Monday February 25th, on topics 5-10, 6 pages 25%

Section Presentation (5-10 minutes) 15%

Final paper based on section presentation – Friday March 15th, 10 pages 35%

(or Final exam, scheduled Sunday March 17th, 4-7)


Required Reading


Thomas, Nicholas 1995. Oceanic Art. London: Thames and Hudson. Available at Literary Guillotine, 204 Locust Street, downtown Santa Cruz or Bay Tree book store. Course readings will also be distributed in lectures.


Core and Background Reading

The core reading listed for each week will form the basis of lectures and section discussions. The background reading is complementary and should provide the basis for essay questions.




Course Outline


1. ‘Art’ and ‘Visual Culture’ in the Pacific: Preliminary Problems, January 4, 7, 9, 11


We will focus on conceptualizing art and visual culture in the cross-cultural context of the Pacific. Where is the Pacific and how far are our imagined cartographies shaped by colonialism and tourism? We will consider debates about ‘art’ and ‘aesthetics’ as cross-cultural categories and the contested category of ‘primitive art’. We will ponder different approaches to art as representation or embodiment and efficacy. We will also explore gender and genre in indigenous, colonial and contemporary contexts, through a case study from Vanuatu. Finally, we will consider contexts of creation, circulation and reception, the challenges of evanescent arts and the politics of collecting.


Core Reading


Hau’ofa, Epeli 1994. Our Sea of Islands. The Contemporary Pacific 6(1):148-161.


Jolly, Margaret. 1996. European Perceptions of the Arts of Vanuatu: Engendering Colonial Interests. In J. Bonnemaison, K. Huffman, C. Kaufmann, D. Tryon (eds) Arts of Vanuatu, Bathurst: Crawford House Press, 264, 267-77. 


Thomas, Nicholas.  1995. Oceanic Art.  London: Thames and Hudson. Introduction.


Background Reading


Gell, Alfred 1998. Art and Agency. An Anthropological Theory. Clarendon Press, Oxford. Esp Chs 1, 2 and 6, esp. p. 90-95.


Morphy, Howard 1996. Aesthetics is a Cross-Cultural Category. In Tim Ingold (ed.) Key Debates in Anthropology. London and New York: Routledge, 255-260.


Price, Sally 1989. Primitive Art In Civilized Places. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Stephen, Ann (ed.) 1993. Pirating the Pacific: Images of Trade, Travel and Tourism. Sydney: Powerhouse Publishing.



2. Indigenous Arts of the Body: Tattooing and Self-Decoration, January 14, 16, 18


Tattooing in indigenous and European cultures. Gell’s theory of its distribution in the Pacific in relation to rank and gender. The problem of the ‘self’ in self decoration – Polynesia and the New Guinea Highlands compared. Tattooing and masculinity in Europe: the art of sailors. Missionary proscriptions and cultural revivals: ethnographic illusion in Flaherty’s film Moana.  Contemporary tattooing in Aotearoa New Zealand and Tahiti.




Core Reading


Thomas, Nicholas 1995. Oceanic Art. London: Thames and Hudson, esp p. 99-114.


Thomas, Nicholas 1997. Marked Men. Art Asia Pacific 13:66-73.



Background Reading


Gell, Alfred 1996. Wrapping in Images: Tattooing in Polynesia. Oxford: Clarendon Press.


Guest, Harriet 1992. Curiously Marked: Tattooing, Masculinity, and Nationality in Eighteenth Century British Perceptions of the South Pacific. In John Barrell (ed.) Painting and the Politics of Culture: New Essays on British Art, 1700-1850. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 101-134.


Strathern, Andrew and Marilyn. 1972. Self-decoration in Mount Hagen. London: Duckworth.



3. Indigenous Arts: Houses, Masks and Men January 23, 25


Continues the focus on indigenous art as embodied power through a study of Maori and Sepik architecture, sculpture and masking. Secrecy and sanctity in men’s art forms, the problem of ‘male cults’ and women’s relation to them.


Core Reading


Thomas, Nicholas. 1995. Oceanic Art.  Chapters One, Two, Five.


Background Reading


Bowden, Ross 1983. Yena: Art and Ceremony in a Sepik Society. Oxford: Pitt-Rivers Museum.


Forge, Anthony 1973. Style and Meaning in Sepik Art. In Anthony Forge (ed.) Primitive Art and Society. New York: Oxford University Press, 169-192.


Mackenzie, Maureen 1992. Androgynous Objects. Chur: Harwood Academic Publishers.



4. Indigenous Arts: Women and Cloth, January 28, 30, February 1


Across the Pacific women created cloth, beaten from bark (tapa) or woven and plaited from pandanus, flax or other fibers. From this, clothes, mats and baskets were created. We will consider the relation of the quotidian and the sacred, of male and female in cloth production and how far this can be seen as ‘women’s art’. We will also look at the introduction and transformation of imported cloth promoted by Christian missions and capitalist trade.



Core Reading


Thomas, Nicholas. 1995. Oceanic Art.  Chapters Five, Six.


Background Reading


Bolton, Lissant 1996.  Tahigogona’s Sisters: Women, Mats and Landscape on Ambae. In Arts of Vanuatu, edited by Joël Bonnemaison, Christian Kaufmann, Kirk Huffman, and Darrell Tryon. Bathurst: Crawford House Publishing, 112–119.


Hammond, Jane 1986. Tifaifai and Quilts of Polynesia. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.


Huffman, Kirk W. 1996  The “Decorated Cloth” from the “Island of Good Yams”: Barkcloth in Vanuatu, with Special Reference to Erromango. In Arts of Vanuatu, edited by Joël Bonnemaison, Christian Kaufmann, Kirk Huffman and Darrell Tryon. Bathurst: Crawford House Publishing, 129–140.


Jolly, Margaret 1992.  Banana Leaf Bundles and Skirts: A Pacific Penelope’s Web? In Tradition and History in Melanesian Anthropology, edited by James Carrier. Berkeley: University of California Press, 38–63.


Walter, Annie 1996.  The Feminine Art of Mat-Weaving on Pentecost. In Arts of Vanuatu, edited by Joël Bonnemaison, Christian Kaufmann, Kirk Huffman, and Darrell Tryon. Bathurst: Crawford House Publishing,100–109.


Weiner, Annette 1980.  Stability in Banana Leaves: Colonization and Women in Kiriwina, Trobriand Islands. In Women and Colonization, edited by Mona Etienne and Eleanor Leacock. New York: Praeger, 270–293.


Weiner, Annette 1989.  Why Cloth? Wealth, Gender and Power in Oceania. In Cloth and Human Experience, edited by Annette B Weiner and Jane Schneider. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 33–72.




5. European Visions of the Pacific: Portraits from Cook’s Voyages, February 4, 6, 8


Early European voyagers in the Pacific produced many images of Pacific peoples and places. We will focus on the artists of the Cook voyages – especially Hodges and Webber in the light of Bernard Smith’s arguments in European Vision. We will consider both textual and visual portraits of different Pacific peoples in the light of European art conventions and emergent racial typologies in the writing of Johann Reinhold Forster and his son Georg.





Core Reading


Jolly, Margaret 1992. “Ill-natured Comparisons”: Racism and Relativism in European Representations of ni-Vanuatu from Cook’s Second Voyage. History and Anthropology 5:331-363.


Smith, Bernard 1985 [1960]. European Vision and the South Pacific. Revised second edition. New York: Harper and Row, esp. Chapters 2, 3, 4, and 11.



Background Reading


Guest, Harriet 1989. The Great Distinction: Figures of the Exotic in the Work of William Hodges. Oxford Art Journal 12:36-58.


National Library of Australia. 2001. Cook and Omai: The Cult of the South Seas. Canberra: National Library of Australia.


Forster, John Reinold 1996 {1777]  Observations Made During a Voyage Round the World, on Physical Geography, Natural History and Ethic Philosophy. New Edition: Eds. Nicholas Thomas, Harriet Guest and Michael Dettelbach.  Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.



6. European Visions of the Pacific: Landscapes and Landings, February 11, 13, 15


We will look at the paintings of early European exploratory voyagers and especially Cook’s three voyages with a focus on landscape and landing pictures. We will ponder the relation between representations of familiar European landscape and the exotic places of the Pacific, and the connection between European painting and the colonial possession of places. We will consider comparisons between Australia and the Pacific.


Core Reading


Smith, Bernard 1985 [1960]. European Vision and the South Pacific. Revised second edition. New York: Harper and Row, esp. Chapters 2, 3, 4, and 7.


Background Reading


Smith, Bernard 1992.  Imagining the Pacific, In the Wake of the Cook Voyages.  Carlton: Melbourne University Press at the Miegunyah Press.


Thomas, Nicholas 1999. Possessions:Indigenous Art/Colonial Culture, Chapter Two.  London:Thames and Hudson.

  7. European Visions of the Pacific: Early Photographs and Films, February  20, 22

Europeans in the Pacific were early enthusiasts for photography. We will compare the photographic views of peoples and places taken by travellers, colonial officials, missionaries and anthropologists– considering the contexts of their creation and their relation with their subjects as well as the photographs themselves. We will compare the photographs of Australia and the Pacific in Portraits of Oceania (1997).


Core Reading


Art Gallery of NSW 1997. Portraits of Oceania. Essays by Annear, Croft, Cooper and Harris, Fox and Hayes and images p.37-112. Book on sale at Bookshop Santa Cruz.


Background Reading


Blanton, C. (ed.) Picturing Paradise: Colonial Photography of Samoa, 1875-1925. Daytona Beach: Southeast Museum of Photography.


Edwards, Elizabeth (eds) 1992. Anthropology and Photography, 1860-1920. New Haven: Yale University Press.


Poole, Deborah 1997. Vision, Race and Modernity: A Visual Economy of the Andean Image World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


Quanchi, Max (ed.) 1997.  Imaging, Representation and Photography of the Pacific Islands. Special issue of Pacific Studies, 20(4).




8. The Art of Gauguin: Some Recent Views, February 25, 27, March 1


We will look at Gauguin’s representations of Tahiti and the Marquesas, and especially his representations of women in the light of recent feminist interpretations by Pollock and Solomon-Godeau and Eisenman’s reinterpretations advanced in Gauguin’s Skirt (1997).



Core Reading


Jolly, Margaret 2000. Fraying Gauguin’s Skirt: Gender, Race and Liminality in Polynesia. In Pacific Studies 23(1-2):86-103


Solomon-Godeau, Abigail 1989. Going Native. Art in America July, 118-128, 161.






Background Reading


Clifford, James  1997.  “The mahu goes native. Sexist or subversive? Gauguin’s South Seas visions and renegade hybrid style.” Times Literary  Supplement, November 7.


Eisenman, Stephen F. 1997. Gauguin’s Skirt. London: Thames and Hudson


Gauguin, Paul 1957. Noa noa. Translated by O.F. Theis and Introduction by Alfred Werner. New York: vi-xiii, 12-93.


Perloff, Nancy 1995. Gauguin’s French Baggage: Decadence and Colonialism in Tahiti. In Elazar Barkan and Ronald Bush (eds) Prehistories of the Future: The Primitivist Project and the Culture of Modernism. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 226-269.


Pollock, Griselda 1992.  Avant-Garde Gambits 1888-1893. Gender and the Color of Art History. Walter Neurath Memorial Lecture 1992. New York: Thames and Hudson.


Thomson, Belinda 1987.  Gauguin. World of Art Series. London: Thames and Hudson.


Waldroup, Heather 1998. ‘Without Mythological or Allegorical Excuse’: Gauguin’s Representation of Tahitian Women in the Contact Zone. MA thesis, Department of Art History, Florida State University.



9. Contesting Colonialism in Contemporary Pacific Arts, March 4, 6, 8

  Many Pacific artists contest colonialism in their work – through overt challenges and subversive ironies. We will focus on artists from Aotearoa New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Hawai’i. We will look at a recent retrospective by Robin White and the relation of feminism and anticolonialism in her art. We will also consider look at a recent exhibition in Wellington, Techno-Maori.  

Core Reading


Thomas, Nicholas.  1995. Oceanic Art.  London: Thames and Hudson, Chapters Eight and Nine.


Thomas, Nicholas 1996. The dream of Joseph: debates about identity in Pacific art,  and From exhibit to exhibitionism: recent Polynesian presentations of ‘otherness’.The Contemporary Pacific 8:291-317, 319-348.


Background Reading


Dark, Philip J. C. and Roger G. Rose (eds) 1993. Artistic Heritage in a Changing Pacific. University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu. Esp. Chapters 6, 11,19, 22, 23.


Ihimaera, Witi (ed) and Sandy Adsett and Cliff Whiting (general editors) 1996. Mataora: The Living Face, Contemporary Maori Art. Auckland: David Bateman/Creative New Zealand.


Eyley, Claudia Pond and Robin White 1987. Twenty-Eight days in Kiribati. Auckland: New Women’s Press.


Simons, Susan and Hugh Stevenson 1991. Luk luk gen! Look again! Contemporary Art from Papua New Guinea. Townsville, Queensland: Perce Tucker Regional Gallery.


Thomas, Nicholas 1999. Possessions: Indigenous Art/Colonial Culture. London:Thames and Hudson.



10. Artistic Roots and Routes: Museums, Festivals and Tourism March 11, 13   Cultural festivals and museums are sites for regional and national celebrations of identity. But both are highly political sites. We will look especially at the political contests in museum display and compare the configuration of visual arts in contemporary museums in Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Aotearoa New Zealand. We will also consider the impact of tourism, especially in Hawai’i.  


Core Reading


Jolly, Margaret 2001. On the Edge: Deserts, Oceans, Islands. In Vicente Diaz and J. Kehaulani Kauanui (eds) Native Pacific Cultural Studies on the Edge. Special Issue. The Contemporary Pacific, Fall, 417-466.


Trask, Haunani-Kay 1993. Lovely Hula Hands. In From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignity in Hawai’i. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 179-197.


Stevenson, Karen 1993. The Museum as a Research Tool: A Tahitian Example. In Dark, Philip J. C. and Roger G. Rose (eds) 1993. Artistic Heritage in a Changing Pacific. University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, 74-83. 


Background Reading


Karp, Ivan and Steven D. Levine (eds) Exhibiting Cultures: the Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.


Desmond, Jane C. 1999. Staging Tourism: Bodies on Display from Waikiki to Sea World. Chicago:University of Chicago Press.



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