Pacific Studies Initiative Syllabi & Bibliographies



Syllabi & Bibliographies

Internet Resources

Tradition and Change in Pacific Art

Department of Art History
The University of Auckland

Lecturer: Caroline Vercoe
Department of Art History
University of Auckland

Kia ora koutou, Talofa lava, Malo e lelei, Ni sa bula,

Kia orana, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Greetings.

Welcome to 114.107: Tradition and Change in Pacific Art

This course provides an introduction to a wide range of Pacific art both object and performance based, their origins, histories, interconnections and social functioning.

Topics covered in the course include tapa, tivaevae, dance, tatau and other forms of body adornment. The course seeks to position these art forms firmly within an art historical discipline. Issues such as gender divisions in Pacific art and the effects of tourism on Pacific art will also be considered.

In all living and evolving cultures, change, adaptation and experimentation are both natural and necessary.

Vilsoni Tausie writes:
"The word traditional has often been misleading and confusing. It connotes a static and fossilised art form, unchanged and unaffected, come what may, over the years. This is not true for what may be traditional today, may not necessarily be tomorrow. Societies change, and so must their arts, if they are to be meaningful, functional and express the sentiment inherent in that society. This is not a radical and complete break from the past, but rather a compatible and gradual modification to suit the new values, identities and concerns of that society."

Art in the New Pacific. Fiji: Institute of Pacific Studies, 1979, p viii.

'Tradition' can connote a fixed or static state, in which change is not encouraged and repetition is typical. This unfortunate reading of the traditional often works to create boundaries and barriers for Pacific artists. There exists an unfortunate gap between the traditional (as past and old) and the contemporary (as present and new). The constant classing of Pacific art forms as traditional only, discounts the innovative and creative work that has been going on within traditionally conceived art forms such as weaving, carving, dance and body adornment.

This course seeks to break with the idea of traditional as rigid and unchanging, and to embrace an approach in Pacific art practise which blends the traditional with the contemporary.

Class Sessions:
2 lectures and 1 tutorial per week.
All students are encouraged to attend tutorials regularly.

Selected Reading:
Neich, Roger and Mick Pendergrast. Pacific Tapa. Auckland: David Bateman, 1997.

Tausie, Vilsoni. Art in the New Pacific. Fiji: Institute of Pacific Studies, 1981.

Te Awekotuku, Ngahuia. Mana Wahine Maori: Selected Writings on Maori Women's Art. Culture and Politics. Auckland: New Women's Press, 1991.

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

Trask, Haunani-Kay. From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii. Maine: Common Courage Press, 1992.

Art in Asia Pacific.
The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs

Tradition and Change in Pacific Art
Lecture Outline

Lecture Times:
Tuesday 2 pm
Thursday 2 pm

Week beginning:

1 March
Introduction: Notions of cultural and art historical significance
Gender divisions in Pacific art
8 March
15 March
Weaving. Guest speaker
22 March
In the Continuum: Artists reworking Notions of the Traditional and Contemporary
29 March
Sculpture and Carving
Sculpture and Carving: focus on Aotearoa


19 April
Sculpture and Carving: focus on Hawai'i
Sculpture and Carving: focus on Melanesia
26 April
In the Continuum: Artists reworking Notions of the Traditional and Contemporary
3 May
In the Continuum: Focus on Melanesia
Body Adornment
10 May
Dance and Performance. Guest speaker
Body Adornment: focus on Melanesia
17 May
Body Adornment: focus on Aotearoa. Guest lecturer: Ngarino Ellis
24 May
Tatau: focus on Samoa
Tourism and its effects and implications on Pacific art.
31 May

Please note that lecture topics may be subject to change.

Additional handouts and slide lists will be given out in lectures and tutorials.

Tutorial Programme

Tutorials will be held weekly and al/students are encouraged to attend.

Please note there are no tutorials in the first week of classes.

The tutorial programme is a course of study designed to be complementary to the lecture programme and of equal importance. It allows students to discuss the material and ideas presented in lectures. Students are encouraged to treat the tutorials as a forum for discussion of problems they may encounter in their readings and research.

Tutorial times:
Tuesday 3 pm
Tuesday 4 pm
Thursday 3 pm

Week beginning:

8 March:
Elam fine arts library trip
15 March:
Visit to Fale Sa. An exhibition by Ioane Ioane. Auckland Art Gallery
22 March:
Tivaevae: "My Little Art of Tivaevae" (video)
29 March:
Ways of looking at and writing about Pacific art


19 April:
Revision: photo question preparation
26 April:
Notions of the traditional and contemporary
3 May:
Visit to Auckland Museum
l0 May:
Body adornment
17 May:
Revision - photo question preparation
24 May:
Cultural Centres
31 May:
Revision: exam preparation

Essay Questions

Assessment for 114.107 during the semester is on the basis of one test valued at 20% and one essay valued at 30%. Your final mark consists of course work 50% and exam 50%, though if the examination percentage is higher than the course work 50%, exam 50%, the final grade will be the examination percentage.

Due date: Thursday 20th May
Mark value: 30%
Word length: 1,500 words. Select one of the following questions:

1. Many writers have alluded to the problematic implications of notions of the traditional and the contemporary. Art forms produced within the Pacific often blend both traditional and contemporary references to create works within a continuum. Using specific examples to illustrate your ideas, discuss the ways in which one of the following Pacific art forms reflects this practice.

a) tapa
b) tivaevae
c) weaving
d) sculpture and/or carving

2. Adornment plays a vital role in many rituals and ceremonies within the Pacific. It can connote one's rank, ancestry and affiliation with particular groups. It also features within celebrations and times of mourning. Focusing on specific examples, discuss the importance of body adornment within the Pacific.

3. "Dancing does not involve the hands and the legs alone, rather it involves the mind, the heart and the soul. And this is the beauty of it all. The gracefulness of the hand and head movements, the skill and talent involved in the leg movements and the swaying of the hips are all visible manifestations of an artistic and creative heritage."
Vilsoni Tausie. "Creative Expression and Pacific Awareness" in Pacific Perspective. Vol 7, #12, 1987, p6.

Discuss this statement focusing on specific examples of Pacific dance.

4. Choose a particular museum display or art form produced within the Pacific, currently on exhibition in a local museum, and discuss both its cultural significance and the way that it has been displayed.

5. Are all the implications of tourism negative? Focusing on specific examples, discuss the effects of tourism on Pacific art and culture.



Neich, Roger and Mick Pendergrast. Pacific Tapa. Auckland: David Bateman, 1997.

Tausie, Vilsoni. Art in the New Pacific. Fiji: Institute of Pacific Studies, 1981.

Te Awekotuku, Ngahuia. Mana Wahine Maori: Selected Writings on Maori Women's Art, Culture and Politics. Auckland: New Women's Press, 1991.

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

Trask, Haunani-Kay. From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii. Maine: Common Courage Press, 1992.


Art in AsiaPacific
The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs.
Pacific Perspectives


Barrow, Terence. Art and Life in Polynesia, A.H. and A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1972

Bellwood, Peter. The Polynesians: Prehistory of an Island People, Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1978

Beran, Harry. Betel-Chewing Equipment of East New Guinea. Great Britain: Shire Ethnology. 1988.

Brake, Brian, James McNeish and David Simmons. Art of the Pacific, OUP, 1979

Buck, Peter. 'Arts and Crafts of Hawaii', Bishop Museum Bulletin, No. 45,Honolulu 1964

Buck, Peter. 'Samoan Material Culture', Bishop Museum Bulletin, No. 75, Honolulu 1930

Caruana, Wally. Aboriginal Art, Australia: Thames and Hudson, 1993

Cochrane-Simons, Susan (ed)., Stevenson Hugh. Luk luk Gen! Look Again Perc Tucker, Regional Gallery, Sydney 1990

Craig, Barry. Art and Decoration of Central New Guinea. Great Britain, Shire Ethnography, 1988.

D'Alleva, Anne. Art of the Pacific. London: Everyman Art Library, 1998.

Davidson, Jane. Traditional Arts of Pacific Island Women, Museum of New Zealand, 1993

Dark, P. J. C. Development of the Arts in the Pacific, Pacific Arts Association, 1984

Dark P. J. C. and Rose, R. G, (ed). Artistic Heritage in a Changing Pacific, University of Hawaii Press, 1993

Emory, K.P. Origin of the Hawaiians, J.P.S. 68 29 35, 1959

Hammond, Joyce. Tifaifai and Quilts of Polynesia, University of Hawaii Press, 1986.

Hanson, Allan and Louise (ed). Art and Identity in Oceania, University of Hawaii Press, 1990

Hardy, Jane, Megaw, J. V.S, and Megaw, M. Ruth, (ed). The Heritage of Namatjira. The Watercolourists of Central Australia, Australia: William Heinemann, 1992

Hereniko, Patricia. Pacific Artists, University of South Pacific, Suva 1986

Jennings, J.D. (ed). The Prehistory of Polynesia. Harvard University Press, 1976

Jonassen, Jon. Cook Islands Drums. Cook Islands: Ministry of Cultural Development, 1991.

Kaeppler, Adrienne. Artificial Curiosities: An Exposition of Native Manufactures, Bishop Museum Press, 1978

Kaeppler, Adrienne. Poetry in Motion: Studies of Tongan Dance. Tonga: Vava'u Press, 1993.

Kirch, P. Feathered Gods and Fishhooks, University of Hawaii Press, 1985

Kirch, P. 'Lapitoid Settlements of Futuna and Alofi Western Polynesia', Archaeology in Oceania, 1981

Kooijman, Simon. 'Tapa in Polynesia', Bishop Museum Bulletin, No. 234, Honolulu 1972

Kooijman, Simon. Tapa in Polynesia, Hawaii: Bishop Museum Press, 1972.

McLean, Mervyn. Supplement: An Annotated Bibliography of Oceanic Music and Dance. Auckland, The Polynesian Society (Inc), 1981.

Mead, Sidney (ed). Exploring the Visual Art of Oceania, University of Hawaii Press 1979

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Mead, Birks, Shaw. 'The Lapita Style of Fiji and its Associations', Memoir Supplement JPS 82 (3, 4)

Moore, Albert C. Arts in the Religions of the Pacific: Symbols of Life, London: Pinter Publishers, 1995

Neich, Roger. Material Culture of Western Samoa: Persistence and Change. Wellington: National Museum of New Zealand, 1985.

Pritchard, Mary J. 'Siapo', American Samoa Council on Culture 1984

Skinner, Henry Devenish. Comparatively Speaking: Studies in Pacific Material Culture, University of Otago Press,, pp. 27-44

Spriggs, M. 'The Lapita Cultural Complex: Origins, Distribution, Contemporaries and Successors', Journal of Pacific History 19, 1984, pp. 202-23

Stagner, Ishmael. Hula! Hawaii: Institute for Polynesian Studies, 1985.

St. Cartmail, Keith. The Art of Tonga: Ko E Ngaahi'aati'o Tonga. Nelson: Craig Potton Publishers, 1997.

Tausie (Hereniko) Vilsoni. Art in the New Pacific, Institute of Pacific Studies, 1979.

Thomas, Nicholas. Entangled Objects, Harvard University Press, 1991.

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

Trask, Haunani-Kay. From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai'i, Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1993


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Te Awekotuku, Ngahuia. Mana Wahine Maori, New Women's Press, 1991

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Maori Art of New Zealand, Wellington, Reed, 1972, pp. 71-84
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'Art in Pre-pakeha Times', Ibid., pp. 24-26
'The European Impact', Ibid, pp. 28-29
'The Influence of Te Kooti on Maori Art', Ibid., pp. 26-28
'The Rotorua School of Maori Arts and Crafts', Ibid., pp. 28-30
'Traditional Art in Today's Society', Ibid., pp. 26-28
'Bi-cultural Artists and the Modern Community', Ibid., pp. 27-29
'Maori Art Styles Become Individualised', Ibid., pp. 26-28
'Maori Statements in a European Idiom', Ibid., pp. 28-29
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[Subject: Art; Pacific/Comparative]

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