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Art traditions of Polynesia deserve wider audience

Media release for immediate use: 29 June 2006

Great art traditions of Polynesia deserve a wider audience

Polynesian art is one of the great but little known art traditions of the world and deserves a wider audience, according to Dr Steven Hooper author of a book published by Te Papa Press this week.

Dr Hooper has spent the past three decades researching Polynesian art and anthropology to produce the most comprehensive study of Pacific art ever published. Pacific Encounters: Art and divinity in Polynesia 1760-1860 brings together for the first time many stunning Polynesian objects gathered in the early period of contact with European voyagers, missionaries and settlers. The book is illustrated with around 250 different items.

The art works featured in Pacific Encounters were collected on the voyages of many of the most important European explorers of the Pacific, including Captain Cook and Captain Bligh, and by missionaries from the London Missionary Society. The objects in the book come from the most comprehensive collections of 18th and 19th century of Polynesian art and artefacts in the world, many have never been seen by the general public before.

Pacific Encounters was originally published by the British Museum Press to tie in with a major exhibition of the art works at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. As well as the objects for worship and adornment, Dr Hooper believes the images of stools and fish hooks, and other practical items, will appeal to those interested in design and sculpture. He has been passionate about Polynesian art since he catalogued his grandfather’s extensive collection in 1976, and is a firm believer that the art traditions of Polynesia deserve to be more widely known.

‘The material is stunning, and Polynesian art is one of the great, but little known, art traditions of the world,’ says Dr Hooper.


Pacific Encounters: Art & Divinity in Polynesia 1760 – 1860 by Steven Hooper is published by Te Papa Press in conjunction with the British Museum Press, rrp NZ$64.99 ISBN 1877385204

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