Shape Time Art Oceania
The Shape of Time: Art and Ancestors of Oceania
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The National Museum of Qatar is holding The Shape of Time: Art and Ancestors of Oceania. The exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to explore the story of creative expression throughout the Pacific Islands. On view are more than 120 items from the vast Oceanic art collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (The Met). The show is curated by three curators for Oceanic Art at The Met: Dr Maia Nuku (Ngai Tai), Evelyn A J Hall, and John A Friede. It will be open to the public until the 15th of January, 2024.

The presented art pieces come from the many peoples of the region (Australia, Papua New Guinea, Island Southeast Asia, and island archipelagos in the north and eastern Pacific) and allow one to examine the deep connections between them. The exhibited artworks dating from the 18th century to the present include wooden sculptures of ancestor figures, masks, shields, textiles, pendants, shark reliquaries, and many more. 

Ceremonial Banner (palepai). Lampung people, 19th century.

The show comprises three sections. The first one is dedicated to Voyaging, an idea which is among the recurring ones in the arts of Oceania. Generally, the Oceanic arts are vessels employed to gain knowledge or travel to other realms. So here, voyaging is evoked in the literal sense (travelling across the seas) and metaphorically (meaning spiritual journeys). The artworks featured in this section express the relationship of Pacific Islanders with the ocean and their respect for it.

The second section, Ancestors, displays monumental artworks from Papua New Guinea and the island archipelagos situated off its coastline. These works emphasise the role of ceremonial architecture in connecting the living with their antecedents. They demonstrate how Islanders use art as a bridge into the past to draw on their ancestors’ support in the present. Besides, the art pieces tell us how the world was created and show the kinship shared with the land and what grows from it (crops and plants).

New Georgia Island, Western province, Solomon Islands. Pendant, Early to mid-20th century. Conus shell.

The exhibits featured in the third section, Time, explore how Islanders use art to manipulate time and ensure its perpetual unfolding into the present. This part of the exhibition brings together principal ideas in the show and helps the visitors to understand why and how Oceanic art looks as it does.

To get more information about The Shape of Time: Art and Ancestors of Oceania, please visit the exhibition’s official web page.

You might also be interested in attending Growing Kopi, Drinking Qahwa: Stories of Coffee in Qatar.  

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