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Polynesian Art: Histories and Meanings in Cultural Contexts Little, Stephen and Ruthenberg, Peter. 2006


Carr 1983Polynesian Art: Histories and Meanings in Cultural Contexts. The Journal of the Polynesian Society. Special Issue Vol. 116 No.2 June 2007.
Edited by Steven Hooper, and published in 2007 by the Polynesian Society.

This special issue of the journal is edited by guest editor Steven Hooper, well-known for his exhibition and book "Pacific Encounters". This issue contains in-depth articles examining some of the most important and enigmatic early objects from the Pacific, most of which are items brought back by, or were in use at the time of the visits of, Captain Cook.

Adrienne Kaeppler discusses fare atua (godhouses) and to'o (god figures), their uses and relationships, including to'o brought back on Cook's First Voyage. Hooper looks at A'a, an unusual wooden carving from Rurutu in the Austral Islands (called Hitiroa by Tupaia when Cook visited in 1769) that has become an iconic Pacific artefact much used to illustrate books and magazines.

Karen Stephenson, with Hooper, looks at the striking fau headdresses brought back from the Society Islands by Cook and illustrated by both First and Second Voyage artists. Roger Neich, Curator at the Auckland Museum, New Zealand, looks at Tongan figures, mainly collected after Cook but whose significance and interpretation obviously has implications for earlier material from Cook's voyages.

As you would expect from these scholars the arguments surrounding the significance of these artefacts are thoroughly analysed and each author's own conclusions is put together with authority. But don't be put off - these articles are well-worth coming to terms with and show the great depths of scholarship that Cook voyage artefacts still attract.

Reviewer: Phil Philo

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 21, volume 31, number 4 (2008).

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