The Pacific Arts of Polynesia & Micronesia. Kaeppler, Adrienne L. 2008

The Pacific Arts of Polynesia & Micronesia. Kaeppler, Adrienne L. 2008

Kaeppler, Adrienne L. 
The Pacific Arts of Polynesia & Micronesia,
Oxford University Press. 
ISBN 978-0-19-294238-1.

CCS members will be familiar with Adrienne Kaeppler's classic works on the artefacts of Cook's voyages and many of her other two hundred or so articles and books about the cultures of the Pacific. This new work, in the Oxford History of Art series, aims to provide "the ultimate introduction to the rich and vibrant artistic cultures of the Polynesian and Micronesian islands" and sets Cook and other voyage material within the broader context.

Following the first introductory chapter the main five chapters deal with

  • Artistic Visions, Rituals, and Sacred Containers;
  • Aesthetics, Carving, Metaphor, and Allusion;
  • Genealogical Connections: The Texts of Textiles;
  • Adorning the Adorned: Tattoo, Ornaments, Clothing, Fashion;
  • Ritual Spaces, Cultural Landscapes;
  • Space and the Aesthetic Environment.

Within these chapters are many references to Cook's voyages and other contemporary voyages. Many well-known Cook artefacts are featured, along with some not-so-old friends, including tattooed Maori artist George Nuku, who is becoming the modern "face" of a traditional Pacific art form that is very much alive, and also of traditional carving using man-made materials. He has recently displayed his work at the Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, the British Museum and the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Archaeology. He also staged his first solo UK show at The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, Middlesbrough, and, working with North East carver David Gross, sculpted a Rapa Nui (Easter Island) Moai or statue for the Museum.

Kaeppler shows that Pacific arts are as vibrant, innovative and exciting as they were when first "discovered" by Europeans over two hundred years ago.

Some two hundred pages of authoritative yet accessible text and nearly one hundred and forty illustrations (100 in full colour) are supported with copious notes, further reading, a list of illustrations, a chronology for Polynesia and Micronesia and a twenty page index. My only criticism of this book is that it deserved to be physically bigger to do justice to the illustrations of these stunning artefacts. Otherwise a must for all interested in Cook and the Pacific.

Phil Philo

Kaeppler, Adrienne L. Artificial Curiosities: Being an exposition of native manufactures collected on the three Pacific voyages of Captain Cook. Bishop Museum Press. 1978
Kaeppler, Adrienne L. Cook Voyage Artifacts: In Leningrad, Berne and Florence Museums. Bishop Museum Press. 1978

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 20, volume 31, number 4 (2008).

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