However much Oceanic art one sees it will never be the case that there is not something new to discover. The vast array of Oceanic art that has graced this journal’s pages is testament to the splendid diversity of the field. That, in turn, is reflective of the huge range of peoples and cultures that reside in the southern Pacific region. Just one example of this are the slit gong drums of the Sepik-Ramu area in northern PNG. Barry Craig’s survey of these drums in this edition of the Journal, merely a summary of a much larger paper available on the OAS website, shows just how much variation there is in one specific art form across a fairly limited geographical area. When that diversity is put in the context of the thousands of different language groups and cultures of Oceania, and the wide array of objects that we now define as ‘art’, it becomes evident that the range is almost infinite. And if we add into that equation the fact that few outsiders will ever come to grasp the deeper meaning of designs and motifs of individual objects we come again to the unknowability of so much Oceanic art. Perhaps this is where the fascination lies with people drawn to these myriad artforms: despite all the mystery they tell a story and exude a message that resonates with some in a deeply satisfying manner.
Some of those resonations were felt on Oxford Street, Paddington on July 23 at the OAS Tribal Art Fair — the most successful yet. Once again a large contingent of members and other interested parties gathered at what has become an institution for Oceanic art collectors. Such was the level of interest and enthusiasm (and quality of inventory) that visiting collector and OAS guest lecturer, Mark Blackburn, predicted that the event will become the ‘Parcours of the Pacific.’ Let’s hope so! Congratulations to those hard working OAS committee members who made it all happen.
Mr. Blackburn was in Sydney to give his well received lecture on the intricacies of collecting Polynesian art at the Australian Museum on July 20. Once again members were provided with the opportunity to hear from an internationally respected authority on one specific aspect of that splendid diversity that we all so celebrate. The next keenly anticipated speaker, Dr. Jude Philp, will deliver her talk on the Macleay Museum’s Pacific Collections, at the Macleay on Wednesday, September 14.
In this edition of the OAS Journal we also have a review of Harold Gallasch’s and Neil McLeod’s beautiful book on the stunning La Sisi canoe that they commissioned from master craftsmen in New Ireland that is currently residing in the South Australian Museum. It is a lovely story of one object that brought together hundreds of people in a celebration of their culture and a reminder that the Malangan tradition lives on today. We also present the first part of an interview with the Director of the National Museum and Art Gallery of PNG, Dr. Andrew Moutu, and learn a little of his fascinating journey from a New Guinea village into academia and on to one of the most important cultural institutions in the Pacific. More to follow.