Wednesday 15 March 2017 – OAS Lecture – Prof. Peter McCabe
The Moon, the Stars and the Demon Shrimp : Deciphering Patterns in Beaded Aprons of Geelvink Bay, NW New Guinea.
Australian Museum- Holstrom Theatre : 6:30 for 7pm
OAS & Australian Museum Members : $25, non members $35
Bookings essential for this event.
Please contact : [email protected]
or by phone 02 9332 3984
Cenderawasish Bay (better known to Oceanic art collectors by its old name of Geelvink Bay) is famous for its Korwar art and elaborately carved canoe ornaments. The beaded aprons from this area, with their beautiful and fascinating designs, are also much sought after by collectors. The aprons were only worn during ceremonial occasions. The intricate and complex patterns of the aprons are unique in New Guinea and, unlike other aprons of the region, are five-sided rather than rectangular. This raises the question as to the origin of the aprons and their patterns. Are they a relatively recent innovation or are they based on long traditional designs ?
The peoples of the northwest coast of New Guinea have interacted with the outside world for thousands of years. Trade of plumes, wood products, and slaves from the area is documented during the peak of the spice trade and during the Dutch dominance of SE Asia. In the mid-nineteenth century prau from Cenderawasih Bay made annual trips of over 1000 km to pay tribute to the Sultan of Ternate. Archeological evidence, however, shows trade patterns go much further back. Imported textiles , from the Indonesian archipelago, and beads and ceramics, from Asia, were treasured by the inhabitants of the Cenderawasih Bay area as heirloom article passed on to the next generation at marriages or at death.
It has been suggested by several authors that the patterns of Geelvink Bay aprons are copied from imported textiles.However, an understanding of the traditional beliefs of the coastal inhabitants of the bay before conversion to Christianity suggests that most, if not all of the patterns, had powerful meaning to the wearers. The symbols have meaning in their mythology and reverence for ancestors. Patterns represent mythological creatures and significant astronomical features – symbols that are not surprising for what was mainly a hunter-gatherer community with strong ties to the sea. Even the five sided shape of the aprons has a special meaning related to the night sky.
The similarity with patterns in SE Asian textiles is presumably because of a shared history. Many of the peoples of the coastal area of Cenderawasih Bay speak Austronesian languages and the area was presumably populated during the great Austronesian oceanic migrations, displacing Papuan-speaking people inland. Patterns in the beaded aprons may be best explained as a combination of Austronesian and Papuan cultural symbols.
Wednesday 17 May 2017 – OAS Lecture – Speaker to be advised.
The Centenary Auditorium, Art Gallery of NSW, 6 to 8:30pm
Wednesday 19 July 2017 – OAS Lecture – Mark Blackburn
STONED – Lithic Technology of the Ancient Polynesians
Australian Museum : 6:30 for 7pm
Saturday 22 July 2017 – SYDNEY TRIBAL ART FAIR
Venue to be advised.
Wednesday 20 September 2017 – OAS Lecture Speaker to be advised.
The Centenary Auditorium – Art Gallery of NSW : 6 to 8:30pm
Saturday 11 November 2017 – OAS AGM, Lecture and Lunch
Australian Museum : 10 to 12:30 pm. Lunch venue to be advised.