Some cultural artefacts or events become touchstones of a culture. The elaborate masks prepared for participation in the Fire Dance Ceremonies of the Central Baining in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea are readily recognisable touchstones of the Baining culture. In this edition, Harold Gallasch concludes his detailed outline of the preparation of these masks. Each artist designs his own mask, the shape of which can represent almost anything from the physical or spiritual world of the maker – from a plant or animal to an introduced item such as a guitar or spade.
Modern Australia is recognising and placing far greater importance on such cultural artefacts from pre-contact Australian cultures. Jim Elmslie has researched the story of an early Kaurna shield that now forms a centrepiece of the Art Gallery of South Australia. That passion for understanding and studying this art has driven collectors such as Joost and Truus Daalder to be part of the current trend of returning pre-colonial artworks back to our country.
This edition sadly features the obituaries of three people who have contributed significantly to the greater understanding between pre-contact Oceanic cultures and the world – Dr Dolly Guise, Dr Adrienne L. Kaeppler and Eric Coote.
Also included is a book review by Rebecca Conway, curator at the Chau Chak Wing Museum, and finally a personal highlight of the recent Bark Ladies: Eleven Artists from Yirrkala exhibition at National Gallery of Victoria was the contemporary feel of the reflective gallery of that touchstone of Yolŋu culture, the larrakitj or hollowed out stringybark trees.