A review of “Savage Memory ”, a documentary on the legacy of Bronislaw Malinowsi, the founder of modern cultural anthropology, produced and directed by Zachary Stuart, his great grandson, with Kelly Thomson. (Sly Productions, 2012).  Bronislaw Malinowski,(1884 – 1942), who is widely acknowledged as the Father Of Modern Cultural Anthropology, (an honour he shares with Franz Boas), was born in Poland, established his reputation in England and consolidated it in the USA. His major co Continue reading...

Is  Sotheby’s two year dream run of tribal sales in Paris and New York coming  to an end? Or is the latest (May 16) New York sale a temporary hiccup? It is certainly fairly safe to say that with the exception of a thin layer of cream at the top, this catalog offers much less in the way of excitement than other recent sales .In fact the whole catalog is something of an anomaly. It is not often a that a piece of Oceanic art eclipses the African and South American  offerings at Sotheby’s, b Continue reading...

"The Hopi people have been pillaged throughout their history. We stole their land, we killed them, we violated their souls and it continues. Now, their ritual objects are being put up for auction." Jean-Patrick Razon, director of Survival International, Paris, April 2013.On Friday, April 12 2013, the Néret-Minet, Tessier & Sarrou auction house in Paris sold a collection of 70 Native American masks dating between 1880 and 1940, of which around 65 were Hopi spirit Katsina dance masks. The ma Continue reading...

Book Review: ”The Haus Tambaran of Bongiora” by G.J.M. (Fred) Gerrits, 485 pages, soft cover, with 365 colour and black and white field photographs. Edited by Elizabeth Ruscone and Chrstian Kaufmann. * The Putilago tableau is the final secret revealed to initiates and is dominated by two ngwallndu figures wearing very large waken headdresses. These powerful spirits are carved as boards with three dimensional faces and arms and legs of vegetable fibre. Photo F. Gerrits. Abelam art has alwa Continue reading...

 “Kastom: Art of  Vanuatu”, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, until June 16th , 2013. Kastom is a Ni-Vanuatu word  that  encompasses  traditional religion, values and practices, and in many parts of this island nation of more than 100 languages, Kastom still rules.  Kastom is particularly strong in the northern  end of the archipelago, where grade societies like the Nimangi society of Malekula  and the  Mange  society of North Ambrym dominate tribal existence.   Vanuatu Continue reading...

 Classical opera is about love, death, superb music and opulent staging, and so too is Masi, a new work by Nina Nawalowalo, the creative force behind Wellington’s The Conch Pacific theatre company. Masi was created for the 2012 New Zealand Arts Festival, where it received rave reviews before opening in Fiji and briefly visiting Australia as part of  the 2013 Sydney Festival. Masi is the Fijian word for bark cloth or tapa, a soft and pliable cloth made by beating out strips of paper mulberr Continue reading...

It is not very often that an Oceanic artwork trumps the big African art names at Sotheby’s, but this time it did. €1.4 million for a Biwat flute stopper from PNG. I suspect that many of the African bidders at that sale had never heard of the Biwat (as opposed to the Fang, or the Kuba, or the Dogon), and maybe didn’t know what a flute stopper actually was, so let me explain:   New Guinea society and religion is quite different from the non-Melanesian world. The social structure is very f Continue reading...

Correction: My friend Torsten Grimme, who has an impressive knowledge of Indonesian art, informs me that mamuli ear decorations are  from the island of Sumba, not Sumatra as I originally wrote,  and that they are traditionally  made by metal smiths from the tiny island of Savu who have settled there for generations. What is it that attracts us to small and well made pieces? Is it the difficulty if working at such a small size? The aesthetics  of the pieces themselves? Or do they achieve a Continue reading...

 Here’s an intriguing game for tribal art lovers whatever your income. Open the Sotheby’s on line catalogue for the Dec 12 African and Oceanic Sale, deal yourself a million euros worth of Monopoly money, and then choose the six artworks you personally would buy at their lowest estimates.  This could be fun for two reasons. First, this is an incredibly strong sale offering an amazing selection of rare Oceanic art, and an impressive depth of quality African art– so even with a spare mil Continue reading...

This post celebrates the birth of our granddaughter Pheobe on October 22nd, 2012.   We smudge your cradle with with virtual sage and wish you a long and happy life.   Tribal babies are much loved, spoiled, protected and encouraged to become part of the community – learning their future roles in society from the time they can toddle. I have seen many two- and three-year olds in Vanuatu dancing with their fathers or singing clapping songs with their mothers with great panache and obvio Continue reading...

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