Is this Oceania?

A highly diverse range of objects in the exhibition also includes carvings, ancestor figures, fibre art, pottery and domestic wares, male and female body adornment, high-status precious objects such as bird-of-paradise feathers, boar’s teeth and clamshell and tapa, and musical instruments. Each highlights the particular interests of the Iseke family in its collecting over many years from this bequest. There are modernist and contemporary works in the exhibition from the art museum collection including Charles McPhee, Rodney Fumpston and Chris Booth. Indigenous cultures represented in the installation include, Papua New Guinea and Bouganville, Tonga, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Cook Islands and Vanuatu and indigenous Australia.

Too often in New Zealand/Aotearoa exhibitions of Pacific art have neglected Australia and Papua New Guinea. Each is a vibrant multiplicity of cultures, some of which have adapted more lucidly and pragmatically to global culture than many. Museums across the world often have extensive collections of PNG artefacts collected by European and American adventurers. These are invariably held in the ethnology departments of university and municipal museums where, for many, they are the only holdings of Oceanic or Pacific art. Yet in New Zealand there have been very few, serious exhibitions of contemporary PNG art let alone those that allow the past to resonate within the contemporary world of urban PNG painting and music.

The Maria and Franz Iseke estate collection which makes up a large part of the exhibition is a gift of over 200 artefacts, photographic archives, publications, music and chant recordings and ephemera.

Franz and Maria were well known to the art museum having visited exhibitions regularly. After Franz died in 2011, Maria and her family subsequently decided to gift a significant collection of Papua New Guinean and Melanesian artefacts to the Whangarei Art Museum collection. This year a further selection of artefacts was gifted to the art museum by Maria and her family. This exhibition honours that succession of gifts to the District.