This exhibition gathers together more than 250 works of Polynesian art from the 18th and 19th centuries, from the collections of the great European museums but which are rarely exhibited: astonishing divine images, ivory ornaments, war bonnets, decorated textiles… The exhibition therefore explores the Pacific Islands at the time of their first contact with European travellers, missionaries and colonists.
In Polynesia valuable objects were made and exchanged with the goal of establishing and maintaining important relationships – between family groups, between chiefs, and between mankind and the gods.
Between 1760 and 1860, Polynesia’s cultural landscape fundamentally changed. Before 1760, there was regular contact between the Polynesian people on different islands. They ignored Europe, metal, firearms and Western religion. With the arrival of the first boats from the West, most of the Polynesian Islands built a colonial, or pre-colonial, relationship with the European powers. In less than a century the majority of the Polynesian people had suffered various epidemics and had been converted to one of the competing forms of Christianity. However, paradoxically, strong Polynesian cultural identities survived and further developed.
Art and Divinity in Polynesia concentrates on this turbulent period, from 1760 to 1860: a period of contact with European navy officers, crew members, traders, whalers, missionaries, travellers, colonists, administrators and artists.
Musée du quai Branly Web Site
Please click here for the Culturekiosque review and pictures of the Paul Gauguin in Tahiti exhibition.