Making the Grade: Monumental Sculptures from Vanuatu

Grade Statues, 20th CenturyBanks Islands, Torba Province (two on the left) and Ambrym Island, Malampa Province, Vanuatu, MelanesiaTree fern rootL.2015.22.1-.3Loan courtesy of Gayle and Edward P. Roski Large and Mana Charged A stroll around Port Vila, the capital city of Vanuatu, reveals the pervasiveness of monumental sculpture on the islands. Now ...

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Knowing Korwar: Ancestor Figures from Cenderawasih Bay

Ancestor Figures (Korwar), 19th CenturyCenderawasih (Geelvink) Bay, West Papua Province, Indonesia, Melanesia Wood and mother-of-pearl F79.67.1, 85.24.1Gifts of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin R. Gamson and Dwight V. Strong Remembrance The way in which forebears are remembered differs all around the world. In most western cultures, the dead are buried or cremat...

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The George Stanley Lodin Collection

Circular Boar's Tusk, mid 19th to early 20th CenturyPapua New Guinea, MelanesiaBoar tusk; 4 1/4 x 4/12 x 1/2 in.2015.17.24The George Stanley Lodin Collection Artifacts Like Parfait, With Layers Artifacts have layers and layers of stories. While not always told, the stories of previous owners, collectors and lenders are important components of an ar...

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Shields of Mendi Valley

Shields (Wörrumbi), 20th CenturyMendi culture; Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaWood, pigments and fiber; Various Dimensions2017.10.163, 2003.43.3, 2017.10.143Anonymous Gift On the Mendi In an early 20th Century effort to pacify Papua New Guinea, Australian colonial administrators began a campaign of suppressing tribal warfar...

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Bags of Wood, Bone, and Magic

Ritual Magic Bag with Pouch, mid 20th CenturyPapua New Guinea, Melanesia Palm fibers, bone, wood, beads, feathers and cowrie shell; 11 1/4 × 17 1/2 × 4 in.2017.10.66.1-.3Anonymous Gift Absolutely Enchanting Magic is something that almost everyone grows up with in one form or another: in simplest terms it is the attractive notion that individuals ha...

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Red Crush: Betel Nut and Associated Paraphernalia

Lime Spatulas, 20th CenturyMassim culture; Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaWood, bone, shell, turtle shell, beads and pigments2006.12.1, 2015.7.15, 2017.10.94, 2017.10.114, L.2022.4.8Gift of Mr. Michael Hamson, Anonymous Gifts and Loans Social Chew-bricant Many travelers to Papua New Guinea are struck by the practice of chewing betel...

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Mortars and Marsupials: Prehistoric Stone Art of Melanesia

Ritual MortarSiassi Island, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaStone; 6 5/8 × 19 × 15 in.2011.11.7Collected on behalf of the Bowers Museum by the Roski-Keller-Martin Expeditions 2000-2008 Neo-Prolific The earliest archeological evidence shows humans migrated to the world’s second largest island, Papua New Guinea, at least 50,000 years ago....

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Beak Performance: Studying A Boiken Pottery Mask

Pottery Mask, early to mid 20th CenturyBoiken culture; East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaCeramic; 7 1/4 × 7 1/2 × 5 in.2009.2.1Bowers Museum Purchase Plastic Art, Clay Medium Whereas sculptures and masks were carved from wood by many of the cultures of Papua New Guinea, non-utilitarian ceramics were a rarity for all but a handful of t...

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Gourd No More: A Wooden Hawaiian Calabash Bowl

Feast Bowl (Pakaka), 20th CenturyMolokai, Hawaii, PolynesiaKao wood; 5 7/8 x 12 x 12 1/2 in.2006.7.3Jordan Community Trust Purchase Molokai Made Dishes such as this one from Hawaii’s Molokai Island are called calabash bowls because their earliest antecedents were cut from gourds. The first Western visitors to the Hawaiian Islands documented the use...

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Little Hands Waving Farewell

Women Riding a Horse on the Steps of a Building, 1960-1980Rene Laursen Photography (American); Irvine, California Photographic print; 10 x 8 in. 31704.138Gift of Mr. Rene Laursen The Ranking Time is an ocean and a river and a sun-dried puddle—there could always be more of it but most of the time we get by and appreciate what we’ve got. This week th...

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Hands of the Past: Karawari Cave Art

Cave Figure (Aripa), 1600-1800Ewa culture; Karawari River area, Middle Sepik River region, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaWood and paintF81.2.1-.3Bowers Museum Foundation Acquisition Fund Purchase Subterranean Features and Foibles Caves are notoriously dark, dank, cold, and dangerous—rife with pitfalls both literal and allegorical....

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Sonorous Spring: Birds of the Bowers

Detail of 86.47.10Gift of Junius & Angeline HolteDetail of Brocade Worn by Madame Modjeska (5002G)Gift of Myrtle Blakeslee Your First Carson It is a rare history of Earth Day that does not at some point mention Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Though the first day dedicated to restoring the environment—held on April 22, 1970—coalesced from m...

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Gifts That Keep Giving: The Kula Trade Ring

Shell Currency (Mwali), late 20th CenturyMilne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaConus shell, beads, shell, wood, fiber and rope; 13 3/4 × 12 × 3 1/2 in.2014.15.18Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Danny and Anne ShihExchange Necklace (Bagi), early to mid 20th CenturyRossel Island, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaShell and twine; 20 × 2 1/4...

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Taking Root and Stock: Naturally Formed Fijian Clubs

Rootstock Club (Vunikau), mid 19th CenturyFiji, MelanesiaWood; 46 x 3 1/2 x 3 3/8 in.2020.5.1Bowers Museum Purchase Hit Square with a Root The fundamentals of warfare are in large part the same across all cultures and all times: there is a point of contention and so the sides—whatever they might be—rally a force and attack an enemy with weapons. As...

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The Osborne Collection: Opening Ceremony Pt. 2

Frieda, Ellen and Carolyn performing at the opening of the Bai ra Nagsechel ar Cherchar, 1969Image courtesy of Frieda Wray Beginning of the End The electric opening of the Palau Museum’s Bai ra Nagsechel ar Cherchar was marked with dancing and music, but there is always more going on than meets the senses. In last week’s post the Bowers Blog explor...

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The Osborne Collection: Opening Ceremony Pt. 1

The Bai ra Ngesechel ar Cherchar shortly after being constructedImage courtesy of Frieda Wray Grand Opening Openings are extravagant affairs. If all goes to plan they only happen once, so to commemorate the moment there should be a grand party with musicians, speakers thanking all those involved and, most importantly, there should be a pair of comi...

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The Osborne Collection: Return to Palau

Bai Model, mid 20th CenturyPalau, MicronesiaWood; 5 1/4 × 3 × 11 3/4 in.2019.17.5Gift of Frieda O. Wray from the Estate of Dr. & Mrs. Douglas and Carolyn Osborne If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home by Now People can meet one another anywhere, but almost all cultures build specialized buildings in which community members can come together to discus...

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The Osborne Collection: To Begin, A Biography

Carolyn and Dr. Douglas Osborne, 1968 passport photographsImages courtesy of Frieda Wray Tolúk Back In a previous blog post we showcased two rare tolúk currency pieces from the Osborne Collection which originates from the island country of Palau in southwest Micronesia. Though the post focused more on the objects than their provenance, the donation...

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Carved Cushions: Headrests of New Guinea

Headrests, 20th CenturyNew Guinea, MelanesiaWood2019.22.23; 2015.7.11; 2018.14.37 and 2019.22.29Gifts of Mr. Michael Hamson and Anonymous Donor Island Dreams Barring Boris Karloff’s 1932 rendition of a mummy caught in eternal vertical slumber and perhaps a few other standing sleepers throughout history and literature, most of us sleep in a decidedl...

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That’s Got to Sting: Barbed Blades from the Admiralty Islands

Dagger, 19th Century Admiralty Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, Manus Province, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaWood, stingray barb, fiber and beads 2019.20.2Bowers Museum Purchase Blade with a Barb The Bowers Blog has previously spent a lot of time focusing on the art of Admiralty Islands, a small chain located in Papua New Guinea’s Bismarck Archipelago....

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Wood that Can be Beat: Fijian Barkcloth Beaters

Barkcloth Beater (Ike), 19th Century Viti Levu, Fiji, PolynesiaWood; 10 ¼ x 2 5/16 x 2 1/8 in. 2019.20.1Bowers Museum Purchase March to the Beat of your Own Beater Whether made from the sheared wool of adorably cloud-like animals, pulled from cotton plants or spun from the gossamer silk of worms; textiles are made with a variety of methods througho...

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Tolúk: Palauan Women’s Currency Trays

Woman's Valuables (Toluk), early to mid 20th CenturyPalau, MicronesiaTortoiseshell2019.17.32-.33Gift of Frieda O. Wray from the Estate of Dr. & Mrs. Douglas and Carolyn Osborne Have Tolúk and See Them The Bowers Museum recently acquired the Osborne Collection, an assemblage of objects originating from the island country of Palau—an archipelago ...

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Feathered Funds: Solomon Island Currency Rolls

Feathered Currency Roll (Tevau), late 19th-mid 20th CenturySanta Cruz Islands, Temotu Province, Solomon Islands, MelanesiaFeather, bark, shell, fiber, resin and bead; 6 x 15 5/8 x 16 3/4 in.2001.74.14Gift of Mr. William Moran Red the Feather that Coils With the Bowers Museum’s recently opened Dimensions of Form: Tamayo and Mixografía, many visitors...

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Birds of a Feather: Plumed Headdresses from Around the World

Detail of Feathered Headdress, 20th CenturyKayapo Mebêngôkre culture; Xingu River area, Para, BrazilMacaw and waterfowl feather, string and cotton; 68 x 57 in.91.34.1.1-.2Bowers Museum Acquisitions Fund Purchase As the Crow Flies, Not So Far Bird feathers are surprisingly intricate structures: leaflike in nature with a rigid or semi-rigid midrib ca...

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Two-Face: An Unfinished Tongan Paddle Club

Details of Paddle Club (Mougalaulau), mid 19th CenturyTonga, PolynesiaWood; 45 ½ in.2019.19.1Bowers Museum Purchase; Photograph courtesy of Michael Hamson Endless Buffering The towering spires of Antoni Gaudí’s Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, the fragmented narrative of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Love of the Last Tycoon or Michelangelo’s unfinished ...

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Night’s Bane: Fire Dance Masks of New Britain's Baining Culture

Fire Dance Mask (Vungvung), 20th CenturyBaining culture; Gazelle Peninsula, New Britain, East New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaBark cloth, bamboo cane and paint; 65 x 53 x 148 1/2 in.2007.6.1Gift of Anne and Long Shung Shih Sparks Like Stars in the Sky Held at torch-point against a pressing sea of night or built as a pyre to be enci...

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Five Faces of the Moon

Composite image of the moon and objects in this post. One Giant Leap On July 20, 1969 three humans boarded an aluminum and stainless-steel rocket, rose into the heavens and collectively became the first group to set foot on another celestial body. Taking his first apprehensive steps on the alien scape of the moon, Neil Armstrong famously said “that...

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Out of the Pouch: Shedding Light on a Papuan Marsupial Figure

Marsupial Figure, 1500 BCE-1600 CELaiagam Valley, Central Enga Province, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaStone; 3 1/2 × 3 1/2 × 7 1/2 in.2019.8.1Bowers Museum Purchase Set in Stone When it comes to the art of Papua New Guinea, very few things are literally set in stone. Bags are made from fiber or coir, shields and clubs from wood, ornaments from feathe...

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Gone Fishing: Catching Neptune’s Bounty on Father’s Day

Fishing Hook, late 19th to early 20th CenturyIñupiaq culture; Seward Peninsula Area, AlaskaWalrus ivory, lead, iron and cotton thread; 2 1/4 × 4 1/8 in.39352Gift of Winifred P. Morgan Let’s See What’s Biting, Champ Some dads fit all the clichés. They are handy when something needs fixing, quick with a pun but otherwise tactful enough to let mom han...

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Blade with a Beak: New Guinean Bone Daggers

Bone Daggers (Yina and Amia Ava), 20th CenturyAbelam and Iatmul culture; East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, Melanesia, OceaniaCassowary bone and pigment2010.22.5-.31Gift of Anne and Long Shung Shih They do Move in Herds Unassuming dinosaurs of the modern era that they are, cassowaries are incredible creatures. For example, though flightless the...

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At Harms Length: Shark Tooth Spears of the Gilbert Islands

Spear Heads (Tataumanaria), late 19th CenturyI-Kiribati culture; Gilbert Islands, Kiribati, MicronesiaPalm wood, shark teeth and sennit; various dimensions2019.6.1-.2Gift of Anne and Long Shung Shih Into the Maw The Bowers Museum’s continued efforts to improve our Oceanic Collections has driven the acquisition of several shark tooth weapons from th...

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Much Naboo About Nothing

Sculpture, late 20th CenturyPossibly Kwoma culture; Middle Sepik River Region, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaWood, pigment and cowrie shell; 55 in.98.18.10Gift of the Jordan Community Trust Return of the Fourth Younglings, padawans and Jedi masters, it is time to force the important issues once more! In previous years the Bowers B...

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Dragon Glass: Taking Stock at the Bowers Museum

Battle and Hunting Weapons, 300-1519Michoacán, MexicoObsidian; various dimensions2003.10.42C-IAnonymous Gift The Night King Cometh As most fantasy buffs are well¬-aware, HBO’s Game of Thrones returns for the first of its final six episodes this upcoming Sunday. Not to spoil too much of the show for those who are interested in watching but have not ...

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Bring a Shark to a Knife Fight: Short Blades of the Gilbert Islands

Knife (Tebutu), 19th CenturyI-Kiribati culture; Gilbert Islands, Kiribati, MicronesiaPalm wood, tiger shark teeth (galeocerdo cuvier) and sennit; 6 1/2 in.2019.3.1Bowers Museum Purchase War Changes Quite a Bit If humans have consistently been innovative in any one field, it is in the discovery of more effective ways to injure one another. Often hea...

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Progenitor Protection: Wooden Shields of the Asmat

War Shields, 20th CenturyCentral and Northern Asmat culture; Papua (Irian Jaya) Province, Indonesia, MelanesiaWood, pigment and sago-frond; Various Dimensions2017.10.148, L.2010.4.4, F75.16.1 and 2006.19.1Anonymous Gift, Bowers Museum General Acquisition Fund Purchase, Loan courtesy of Gayle and Edward P. Roski and Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Meyer Bello ...

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Death and the Ideal Man: New Ireland Tatanua Masks

Men wearing tatanua masks at a sing-sing in Libba Village, New Ireland, New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea.Taken during the Roski-Keller-Martin Expedition to the New Ireland Province in 2008. Acceptance   When we think of masks in western culture, we most often think of tools used to disguise one’s identity. In most other cultures in the w...

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Shell to Pay: Boiken Wamayuwa and Weingga

Shell Currency (Wamayuwa), 19th CenturyYangoru Boiken culture; Prince Alexander Mountains, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaShell (tridacna gigas); 9 7/8 x 8 ¼ in.2018.13.63Gift of Anne and Long Shung Shih All the Money in the World The Bowers Blog has spent a great deal of time exploring currency in its myriad shapes and sizes. From...

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Splash of Color: Massim Canoe Prow Boards

Splashboard (Lagim), 20th CenturyMassim culture; Trobriand Islands, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea, Melanesia, OceaniaWood and paint; 32 5/8 x 25 5/8 x 2 5/8 in.2011.11.2Collected on behalf of the Bowers Museum by the Roski-Keller-Martin Expeditions 2000-2008 Art of the Deal When it comes to making deals, everyone wants a leg up on the compet...

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Fibers of History: Tongan Tapa Cloths

Detail of Tapa Cloth (Ngatu), 20th CenturyTongan culture; Tonga, PolynesiaPounded tree bark and pigment; 78 x 152 in.93.18.1Donated by Jeff and Laura Blackie Cloth With a Bark Tapa cloth, a barkcloth made from the inner bark of trees, is one of the most distinctive products made by the cultures of the Pacific Islands and remains at the heart of Pac...

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The Clay Day of Papuan Vessels

Ceremonial Vessel (Kwam), 19th to 20th CenturyAbelam culture; Wambisa Village, Maprik District, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaClay, red, white and orange ochre; 3 ¼ x 9 3/8 x 7 3/8 in.2018.7.16Gift of Michael Hamson Vessel Variety Perhaps above all else, Papua New Guinea is best-known for its variety. As many as 850 languages are ...

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Blade with a Bite: The Shark Tooth Swords of the Gilbert Islands

Club Sword (Te Toanea), mid 19th CenturyI-Kiribati culture; Gilbert Islands, Republic of Kiribati, MicronesiaWood, shark teeth, fiber, tapa and human hair; 34 1/2in.2018.9.1Gift of Mark Blackburn Whirling Dervish Barring the outlandish Sharknado franchise, when we hear the phrase “shark attack,” the assumption is that we would have to be in the oce...

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Moana Materials: Polynesian Art in Disney’s Moana

Tapa Cloth (Ngata), 20th CenturyTongan culture; Tonga, PolynesiaPounded tree bark and pigment; 78 x 152 in.93.18.1Donated by Jeff and Laura Blackie Trip to Motunui When Walt Disney Animation Studios released Moana (2016) to a tidal wave of good reviews, the Bowers Museum was overjoyed to see Polynesian culture and art achieve broad recognition with...

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Yam Digging Sticks of the Abelam

Digging Sticks, 20th CenturyAbelam culture; East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, Melanesia Wood and paint99.76.141; 2011.13.4; 97.138.1; and 2015.7.2Anonymous Gift; Bowers Museum Purchase; Anonymous Gift; and Gift of Mr. Michael Hamson Induction In the United States we understand competition all too well. We compete with neighbors over having the...

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Hawaiian Lei Niho Palaoa

Necklace (Lei Niho Palaoa), early 19th CenturyHawaiian culture; Hawaii, United States, PolynesiaHair, fiber and walrus ivory; 11 1/4 x 7 7/8 x 2 1/2 in.2018.5.1Bowers Museum PurchasePhotograph courtesy of Bonhams A New Acquisition When it comes to Hawaiian necklaces, the subject can be a somewhat hairy one, though perhaps not for the reasons one mi...

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The Niue Club in Town

Cleaving Club (Ula-fumiti), early to mid 19th CenturyNiuean culture; Niue Island, PolynesiaWood; 68 7/8 x 5 x 1 ¼ in.2018.4.1Bowers Museum Purchase Behold the Cook-o-nut Captain Cook was the first European to travel to Niue, a small island in the middle of Polynesia, when he landed ashore late in the spring of 1774. His welcome to the small tropica...

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Kept in Suspense: The Samban of the Iatmul

Suspension Hook (Samban), c. 1930Iatmul culture; Suapmeri Village, Middle Sepik River region, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, Melanesia, OceaniaWood and pigment; 25 1/4 × 14 1/2 × 4 in.2017.1.1Bowers Museum Purchase Whoa Black Betty, Tshambwan Save perhaps for weekend trips to big box Swedish furniture stores, we generally do not spend much ...

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Grand Admiralty Island Feast Bowl

Feast Bowl, late 19th CenturyMatankol culture; Lou Island, Admiralty Islands, Manus Province, Bismarck Archipelago, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaWood and parinarium nut paste; 24 ½ x 54 ½ x 41 in. 2018.1.1Bowers Museum PurchaseHomes on the neighboring M'Buke Island.Photograph by Peter Keller, 2006.King of BowlsOf the many types of wooden bowl from th...

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Kava Drink: Fijian Yaqona Bowls and Dishes

Yaqona Bowl (Tanoa), late 19th to early 20th CenturyFiji, PolynesiaWood; 7 1/2 x 22 7/16 x 21 in. 99.43.7Donated by Rear Admiral Ralph and Sara GarrisonKava ChameleonWithin the last few decades, kava has found its way into the American social scene as a niche alternative to alcohol in being both a mild relaxant and an avenue to potential liver dama...

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Tami Feast Bowls and Yam-ey Thanksgivings

Feast Bowl, 20th CenturyCape Gloucester, West New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea, MelanesiaWood and pigment; 9 × 44 1/2 × 25 1/4 in.2014.15.14Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Danny and Anne ShihBird is the WordThanksgiving is now upon us. Even in its earliest rendition, it was a celebration of thanks through the sharing of food with friends, family, and ne...

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Fijian Kiakavo Dance Clubs

Dance Clubs (Kiakavo), 19th CenturyFiji, PolynesiaWood, fiber and pigment97.138.13, .17, and 2015.17.10Anonymous Gift and The George Stanley Lodin CollectionTwo late 19th Century  Fijian men hold clubs across their laps for a staged photograph. Bowers Museum CollectionGift of Mr. E. Morgan StanleyFijian Club SceneUp until and in the few d...

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Perfect Rings: Dimbo of Cenderawasih Bay

Glass Earrings (Dimbo), 19th CenturyWaropen culture; Cenderawasih (Geelvink) Bay, Papua Province, Indonesia, MelanesiaGlass2017.8.1-.5Bowers Museum PurchaseThough we may think of it now as an isolated, inaccessible part of the world, New Guinea has always been rich in organic and mineral resources; the peoples of its coasts welcome partners to comm...

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Shark Caller's Tools

Shark Caller's Tools, 20th centuryKontu culture, Island of New Ireland, Papua New GuineaWood, reed, bamboo, coconut and paint 2002.65.1.1-.3Bowers Museum Purchase courtesy of the Trude Jordan Fund The Kontu people of the Island of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea use ritual customs to capture and kill sharks. Shark Callers believe that ancestral ...

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