Fijian Art in Cambridge

The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge is hosting an important exhibition of Fijian art and artefacts – the first ever to be held outside Fiji (details here).

AN22302746Human-shaped-figuThe exhibition, entitled Chiefs and Governors: Art and Power in Fiji, examines the early colonial history of Fiji after it became a Crown Colony in 1874, and documents in particular the extensive rituals of gift-giving between the Governor and various island chiefs. Ceremonial gifts were presented to Sir Arthur and Lady Gordon (the first Governor and his wife) in order that Fijian chiefs might align themselves with the greatest chief of them all – Queen Victoria. The Governor was therefore able to amass an extraordinary collection of objects which he later presented to the Cambridge Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology; along with the collections of Baron Anatole von Hügel, the Museum’s first curator, the Fijian collections formed the core of the early Museum.

On display are necklaces of whale ivory, and fishhooks of ivory, pearl and turtle shell. Whale ivory in particular was prized by the islanders since they did not hunt the creatures, but only found them washed up from time to time on their beaches like gifts from the gods.

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The exhibition is free, as with the majority of Cambridge museums. You can find the museum on Downing Street. It is good to be reminded from time to time that Cambridge museums together curate a total of some 5,000,000 objects, works of art and specimens within one square mile. Have a look at the centralised webpage, here.

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