The dazzling colors and patterns of the art of the Pacific Islands have long entranced Western audiences, including artists such as Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso. In Oceanic Art, Nicholas Thomas looks beyond the familiar, stunning surfaces of spears and shields, carved canoe prows and feather capes to discover the significance of art, past and present, for the people of the Pacific.
In this second edition, which includes a new chapter on globalization and contemporary art, Thomas shows how each region is characterized by certain art forms and practices—among them Maori ancestral carvings, rituals of exchange and warfare in the Solomon Islands, the production of barkcloth by women in Polynesia—even as it is shaped by influences from within the Pacific and beyond. The dynamism and diversity of the art are reflected in the illustrations accompanying this revelatory text, from works that evoke the most deep-rooted customs to those that address contemporary political issues.
Nicholas Thomas is the author of the Wolfson History Prize-winning Islanders: The Pacific in the Age of Empire, and numerous books on art and cross-cultural encounter. He is Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, and also Professor of Historical Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.