09. The Pacific, Art & Humanities

AP Art History: Interactions Within and Across Cultures in Pacific Art

AP Art History: Interactions Within and Across Cultures in Pacific Art
*Note: The enduring “Enduring understanding,” “Learning Objective,” & “Essential Knowledge” language comes from the 2019 AP Art History Curriculum and Exam Guide.

Enduring Understanding: Cultural practices, belief systems, and physical setting constitute an important part of art and art making and are often communicated in various stylistic conventions and forms. Such cultural considerations may affect artistic decisions that include, but are not limited to, siting, subject matter, and modes of display, and may help to shape the creation of art in a given setting or within a given culture.

Learning Objective: Explain how cultural practices, belief systems, and/or physical setting affect art and art making.

Essential Knowledge: The Pacific region—including more than 25,000 islands, about 1,500 of which are inhabited—is defined by its location within the Pacific Ocean, which comprises one third of the earth’s surface. The lands are continental, volcanic, and atollian. Each supports distinct ecologies that exist in relation to the migrations and sociocultural systems that were transported across the region.

Essential Knowledge: Geological and archaeological evidence indicates that Papuan-speaking peoples traveled across a land bridge that connected Asia and present-day Australia about 30,000 years ago. Lapita people migrated eastward across the region beginning 4,000 years ago. Populations sailed from Vanuatu eastward, and carried plants, animals, and pottery that now demonstrate a pattern of migration and connection from what was the Lapita culture.

Essential Knowledge: Ships and devices of navigation and sailing expertise were built and used to promote exploration, migration, and the exchange of objects and cultural patterns across the Pacific. Navigators created personal charts or expressions of the truths of their experience of the sea and other objects intended to protect and ensure the success of sailing. Ocean-going vessels carried families, and often communities, across vast distances; passengers could also return to their place of departure.

Navigation device:

    • 221. Navigation chart. Marshall Islands, Micronesia. 19th to early 20th century CE. Wood and fiber.

Essential Knowledge: The sea is ubiquitous as a theme of Pacific art and as a presence in the daily lives of a large portion of Oceania, as it both connects and separates the lands and peoples of the Pacific.

Enduring Understanding: A variety of factors leads to and motivates interaction between and among cultures, and this interaction may influence art and art making. Such cultural interaction may result from factors including, but not limited to, travel, trade, war, conquest, and/or colonization, and may include forms of artistic influence such as spolia, appropriation, and stylistic revivals, among other expressions of cultural exchange.

Learning Objective: Explain how interactions with other cultures affect art and art making.

Essential Knowledge: The arts of the Pacific vary by virtue of ecological situations, social structure, and impact of external influences, such as commerce, colonialism, and missionary activity. The region was explored by Europeans as early as the 16th century and most extensively from the second half of the 18th century. By the beginning of the 19th century, Dumont d’Urville had divided the region into three units—micro- (small), poly- (many), and mela- (black) nesia (island). By 800 CE the distribution that has come to be described as Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia was established.

Micronesian art:

    • 217. Female deity. Nukuoro, Micronesia. c. 18th to 19th century CE. Wood.
    • 221. Navigation chart. Marshall Islands, Micronesia. 19th to early 20th century CE. Wood and fiber.
    • 213. Nan Madol. Pohnpei, Micronesia. Saudeleur Dynasty. c. 700–1600 CE. Basalt boulders and prismatic columns.

Polynesian art:

    • 214. Moai on platform (ahu). Rapa Nui (Easter Island). c. 1100–1600 CE. Volcanic tuff figures on basalt base.
    • 215. ‘Ahu ‘ula (feather cape). Hawaiian. Late 18th century CE. Feathers and fiber.
    • 216. Staff god. Rarotonga, Cook Islands, central Polynesia. Late 18th to early 19th century CE. Wood, tapa, fiber, and feathers.
    • 219. Hiapo (tapa). Niue. c. 1850–1900 CE. Tapa or bark cloth, freehand painting.
    • 220. Tamati Waka Nene. Gottfried Lindauer. 1890 CE. Oil on canvas.

Melanesian art:

Essential Understanding: A variety of purposes may affect art and art making, and those purposes may
include, but are not limited to, intended audience, patron, artistic intention, and/or function. Differing situations and contexts may influence the artist, patron, or intended audience, with functions sometimes changing over time, and therefore affecting the role these different variables may play in art and art making.

Learning Objective: Explain how purpose, intended audience, or patron affect art and art making.

Essential Knowledge: Arts of the Pacific involve the power and forces of deities, ancestors, founders, and hereditary leaders, as well as symbols of primal principles, which are protected by wrapping, sheathing, and other forms of covering to prevent human access. Ritual dress, forms of armor, and tattoos encase and shield the focus of power from human interaction. One’s vital force, identity, or strength (mana) is expressed and protected by rules and prohibitions, as well as by wrapping or shielding practices, or tapu. Mana is also associated with communities and leaders who represent their peoples. Objects that project status and sustain structure hold and become mana. These objects are made secure through tapu or behaviors that limit access to and protect the objects.

Art of deities & ancestors:

    • 214. Moai on platform (ahu). Rapa Nui (Easter Island). c. 1100–1600 CE. Volcanic tuff figures on basalt base.
    • 216. Staff god. Rarotonga, Cook Islands, central Polynesia. Late 18th to early 19th century CE. Wood, tapa, fiber, and feathers.
    • 217. Female deity. Nukuoro, Micronesia. c. 18th to 19th century CE. Wood.
    • 220. Tamati Waka Nene. Gottfried Lindauer. 1890 CE. Oil on canvas.

Ritual dress & tattooing:

Essential Knowledge:  Pacific arts are performed (danced, sung, recited, displayed) in an array of colors, scents, textures, and movements that enact narratives and proclaim primordial truths. Belief in the use of costumes, cosmetics, and constructions assembled to enact epics of human history and experience is central to the creation of and participation in Pacific arts.

Performance & art:

    • 215. ‘Ahu ‘ula (feather cape). Hawaiian. Late 18th century CE. Feathers and fiber.
    • 218. Buk (mask). Torres Strait. Mid- to late 19th century CE. Turtle shell, wood, fiber, feathers, and shell.
    • 222. Malagan display and mask. New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea. c. 20th century CE. Wood, pigment, fiber, and shell.
    • 223. Presentation of Fijian mats and tapa cloths to Queen Elizabeth II. Fiji, Polynesia. 1953 CE. Multimedia performance (costume; cosmetics, including scent; chant; movement; and pandanus fiber/hibiscus fiber mats), photographic documentation.

Essential Knowledge: Objects such as shields, ancestral representations, and family treasures were and continue to be constructed to give form to and preserve human history and social continuity. Other art forms are constructed to be displayed and performed to remind people of their heritage and shared bonds (such as the significance of an ancestor or leader) and are intended to be destroyed once the memory is created.

Essential Knowledge: Rulers of the Saudeleur Dynasty commanded construction of Nan Madol in Micronesia, a residential and ceremonial complex of numerous human-made islets. Rulers of Hawaii were clothed in feather capes that announce their status and shield them from contact. Societies of Polynesia in New Zealand, Rapa Nui, and Samoa create sacred ceremonial spaces that both announce and contain their legitimacy, power, and life force. In Melanesia, individuals and clans earn status and power and sustain social balance in a set of relationships marked by the exchange of objects. Masks, and the performance of masks, are a recital and commemoration of ancestors’ histories and wisdom.

Art of status listed in this Essential Knowledge

    • 213. Nan Madol. Pohnpei, Micronesia. Saudeleur Dynasty. c. 700–1600 CE. Basalt boulders and prismatic columns.
    • 214. Moai on platform (ahu). Rapa Nui (Easter Island). c. 1100–1600 CE. Volcanic tuff figures on basalt base.
    • 215. ‘Ahu ‘ula (feather cape). Hawaiian. Late 18th century CE. Feathers and fiber.
    • 218. Buk (mask). Torres Strait. Mid- to late 19th century CE. Turtle shell, wood, fiber, feathers, and shell.
    • 222. Malagan display and mask. New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea. c. 20th century CE. Wood, pigment, fiber, and shell.

Essential Knowledge:  Reciprocity is demonstrated by cycles of exchange in which designated people and communities provide specific items and in exchange receive equally predictable items. The process of exchange is complex and prescribed. Chants, dances, scents, costumes, and people of particular lineage and social position are called into play to create a performance that engages all of the senses and expands the form and significance of the exchange.

Essential Knowledge:  Duality and complementarity are aspects of social relations that are often characterized by opposing forces or circumstances and express the balance of relations necessary between those seemingly divergent forces. Gender, for example, is the basis for inclusion in some societies but is understood in the context of complement rather than opposition. Spatial organization, shared spaces, and exclusive or rarified spaces are created and used to reinforce social order.

Suggested Artworks:

  • 216. Staff god. Rarotonga, Cook Islands, central Polynesia. Late 18th to early 19th century CE. Wood, tapa, fiber, and feathers.
  • 218. Buk (mask). Torres Strait. Mid- to late 19th century CE. Turtle shell, wood, fiber, feathers, and shell.
  • 220. Tamati Waka Nene. Gottfried Lindauer. 1890 CE. Oil on canvas.
  • 221. Navigation chart. Marshall Islands, Micronesia. 19th to early 20th century CE. Wood and fiber.
  • 223. Presentation of Fijian mats and tapa cloths to Queen Elizabeth II. Fiji, Polynesia. 1953 CE. Multimedia performance (costume; cosmetics, including scent; chant; movement; and pandanus fiber/hibiscus fiber mats), photographic documentation.

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