Oceania, is one of the current exhibitions at the Royal Academy in London (continues until 10 December 2018). This is a personal reflection of some of the issues and objects I found particularly interesting but especially those linked to textile art.
On entering the gallery you are confronted by an enormous blue cloth – stitched and slashed – made by the artist Kiko Moana of New Zealand. It seemed to me the perfect illustration for an exhibition that was considering the art and cultures of a region both connected and divided by water. As a modern work it was also a reminder that this is not about an art and culture from the past – this was an exploration of Oceania throughout its history.
The second art work was a film, Tell Them, by Kathy Jetnil-Kijna. It begins with a description of a piece of jewellery, leads to a discussion about Marshall Island and its people, and ends with their fears for the future. It was about the links between cultures. It was a reminder that actions in one part of the world impacts on others.
The exhibition continues with a vast array of items – canoes, figures, musical instruments, navigational charts each one telling just a little about a vast array of diverse communities. There were also plenty of textile items. There were many pieces of bark cloth but also pieces of patchwork. The relevance of Samoan fine mat was fascinating in that these precious items were also used in ceremonies of reconciliation.
In addition there were several pieces of jewellery.