Museum at Home
Scattered like stars across the night sky are over 20,000 islands in Oceania, with a human history rich in ritual, narrative tradition, innovation and art. We ask you to view this map without the geographical political boundaries. See us as people connected by one ocean. See us all now as part of humankind connected to one planet, Earth.
The Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum acknowledges the Tongva people as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (Los Angeles basin, South Channel Islands) and pay our respects to the honuukvetam (ancestors), 'ahiihirom (elders), and 'eyoohiinkem (relatives/relations) past, present, and emerging.
We are sharing a few artifacts online from our permanent collection and we recognize the unique kinship that exist between objects, people and their histories and the obligation that comes with this recognition. Google map markers show location of the artifact's origin.
Traditional Knowledge (TK) Community Use Only
This label is being used to indicate that this material is traditionally and usually not publicly available. The label is correcting a misunderstanding about the circulation options for this material and letting any users know that this material has specific conditions for circulation within the community. It is not, and never was, free, public and available for everyone at anytime. This label asks you to think about how you are going to use this material and to respect different cultural values and expectations about circulation and use.
Tanoa fai 'ava (Kava bowl), Samoa
Tanoa fai 'ava is carved from an indigenous hard wood, and used in the preparation of a ceremonial drink made from the roots of the kava plant. Kava, or 'ava as it is known in Samoa, most important use is in chiefly meetings and ceremonies. Older forms of Tanoa fai'ava have four legs, whereas most Tanoa fai'ava seen today (like this one) have many legs, and have a striking resemblance to a Samoan subcircular community house. On view at PIEAM is a gift of small Tanoa fai 'ava.
Masi (Tapa), Fiji
Cloth made of bark is generically known as tapa across Oceania. Tapa making and related knowledge and skills are one of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage shared among the Pacific Islands. Despite some variations in terms of the raw materials, techniques, and usages, tapa has been an integral part of the life of Oceania communities with an important cultural significance and social role in connecting families and communities.
Tapwanu Mask, Mortlock Islands, Chuuk
This mask was created for warding off hurricanes and typhoons in order to protect the breadfruit crop. The masks are produced by a secret organization called soutapuanu. This group observes certain taboos and is responsible for the mask songs and dances. The only masks indigenous to Micronesia come from the Mortlock Islands, south of Chuuk. The soutapuanu also maintain a large house where they hold performances and feasts during the months of April and May. The masks decorate the support beams, pillars, and the boathouses. The masks are either male or female.
The art of weaving is believed to be a gift from the gods. The traditional materials of Fais weavers are banana and hibiscus fiber, but today colored cotton mill thread has become the material of choice. Like the heirloom fine mats of Samoa and Tonga and comparable chiefly objects of other Oceania societies, the machi embodies the wisdom and honor of the island chief. Prior to the Christianization of Fais Islands and Ulithi Atoll, the machi functioned as an inaugural mantle in the investiture ceremonies for paramount chiefs to these two island communities. Embodying the sacred nature of the office of island chief, the machi symbolically linked the incoming chief with his predecessors and with the island’s ancestral spirits.
Towards the front is the Uunong ceremonial bowl from our permanent collection. Behind the artifact, is the 3D model of Uunong ceremonial bowl, a collaboration with PIEAM intern Jacinda Earword; Dr. Mariah Proctor-Tiffany, CSULB, College of the Arts; and Dr. Christiane Beyer, CSULB College of Engineering.
January 11– August 14, 2020
(be)longing is an exhibit to raise the consciousness of Oceania and her people. Experience the Museum’s collection through traditional knowledge. Follow us on Instagram to stay notified on these special events.
The film Eating Up Easter will be screening in the Museum’s media room with limited capacity of 3 from the same household or group (subject to change). Eating Up Easter is a new documentary from native Rapanui (Easter Island) filmmaker Sergio Mata’u Rapu. In this cinematic letter to his son, Rapu explores the modern dilemma of their people who risk losing everything to the globalizing effects of tourism. The film follows four islanders, descendants of the ancient statue builders, who are working to tackle the consequences of their rapidly developing home. This film is a gift to the community from Kartemquin Films & filmmaker Sergio Mata’u Rapu.
*Media Room temporarily closed.
Carrying the Pacific: Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenthood
Guest Co-Curator: Stevie Merino
July 20, 2019 – December 31, 2019
Island Ink: Tattoo Traditions of the Pacific
Guest Curator: Tricia Allen
August 25, 2018 – June 30, 2019
Fa'a Sāmoa: The Samoan Way
The Falana'i and Lisa Papadakis Ala Collection
January 6, 2017 – June 4, 2017
Becoming PIEAM: From Collection to Museum
April 29, 2016 – December 30, 2016
Marks of the Ancestors: Tattoo Traditions of the Pacific
Guest Curator: Tricia Allen
October 17, 2015 – April 17, 2016
PIKO: Pacific Islander Contemporary Art
Guest Curator: Dan Taulapapa McMullin
January 10, 2015 – July 5, 2015
Out of Taiwan: Shared Connections in the Pacific
Photographs by Danee Hazama
Guest Co-Curator: Wennifer Lin-Haver
October 26, 2013 – April 20, 2014
Island Where | Community Exhibit
June 6, 2013 – October 20, 2013
‘Aikona: A Solo Art Show by ‘Amelia Niumeitolu
February 2, 2013 – June 2, 2013
Faces of Ceremony | Community Exhibit
September 16, 2011 – December 2, 2012
Walk-In | Community Exhibit
October 15, 2010 – September 11, 2011
Legend of Ngkeklau, storyboard, Belau – Robert Gumbiner Collection
The storyboard is an art form that echoes the rich cultural heritage of the people of Belau (Palau) in the Western Caroline Islands of Micronesia. For centuries, Palauans have embellished the inside and outside of their meeting houses, called bai, with carved wooden planks and tie beams telling the legends, myths, and histories of their islands. Traditionally the story artwork was an integral part of the bai architecture which also serves the dual purpose of teaching social values to the people.
Throughout the Pacific, islanders are making the ultimate commitment to their cultural heritage and embedding it in their skin. Oftentimes, the designs follow the norms set centuries ago, but both culture and art are dynamic and ever-evolving. The tattoos of today exhibit great creativity commonly referencing the old style while simultaneously representing the modern day individual. The Pacific style has gained popularity worldwide and has influenced artists everywhere. The art work represented here includes artists from all reaches of the world.
Paitangi Ostick photographed by Tricia Allen