Museum at Home
Scattered like stars across the night sky are over 20,000 Pacific Islands in Oceania, with a human history rich in ritual, narrative tradition, innovation and art.
The Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum pays our respect to the Tongva people as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (Los Angeles basin, South Channel Islands). Thank you for receiving us.
We are sharing a few artifacts online from our permanent collection and we recognize the unique kinship that exist between ancestor pieces, people and their histories and the obligation that comes with this recognition.
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.