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Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, v.76, no. 3 (Summer, 2018)

Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia

Nuku, Maia
48 pages
44 illustrations
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Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia focuses on an array of artistic creations that illuminate how Polynesians traditionally understood their relationship with the divine as active, dynamic, and manifested in the plants, feathers, and fibers of the islands they inhabited. Featuring some thirty exceptional works of Polynesian art that date from the late eighteenth to the nineteenth century, Atea examines celebrated examples of figural sculpture in wood and whale ivory; superbly executed feather headdresses and cloaks; and visually compelling fiber works, such as painted barkcloths and a small-scale spirit house, or temple. The author’s compelling essay represents a new phase in scholarship that looks to recover the early ritual landscape of Polynesia by examining the material nature of the art itself.

Breastplate (Civanovonovo), Whale ivory, pearl shell, fiber, Fijian people
Fijian people
early 19th century
Female figure (’otua fefine), Whale ivory, Ha'apai Islands
Ha'apai Islands
Early 19th century
Ritual dish (daveniyaqona), Wood (vesi), Fijian
Early 19th century
Ritual image (to'o) representing the deity Oro, Wood, coconut fiber, Maohi people
Maohi people
18th century
Drum (Pahu), Wood, sharkskin, fiber, Austral Islanders
Austral Islanders
early 19th century
Flywhisk (tahiri ra’a), Wood, coconut fiber, human hair, Rurutu or Tupua'I Island
Rurutu or Tupua'I Island
Early–mid-19th century
Handle for a Fly Whisk (Tahiri), Ivory, coconut husk fiber, Maohi (Tahitian)
Maohi (Tahitian)
18th century

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Nuku, Maia. 2019. Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia. Edited by Dale Tucker. New York, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.