In the MET AOA galleries, Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia will open November 19, 2018. Atea is a Polynesian cosmological term that refers to the moment when it was believed that light first sparked forth, resulting in the birth of the first generation of gods. This exhibition will celebrate the creative ingenuity of Polynesian artists who drew from the natural world to give material expression to their understanding of the divine. Featuring objects from American collections and the Met’s own holdings, the exhibition will showcase some thirty artworks—figural sculpture, painted barkcloth, rare featherwork, and more—dating from the late eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries. The presentation will provide an opportunity to understand a core principle of Pacific art: The divine is not abstract but very much alive in nature. It will be the subject of a Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin.
The Last of the Kalash at the Musée des Confluences
Fêtes himalayennes, les derniers Kalash (Himalayan Festivals: The Last of the Kalash), on view at the Musée des Confluences through December 1, 2019, lifts the veil on some of the least-known people of Pakistan with a fi rst-of-its-kind exhibition in a French museum. Thanks to the work done in the second half of the twentieth century by two researchers and photographers from Lyon, the exhibition presents the beliefs and customs of the Kalash, a community of 3,000 people who inhabit an isolated mountainous region and who live and function in ways that are opposite to those we know in our consumerist society. It relates the story of these researchers as they explored an intersection of worlds and religions and discovered religious practices previously unknown to the outside world: a world populated by beneficent fairies called suchi and characterized by ritual ceremonies honoring the gods and celebrating the generosity of the Great Men. This universe gives rise to an art that is replete with symbolism, such as a two-headed equestrian figure, who rewards the most generous men, and a rich textile tradition maintained by women. The non-material culture is also vast: The language is unique, ancestral rites are highly codified and dictated by the deities, and shamans are ubiquitous and omnipresent. Kalash life is filled with spirituality, reflecting their struggle to survive in a harsh and restrictive climate. This exhibition demonstrates once again the extent to which museums are the repositories for human memory, both material and immaterial. It shows how a reclusive society gradually adapted to the outside world, how its rites altered due to pressures from external religions such as Islam, and how a people maintains its identity as it strives to conform to the established codes of modern life.
The Impermanence of Things
After many months of renovation, the Musée d’Ethnographie de Neuchâtel has entirely revamped its space and is reconsidering its holdings in terms of their wealth and variety, without confining them to purely ethnographic, geographic, ethnic, or functional considerations. It has asked and is endeavoring to answer the questions that twenty-first-century ethnographic collections must pose in order to remain relevant. As a start to this process, the museum has opened a major new exhibition at Villa de Pury titled "L’impermanence des choses" ("The Impermanence of Things"). This show is made up of nine modular spaces in which the museum’s holdings are used to put contemporary questions into perspective. In the “Poids” (Weight) section, Asante goldweights refer to the moral burden of the connection between the history of colonization and ethnographic collections, as well as the power relationships between peoples and the weight of the obsessive hoarding of objects, knowledge, and archives. In the “Plumes” (Feathers) section, headdresses from Papua New Guinea are presented within the décor of a Parisian cabaret, since such items are equated with spectacle and show. “Acteurs, Ambassades, Bazars, Artistes” (Actors, Embassies, Bazaar, Artists) and “Regards” (Views) both emphasize that human beings and material possessions are always changing, as are the ways in which they are perceived.
Museum der Kulturen
The Museum der Kulturen in Basel is planning a show about objects that generally reside in its storage. This is an innovative concept and one that will interest many people who are eager to know what goes on behind the scenes at a museum. It also reveals how objects that are not under the bright lights all the time are housed and care for. These days, many of these treasures are often the subject of controversy— they may have been stolen, unjustly removed from their contexts, or be made of materials that are now prohibited. What was earlier sought after is the subject of criticism today. How must these sensitive objects be handled? These issues and more will be explored by the museum beginning on March 22, 2019.
A new installation of the African collection at the Hood Museum
A new installation of the African collection at the Hood Museum is presenting the ways in which the aesthetic values and worldviews of different African societies in the past are still relevant to the contemporary social imagery of the vast majority of people in Africa. Whereas some museums continue to treat canonical African art as vectors of source cultures, this installation emphasizes the individual autonomy of the objects on view. The selection is organized around six themes: “Figures,” “Parliament of Masks,” “Power Objects,” “Transitions,” “Art of Small Things,” and “Art of Every Day.” Curated by Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, Shifting Lenses: Collecting Africa at Dartmouth will be on view until January 19, 2020.
American Indian images, names, and stories infuse American history and contemporary life. The images are everywhere, from the Land O’Lakes butter maiden to the Cleveland Indians’ mascot and from classic Westerns and cartoons to episodes of Seinfeld and South Park. American Indian names are everywhere too, from state, city, and street names to the Tomahawk missile. And the familiar historical events of Pocahontas’s life, the Trail of Tears, and the Battle of Little Bighorn remain popular reference points in everyday conversations. Pervasive, powerful, and at times demeaning, together these reveal how Indians have been embedded in unexpected ways in the history, pop culture, and identity of the United States and the rest of the world. "Americans" highlights the ways in which American Indians have been part of the nation’s identity since before the country began. Objects range from a 1948 Indian Chief to commercial graphics and promotional items with Indian imagery, to Native American artifacts associated with the Battle of the Little Bighorn, an event that unexpectedly contributed to the “branding” of Indian imagery in Western consciousness. Americans is a thoughtful examination of identity, change, and cultural impact.
Return of Alutiiq treasures
Last July 9, the Alutiiq Museum celebrated a special homecoming: Two Kodiak Alutiiq masks collected by Alphonse Pinart in the nineteenth century were brought from Boulogne-sur-Mer back to their native land of Alaska. This event is one element of a partnership of cultural exchange between France and the United States. Two similar masks were sent from Kodiak to France on a five-year loan, another part of a refreshing story of intercultural recognition and sharing. The masks will be on display in both museums until April of 2023.