Tonga coat of arms on barkclothWays of the Ancestors:  the Art of Tonga

11 July 2015 to 28 February 2016

World Cultures gallery special display case

The Art of Tonga features objects from the museum collection that were initially acquired from early maritime voyages during a remarkable period of change in Tonga’s history when powerful chiefdoms were transformed into a European-influenced monarchy. By the mid-19th century ancient religious beliefs had been replaced by Christianity. European colonialism, exploration and political intervention as part of this process led to a major dispersal of Polynesian art into Western museums and private collections where they were considered curios.

This dramatic change in Tongan society led to the development of new art forms which we are more familiar with. Museums now act to preserve lost heritage and continuing research has led to a better understanding of Pacific island life. The display includes barkcloth, clubs, tools and souvenirs made from the natural resources that were available to Pacific islanders.