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French Influence on the Art World: Polynesian Art

What is Oceanic Art?

Oceanic artsthe literary, performing, and visual arts of the Pacific Islands, including Austrialia, New Zealand and Easter Island, and the general culture areas of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia. Many of the island clusters within these culture areas are separated by vast stretches of ocean, and the resultant isolation, together with the wide range of environmental conditions present, has led to the development of a rich variety of artistic styles.

"Oceanic arts". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 


Easter Island

Easter Island’s silent stone figures are a monument to the seafaring skills and unique culture of ancient Polynesian peoples.  Rapa Nui’s mysterious moai statues stand in silence but speak volumes about the achievements of their creators. The stone blocks, carved into head-and-torso figures, average 13 feet (4 meters) tall and 14 tons.


Art of the South Pacific: Polynesia

South Pacific art history is generally organized into three geographic regions: Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. While the regions have interacted, traded, and exchanged culturally for centuries, there are defining aesthetic, political, linguistic, and cultural traits within each region. This libguide features art from Polynesia, comprised of islands within a triangular area bound by Hawai’i, New Zealand, and Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Polynesia is further subdivided into three sections: West Polynesia, East Polynesia, and the Polynesian outliers. West Polynesia (Tonga, Samoa and American Samoa, ‘Uvea, Futuna, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Niue, and Rotuma) also will include Fiji, whose indigenous populations are generally considered Melanesian. Fiji has cultural and arts traditions that align with West Polynesia, however, hence its inclusion here. Polynesian outliers include islands that are technically outside of the Polynesian triangle but are culturally related to Polynesia (Nukuoro, Kapingamarangi, Tikopia, Anuta, Rennell, Bellona, Nukumanu, Sikaiana, Ontong Java). East Polynesian islands are: the Society Islands, French Polynesia (including Tahiti), the Marquesas, Austral Islands, Tuamotu Islands, the Cook Islands, Chatham Islands, Rapa Nui (also known as Easter Island, nearly 2,300 miles off the coast of Chile), Hawai’i, and New Zealand. Geologically, Polynesia ranges from volcanic to coral islands, and its environmental diversity shaped cultural traditions via the media and technology available on the islands.