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Oceanic Art

Currently not on view

The Hawaiian concept of exquisite perfection is hana no'eau. Hana is activity, and no'eau means clever, skillful, wise and dexterous. The philosophy of creating every object to the highest mark, whether a tortoise shell fishhook or a carved ivory neck ornament, extends to the entire collection of Oceanic art.

Internationally recognized, the collection originated with the first works donated to the museum in 1799. More than 20,000 objects (from more than 36 island groups in Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia) incorporate available resources, including porpoise teeth, bark, jade, obsidian, abalone, human hair and natural fiber. Works by contemporary artists employ glass and synthetic stone. As a whole, the collection reflects profound periods of change. Objects reveal diverse materials gained in trade, new ideas from non-Native cultural influences, and evolved technology that produced metal tools.

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We invite you to search our collection database to explore thousands of outstanding works of art and culture that engage the mind and the spirit.

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