MATAHOATA: Arts and Society in the Marquesas Islands
From Gauguin to Brel, and from Stevenson to Melville, the Marquesas Islands fascinated the greatest artists. The exhibition pays tribute to them through 300 pieces and works that reflect the strength of a culture that has transcended the ages and harnessed history.
Writers, painters, musicians… Many western artists ventured to this distant world as of the 19th century, attracted by the traditional culture of the Polynesian archipelago. A sophisticated and complex aesthetic characterised the arts of the Marquesas Islands, marked by the force of the human figure ("mata" in the Marquesan language), and particularly the large eyes that decorate the sculptures and tattoos.
Although the traditional culture suffered the incursions of history on contact with Westerners at the end of the 19th century, it managed to preserve its main codes, using ingenuity to incorporate and adapt the outside perspective. The resulting deep cultural mixing, particularly visible in commercial handicrafts which flourished during this period, ensured the survival of the Marquesan arts. A remarkable feat that not only enabled the traditional culture to be preserved but which also paved the way for the current revival of dance festivals, traditional arts and the resurgence of tattooing.
Curator: Carol Ivory, Professor at Washington State University, specialist in the Marquesas Islands Scientific Advisor: Véronique Mu-Liepmann, Curator at the Musée de Tahiti et des îles from 1982 to 2011