Gifts are an important aspect of encounters between the people of Oceania, and for maintaining social networks. It is very common for gifts to be exchanged during important festivities. Islanders also attempted to engage in a productive relationship with uninvited guests, like the Westerners who arrived in the past, by presenting them with certain objects.
Artist Lisa Reihana
‘In Pursuit of Venus (infected)’, a panoramic video work by artist Lisa Reihana, is an impressive interpretation of the wallpaper produced in 1804 by French businessman Joseph Dufour. The 20-panel wallpaper design, known as ‘Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique’, demonstrates the fascination with the voyages of discovery to Oceania undertaken in the 18th-century by Captains Cook, de Bougainville and de la Pérouse. Two hundred years later Reihana has brought the wallpaper to life, in a work featuring peoples from all over Oceania. By including encounters with Europeans she shows the complexity of cultural identity and colonisation.
A meeting that never took place
There is a special story associated with this feather cloak. This fabulous garment is evidence of a meeting that never took place. In 1823 Liholiho, Kamehameha II, and his wife Queen Kamāmalu led a high-ranking Hawaiian delegation on a diplomatic visit to Britain. But before they had a chance to meet the British King, George IV, and present their valuable feather cloaks to him, the king and queen succumbed to measles. This impressive gift, used to enter into diplomatic relationships with European monarchs, remained in Britain.