Within a soaring gallery filled with natural light, Te Vainui O Pasifika presents watercrafts and other objects from nearly every Pacific Island nation.
Walk down the gallery's curving ramp past carved paddles—some ceremonial, some utilitarian, but all of them beautiful—and under colourful crab-claw sails created by Pacific Islander artists in Melbourne to represent Micronesian, Melanesian and Polynesian traditions. Suspended above are canoes constructed for life in and around the sea, their designs reflecting the particular conditions of their corresponding home islands. The largest and most ornate is a 19th century ocean-going tomoko from the Solomon Islands that held 18 warriors. Memorial objects, including a house ornament or malagan from Papua New Guinea and an effigy or rambaramp from Vanuatu, represent social, religious and ceremonial life.
Downstairs you'll find a kiwi feather cloak woven by New Zealand Māori, intricately carved bailers to empty leaky boats, and statues decorated with intricate shell inlay. Surrounded by the sounds of the sea, you'll find the gallery one of the museum's most restful and inspiring places.
Te Vainui O Pasifika is presented with thanks to Museum Victoria's Pacific Island Advisory Group, who supplied the name of the exhibition and devoted many hours of their time to guide the exhibition's content.
"The Pacific Ocean is the livelihood and lifestyle of Pacific Islanders. With its population scattered across tiny islands and larger land masses, our ancestors sailed traditionally crafted outrigger and double-hulled canoes for fishing, trading and travel. Special canoes with magnificent prows were made for war. Guided by the stars, they navigated their watercraft either with wind-assisted woven sails or by warriors paddling to reach their destinations. Today we proudly honour our ancestors and appreciate the great ocean we call home.'
Olive Tau Davis, from Papua New Guinea; resident in Melbourne 1999.