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Arts/Culture ian 6/8/2013

Kastom Art Vanuatu

National Gallery of Australia

Until June 16

Your humble blogger lived in Vanuatu for three years and during that time became fascinated with the traditional cultural rituals, music and art.  There are some 83 inhabited islands and over 100 languages, so there is much diversity in the languages, history and, of course, art.  ‘Kastom’ literally translates as ‘custom’ with an extended meaning being the inseparable part of traditional ni-Vanuatu culture.

Kastom: Art of Vanuatu presents for the first time the unique collection of arts from Vanuatu held by the National Gallery of Australia. In the early 1970s the Gallery contracted an agent to field collect in Vanuatu resulting in the acquisition of nearly two hundred works, a selection of which will be accompanied by other important works from the NGA's Vanuatu collection.

An array of compelling sculptures created for ritual events include a towering four metre figure created from tree fern and life sized effigies of chiefly men which enabled them to live beyond death. Upright slit drums hewn of entire tree trunks topped with big eyed faces, sculptures of otherworldly beings in wood, tree fern, clay and stone all feature with the exhibition alongside one of the oldest scientifically dated works - a rare mask known as Chubwan.

The major current exhibition at the gallery is Turner from the Tate but this one is also worth checking out - admission free.

Proudly supported by the National Gallery of Australia Council Exhibitions Fund.