Oceanic arts


Oceanic arts
Literary, performing, and visual arts of the Pacific islands of Oceania, including Australia as well as Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia.

Their isolation and wide range of environmental conditions led to the development of a rich variety of artistic styles. Religion and ritual strongly influence every aspect of Oceanic life, and their association with the arts is especially close. Religious symbolism infuses not only the objects, dances, and speeches used in ritual but also the materials and tools used to create them. Oceanic literature includes both complex oral traditions and a more modern body of works written primarily in English. The traditional oral transmission of literature necessitated rhythmic cadences and stock formulas to aid memory. Favoured subjects are tales of the gods and spirits and creation myths. Musical styles are multitudinous, though all regions, with some Melanesian exceptions, emphasize vocals using instruments to produce supranormal voices. Consequently most instruments are technically crude though often elaborately decorated in keeping with their extramusical function as gifts and cult objects. Polynesian song and dance is rooted in societal structure, and chants praise chiefs or high-ranking guests while the dancers' movements narrate rather than act out the meaning. Australian and Melanesian dance has a historical function describing the activities of gods and ancestors
in the latter instance, dancers don elaborate costumes and masks. In all the islands the significant movements are made with the upper half of the body, while the feet merely keep time. The visual arts display ingenious use of environmental possibilities: a staggering range of materials are used, often in collage-style combination. Wood is the main artistic medium; secondary materials included clay, shell, and stone. Extant works include wooden masks, clubs, and religious effigies; carved stone sculptures; feather cloaks and helmets; and bark cloth stenciled with bold, dense geometric designs The most famous monuments of Oceanic art are the gargantuan stone figures of Easter Island. With the arrival of European colonists, the arts in these regions began to reflect European traditions and styles. See also bisj pole.

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Universalium. 2010.

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