Contemporary Pacific Art

Please note: this is archived course information from 2022 for ARTHIST 217.


In this course we focus on the work and art practices of contemporary Pacific artists. We will explore the ways that they translate indigenous knowledge and urban experiences into gallery forms such as painting, sculpture, photography, installation and multi-media, as well as performance, screen and digital forms.  We examine how Pacific artists in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, the wider Pacific and the diaspora, engage with and often critique the economies, environments, and dynamics of art gallery and museum worlds.

Pacific art and visual culture spans a rich and varied body of objects, dance forms, song, painting, and sculptural practices as well as adornment—both permanent and temporary, textiles, performance, and oral histories. It also encompasses the harnessing of digital media technologies as a means of creating new networks of communication and expression.  It is a crucial agent in maintaining and developing cultural traditions both in the homelands and diaspora. 

You will visit a range of art galleries as well as the museum, and develop your awareness and understanding of the unique contributions that Pacific artists have made not only within their communities, but also nationally and internationally.  Artists discussed in the course include Ani O’Neill, Angela Tiatia, Michel Tuffery, Tracey Moffatt, Fatu Feu’u, John Pule, Yuki Kihara and Janet Lilo. 

Themes include migration and diaspora, language and memory, notions of homelands and return, and the creation of complex cultural and gender identities. 

The course also provides an introduction to indigenous knowledge systems, decolonial theory and non-western feminisms.

Availability 2022

Not taught in 2022


Coordinator(s) Dr Caroline Vercoe

Recommended Reading

·     Sean Mallon and Pandora Pereira, eds.  Pacific Art Niu Sila: The Pacific Dimension of Contemporary New Zealand Arts.  New Zealand: Te Papa Press, 2002.

·     Peter Brunt, Nicholas Thomas, eds.  Art in Oceania: A New History.  London: Thames and Hudson, 2012.

·     Melissa Chiu, ed.  Paradise Now? Contemporary Art from the Pacific. New York: Asia Society Museum, 2004.

·     Susan Cochrane.  Beretara: Contemporary Pacific Art.  Noumea: Centre Culture Tjibaou, 2001.

·     Karen Stevenson.  The Frangipani is Dead: Contemporary Pacific Art in New Zealand.  1985-2002.  New Zealand: Huia Press, 2008.

·     Ian McLean, ed.  How Aborigines Invented the Idea of Contemporary Art. Brisbane: IMA, 2011.

·     Queensland Art Gallery.  My Country.  I Still Call Australia Home: Contemporary Art from Black Australia.  Australia: Queensland Art Gallery, 2013.


Coursework + examination


ARTHIST 217: 15 points


15 points at Stage I in Art History and 30 points passed