Monday, August 31, 2015

Missionaries and Idols in Polynesia

An exhibition currently on view at the Brunei Gallery of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London documents the early years of the London Missionary Society (LMS), from its formation in 1795 until around 1825, the time of its initial “success” in central Polynesia, a triangle in the Pacific encompassing the Society Islands, the Cooks, and the Australs. The first half of the exhibition shows forty archival items—paintings, engravings, prints, books, imprints, and more —that together illustrate the formation of the LMS, the missionaries themselves, the voyage of the missionary ship Duff, and the society’s Missionary Museum in London. The second half of the exhibition, in the words of missionary Rev. John Williams, puts on view an “ocular demonstration” of forty idols and non-idol artifacts that the LMS missionaries collected and sent back to their headquarters.

Visit the official exhibition website.

Fly whisk handle  -  Rurutu, Austral Islands

Case of Polynesian idols depicted in Juvenile Missionary Magazine, 1860

Spear point-cum-feather god  -  Cook Islands

War god, Oro  -  Tahiti

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