Material culture and missionary history on Aneityum island

This is the 4th post in a series fosussing on research in the Pacific around Vanuatu collections, acquired by Scottish missionaries who lived on the islands from the 1850s-1940s.

Following my time working in Port Vila, I travelled to Aneityum the southernmost island of Vanuatu. It is located closer to the Loyalty Islands in New Caledonia than it is to many of the northern islands of the country. With a population of around 1000 people, it is relatively small with a close-knit community. The island is very green with no road network. The tourism industry there mainly comes from cruise ships who anchor in the bay on the south west coast, with the tourists travelling on small boats to Inyeug, or Mystery Island, a smaller island in the coral reef off Aneityum. It is on Mystery Island that our 12 seater plane landed before getting small boats over to the main village of Anelcauhaut.

Inyeug, also known as Mystery Island, off the south west coast of Aneityum

Inyeug, also known as Mystery Island, off the south west coast of Aneityum


Looking across to Anelcauhaut from Mystery island

Looking across to Anelcauhaut from Mystery island


Anelcauhaut is the location of the first Presbyterian church in Vanuatu, established in 1852. As I have detailed in previous posts, it was this connection with the history of Presbyterian missionaries that has led to Vanuatu material in Scottish museums. Both National Museums Scotland and Glasgowlife have material from Aneityum. These items came through Reverend James Hay Lawrie who was based on the island from 1879-96. Lawrie was at the mission station at Aname on the north of the island. I had taken photographs with me of the artefacts in Scotland and some copies of historical photos taken by Reverend Lawrie in the 1890s, most of which are in the Mitchell library in Sydney.
During my visit, I accompanied researchers from Australian National University who were running an archaeological fieldschool on the island. The team was led by Professor Matthew Spriggs and Dr Stuart Bedford who were working closely with Richard Shing an archaeologist from Aneityum. Fieldwork has been taking place on the island for several years. This year, the research sites included the old church and mission house at Anelcauhaut built by Reverend John Geddie. This Scottish born man was brought up in Nova Scotia, Canada, and he was responsible for setting up the first Presbyterian church. The excavations also centred around the area in which Geddie’s printing house was located, a burial site occupied by local and European 19th century graves, an area in which missionaries had buried old sacred or tabu stones, and an area of swamp.
The site of Reverend John Geddie’s house at Anelcauhaut

The site of Reverend John Geddie’s house at Anelcauhaut


Inside the site of Reverend John Geddie's house

Inside the site of Reverend John Geddie’s house


The research team involved in the Australian National University archaeological fieldschool on Aneityum

The research team involved in the Australian National University archaeological fieldschool on Aneityum


Following our arrival, my first task was to meet Nelly Nepea Tamalea who is the female field worker on the island. The Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta have an excellent system whereby volunteers from each of the islands in the country work as fieldworkers doing their own research with the community and also assisting visiting researchers. The two fieldworkers for Aneityum are Frank and his sister Nelly. I met Nelly in Anelcauhaut village where she and two of her sisters were rolling pandanus leaves in preparation for making baskets. Unsurprisingly, my attempts to roll pandanus took a lot longer! Meanwhile, the women were tending to an earth oven where food was being prepared for a welcoming ceremony we were all shortly to attend with the council of chiefs. After receiving garlands of inpa leaves, a kastom leaf in Aneityum, we were introduced and talk turned to the work we would be doing this year. All research is carried out in conjunction with the community and no research is carried out that is not supported by them. This was my first opportunity to share some of the photographs I had brought with me. Everyone was really excited and interested to see what I had been able to bring. It was decided that I should do a presentation one evening that week using a projector to display the images on the outer wall of the local primary school. This was an opportunity for anyone to see the photos that could make it there. In the end, around 100 people were able to attend. The historical photos show scenes from around the island but also feature some named individuals including Numrang who was an ancestor of the local teacher who helped me with the projector. National Museums Scotland also care for a beautiful neck ornament of seaweed which incorporates human hair from Numrang’s beard which I was able to show the community.
Showing images of the collection in Scotland and Reverend JH Lawrie’s historical photos of Aneityum to the council of chiefs on Aneityum

Showing images of the collection in Scotland and Reverend JH Lawrie’s historical photos of Aneityum to the council of chiefs on Aneityum


Delivering a presentation to the community in Anelcauhaut, Aneityum

Delivering a presentation to the community in Anelcauhaut, Aneityum


As there are no roads on Aneityum, everyone either travels by foot or by boat. I took a boat one day to the north of the island near Port Patrick. I wanted to go there not just to share the images with more people but also to see the mission station at Aname where Reverend John Inglis (from the Scottish borders) and subsequently Lawrie, had been based. As well as the missionary house there had been a church and teachers training college at Aname. Reverend Inglis arrived on Aneityum in 1852 representing the Scottish Presbyterian mission and he worked with Geddie. I found out that Inglis had originally built his house on top of the sacred meeting place, or nakamal , at Aname. This was a common practice for 19th century missionaries in Vanuatu as part of an infringement on local belief systems and their desire to exert influence over the local population. Still in situ where the entrance to the teachers training building would have been is a sacred stone which Inglis placed as a door step after it was given to him by some islanders who had converted to the new religion of Christianity. The stone is named Rangitafu and was apparently used to influence the sea and shipwrecks.
Rangitafu in situ at what would have been the entrance to the Teachers Training Institute

Rangitafu in situ at what would have been the entrance to the Teachers Training Institute in north Aneityum


Showing some of the artefacts in Scotland and Lawrie's historical photos to Pastor Isaac and his uncle at the site of Lawrie's mission house at Port Patrick (Aname), north Aneityum

Showing some of the artefacts in Scotland and Lawrie’s historical photos to Pastor Isaac and his uncle at the site of Lawrie’s mission house at Port Patrick (Aname), north Aneityum


I found that the 19th century photographs of the island were most recognisable to younger people on the island whereas because many of the artefacts are no longer made or used, they seemed more familiar to older people. For me, that made it feel even more important for the artefacts to be seen by the community and for them to have a record of some of the material held in museums elsewhere in the world. Jack Ketati who had been the first ni-Vanuatu curator at the cultural centre and who lives on the island was especially excited to see three dance clubs Reverend Lawrie donated to NMS in 1897. This includes one club in the form of a whale’s tail. He explained that the dances are still known and they are trying to revive the practice but that the knowledge of the style of the clubs has been lost. Having the photos of these 19th century clubs Jack told me that he would now be able to commission a carver on the island to work on the historical designs.

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Chief Roi Mata’s Domain: Vanuatu’s first UNESCO world heritage site

The cultural tour begins at Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta which houses a display on the Roi Mata site. We were treated to a performance by musician and artist Edgar Hinge who sang, played the flute and demonstrated sand drawing. Sand drawing is a kastom art form which features on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage. The artist uses only one finger dragged in a continuous line through the sand to create an elaborate drawing. Drawings have different purposes and meaning, sometimes as part of a ritual. Edgar create a number of drawings for us, each with its own story which he told us as he drew. This one relates to a tale of a blackbirding ship which visited one of the islands of Vanuatu:

Sand drawing by Edgar Hinge depicting a blackbirding ship

Sand drawing by Edgar Hinge depicting a blackbirding ship


Artist and Musician Edgar Hinge perfomaing at the Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta

Artist and Musician Edgar Hinge perfomaing at the Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta


Following Edgar’s performance, we travelled by bus to the west coast of Efate where boats waited to take us to another part of Efate mainland called Mangaasi, which had been the location of Chief Roi Mata’s residence. At this first stop we were greeted by a number of performers acting out the process of Roi Mat bringing peace to Efate. We walked around the area of his residence, passing a number of tabu stones, a large banyan tree and ending at a modern slit gong. The slit gong has significance because Roi Mata attended the feast on Lelepa at which he died following a disagreement over the playing of a large slit gong, or tam tam.
Modern slit gong, or tam tam, at Roi Mata's former area of residence at Mangaasi, Efate island, Vanuatu

Modern slit gong, or tam tam, at Roi Mata’s former area of residence at Mangaasi, Efate island, Vanuatu


Back in the boats, we headed to Artok, also known as Hat Island due to its shape. This is the location of Roi Mata’s burial site, excavated in 1967 by French archaeologist José Garanger. There is a strong oral tradition surrounding Roi Mata and the sites relating to him. In the 1950s, French anthropologist Jean Guiart recorded these stories and Garanger subsequently followed them up by excavating sites identified in this local knowledge (including Artok, Mangaasi, and a site called Fels cave which we visited next). The burial site on Artok was discovered to include the grave of Chief Roi Mata, and around 50 other burials but there is thought to be potentially as many as 300 burials. Local tradition tells that these other people were buried alive as part of the ceremony surrounding Roi Mata’s death and it has been found through excavation that many of the bodies exhibit signs of this having been the case. A number of graves were found to contain men and women together.
View across to Artok, or Hat Island, the site of Chief Roi Mata's burial

View across to Artok, or Hat Island, the site of Chief Roi Mata’s burial


Burial site of Chief Roi Mata and others who were buried there as part of a ceremony surrounding his death. Roi Mata's grave is maked by the large headstone to the right of the photo

Burial site of Chief Roi Mata and others who were buried there as part of a ceremony surrounding his death. Roi Mata’s grave is maked by the large headstone to the right of the photo


We then travelled by boat to Lelepa, the site of Roi Mata’s death. Following lunch in the local school of laplap and fish curry, we walked around the island to Fels (or Feles) cave. The imposing white rock is formed of compressed ash and pumice. This cave is apparently where Roi Mata was taken after falling ill and it was where he finally died. Inside are petroglyphs depicting whale, turtles, humans and other creatures, the earliest of which are thought to date from around 900AD. There are also markings believed to be a type of counting system.
The entrance to Fels Cave

The entrance to Fels Cave


Rock art inside Fels cave depictiing a man (possibly Chief Roi Mata), a turtle and a bird

Rock art inside Fels cave depictiing a man (possibly Chief Roi Mata), a turtle and a bird


Rock art inside Fels Cave depicting a whale

Rock art inside Fels Cave depicting a whale


The tour of Roi Mata’s domain is incredibly informative and enjoyable and a great way to see the island of Efate, but it also gives a glimpse the ways work is being done to preserve Vanuatu’s unique and rich cultural heritage. The trips to the three sites (Mangaasi, Artok and Fels Cave) are available for anyone to book and are run by Roi Mata Cultural Tours, a community-owned tourism business. This is an environmentally and culturally sustainable community tourism project and the tours help the Mangaliliu and Lelepa communities protect their World Heritage area. I was particularly interested in experiencing the tour as it is hoped that one day the missionary sites on Aneityum (the southernmost island of Vanuatu to which I would be flying the following day) will also receive World Heritage status.
You can find out more about the Roi Mata site here: http://chiefroimatasdomain.com/
– Eve

Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta Research & Workshop

Part 2 of ‘Missionary Diasporas: Researching Vanuatu Collections in the Pacific’
Following a week in Canberra researching material held by the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau, Chantal and I travelled together to Vanuatu where we spent 5 days in Port Vila. Vila is the nation’s capital city on the island of Efate. We wanted to meet with staff working in the Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta, and the Museum, Archives and Library to discuss collections from Vanuatu currently held in Scotland. Once I had arranged my research permit (all researchers must go through the Kaljoral Senta) we met Anne Naupa, Chief Archivist at the national archives. Anne gave us a behind the scenes tour, telling us about their work to make archival material accessible in Vanuatu. There are a range of holdings there including land deeds, maps, and government documents. The Archive building opened in 2010 and incorporates the National Library. Inside the entrance to the building is an exhibition space featuring work by contemporary Ni-Vanuatu artists. The archives are publically accessible every weekday morning. In the afternoons they close to visitors so that Anne and her assistant Augustine can work on their collections. Chantal and I had the opportunity to use the library as a study space and to consult material only available in Vanautu.

The Archive and Library building, Port Vila, Vanuatu

The Archive and Library building, Port Vila, Vanuatu


Exhibition space inside entrance to Vanuatu Archive and Library

Exhibition space inside entrance to Vanuatu Archive and Library


Anne Naupa, Eve Haddow and Augustine Tevimule inside the Vanuatu national Archive building

Anne Naupa, Eve Haddow and Augustine Tevimule inside the Vanuatu National Archive building


Later in the week we met with Anne Naupa (Chief Archivist), June Norman (Chief Librarian) , Maurisco Batick (Photo Archivist), Augustine Tevimule (Assistant Archivist), Henline Mala (Office Manager, VKS) and Evelyne Pouleigh (Women’s Culture Program Coordinator). Chantal and I facilitated a workshop in which we shared the Pacific collections review results relating to ni-Vanuatu collections in Scotland.
Workshop with staff from the Archive, Photo and Film Archive, Library, Museum and Cultural Centre at VKS, Port Vila

Workshop with staff from the Archive, Photo and Film Archive, Library, Museum and Cultural Centre at Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta, Port Vila


As the relevant material currently held in Scotland has strong links with Scottish Presbyterian missionaries who were in Vanuatu from the 1840s to 1940s, we talked about the islands on which those missionaries were based and the type of cultural material they collected. We hoped to find out how we could make this material accessible for people in Vanuatu. Prior to the workshop Anne Naupa suggested we develop a finding aid to provide a guide to Vanuatu collections in Scotland. This document is now available at the National Archives in Vanuatu and will be available via the Pacific project website over the coming months. The finding aid is intended as a tool to guide people around the collections in Scotland. In addition to giving an overview of the Vanuatu material at the four partner museums involved in the Pacific Collections Review, it provides links to useful online resources and a guide to the names associated with the collections. It’s intended the guide will enable a researcher to know where to look and who to contact and means archivists and other staff in Vanuatu do not have to do the initial work of seeking material out or requesting from other institutions. It is an important resource in terms of drawing attention to the Vanuatu collections in Scotland.

I took digital and physical photographs of Vanuatu artefacts in Scottish collections to share throughout my trip there so during the workshop we all looked through and discussed these. It was fantastic to be able to talk about the collections and learn more about use and relevance of different artefacts.

Henline Mala and Evelyne Pouleigh looking at photos of Vanuatu artefacts housed in Scotland

Henline Mala and Evelyne Pouleigh looking at photos of Vanuatu artefacts housed in Scotland

Following the workshop, Chantal and I visited the National Museum of Vanautu to meet Henline and Evelyne. They showed us around the displays and talked through the content. Amongst the displays of exceptional kastom artefacts, we were surprised to see this quilt:

Henline Mala and Eve Haddow in front of quilt made by Mrs Lawrie and women of Aneityum in the 1880s. Mrs Lawrie was the wife of Reverend James Hay Lawrie who was based on Aneityum, Vanuatu from 1879-97

Henline Mala and Eve Haddow in front of quilt made by Mrs Lawrie and women of Aneityum in the 1880s. Mrs Lawrie was the wife of Reverend James Hay Lawrie who was based on Aneityum, Vanuatu from 1879-97


On closer inspection we found it was made by the wife of Reverend Lawrie with women of Aneityum. The missionary Rev. Lawrie (based on Aneityum 1879-97) gave a considerable collection to National Museums Scotland and Glasgow Museums in the late 19th century including around 460 kastom artefacts.

Evelyne largely works with women’s kastom projects and showed us the museum store where many of the objects relating to women are stored. This part of the collection includes bags and baskets of pandanus leaf and palm leaf as well as mats, fans and other female related artefacts. Evelyne talked us through the numerous styles of baskets made on different islands in Vanuatu. We looked at large dyed mats made in Ambae, Maewo and Pentecost. The mats made in Ambae are dyed today using synthetic dye but Maewo and Pentecost still use traditional plant based dyes.

Evelyne Pouleigh showing Chantal Knowles the store for women's kastom artefacts

Evelyne Pouleigh showing Chantal Knowles the store for women’s kastom artefacts


Chantal and I were also able to see the location for the new archaeology stores and workshops at the Museum. Professor Matthew Spriggs of Australian National University and one of the honorary Curators of Archaeology at VKS gave us a tour of what had previously been the area used by the archive and photo archive but was now being modified for the important archaeology discoveries being made of the islands. Matthew has been working in Vanuatu since the 1970s and is one of the leaders of the Aneityum fieldschool which I accompanied this year.

During our short time in Vila, Chantal and I were able to share Vanuatu collections in Scotland which we hope will facilitate greater access for the communities from which they originate. We learned about the ways in which we can achieve improved access: by working with existing cultural workers in country; by providing a clear guide to what is in Scotland and how to find out more; by giving copies of relevant material to the most suitable in-country repository; and maintaining continued dialogue with a range of individuals and organisations invested in cultural heritage. The last point seems crucially important. Maintaining new relationships we formed by working in person with cultural workers in Vanuatu is a key method for continuing to develop effective ways of sharing information about Vanuatu collections in Scotland and the UK more generally. On-going dialogue will enable us to keep up to date with new projects and initiatives led by VKS and to think about the ways that museums and archives with Vanuatu collections in the UK can feed into those.

The week was rounded off with a visit to the Roi Mata domain, a designated UNESCO world heritage site, and a subject which requires its own blog post.

You can find out more about Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta and related organisations here:
http://vanuatuculturalcentre.vu/
This research has been made possible with the generous support of grants from the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and the Strathmartine Trust)
– Eve

Missionary Diasporas: Researching Vanuatu collections in the Pacific (part 1)

Over the past five weeks I have been working in the Pacific in Vanuatu, incorporating two weeks related research in Australia. The research has several key aims: to discover how those working with collections of Vanuatu material in Scotland (and the UK more broadly) can make collections accessible to originating communities; to explore the significance of Vanuatu artefacts and related photographs and archives in Scottish museums to communities today; and to gather stories and information relating to these important assemblages which can be fed back into the collections. In a previous post I wrote about the Vanuatu collections in Scotland and explained their significance and also their strong connection with Scottish Presbyterian missionaries who lived and worked in the country from the 1840s-1940s. This summer a team of international archaeologists and archaeology students on an Australian National University fieldschool were excavating missionary sites on the island of Aneityum, the southernmost island in Vanuatu. As both Glasgow Museums and National Museums Scotland have collections from Reverend Lawrie who was a missionary on Aneityum from 1879-97 I took the opportunity to travel to the island with the group for 2 weeks. Prior to flying to Aneityum I spent several days in the capital of Port Vila with Chantal Knowles who has been part of the Pacific Collections Review project and who recently joined the Queensland Museum in Brisbane as Head of Cultural Environments. During our time in Vila we worked with staff at the Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta (VKS). While travelling back from Aneityum I also had the opportunity to spend several days on Tanna island where I travelled to some historical mission sites and visited the Tafea Kaljoral Senta (TKS) which covers the whole of Tafea province (including the islands of Erromango, Aniwa, Aneityum, Futuna and Tanna).

Leaving Scotland at the end of June, my first destination was Canberra, Australia. I spent a week consulting material related to the Presbyterian missions which are part of the collections at the Pacific Manuscript Bureau at Australian National University. Some of these resources have been microfilmed from other archives and libraries but there are also archives from private individuals. You can find out more about the Pacific Manuscript Bureau here: http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/pambu/

National Library of Australia in Canberra which provides access to all Pacific Manuscripts Bureau microfilm material.

National Library of Australia in Canberra which provides access to all Pacific Manuscripts Bureau microfilm material.


In the forthcoming blog posts I will give details of the project and my findings in Vanuatu, and share my experiences of working in a wonderful Pacific country.

I have been able to carry out this research with the generous support of grants from the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (http://www.socantscot.org/) and the Strathmartine Trust (http://strathmartinetrust.org/grants.htm).
-Eve

A look at Vanuatu collections in National Museums Scotland

Last week I hosted a visit from Christian Kaufmann former Curator of the Oceania Department at the Museum der Kulturen in Basel. We spent two days in store at National Musuems Scotland mainly looking at collections from Vanuatu. The four project partner museums (National Museums Scotland, Perth Museum & Art Gallery, Glasgow Life and University of Aberdeen Museums) all have material culture from Vanuatu which we knew from the beginning of the review had connections to Scottish Presbyterian missionaries who lived on the islands, mainly in Southern Vanuatu, from the 1840s-1940s. During the course of the Pacific Collections Review we have found the missionary connection is much more significant than first believed, with many more artefacts than we originally thought being traced back to missionary collectors once you scratch the surface of the documentation.

Map of Vanuatu

Map of Vanuatu


At National Museums Scotland (NMS) there are around 550 artefacts from Vanuatu and 250 of those were brought to Scotland by Reverend James Hay Lawrie, a missionary who was based on the southernmost island in Vanuatu, Aneityum, from 1879-1896(also known as Anatom and marked as such on the above map). Lawrie brought back material from Aneityum, Aniwa, Futuna, Tanna, Malekula, Epi, Ambrim, Nguna, Efate and Tongoa. The descriptions Lawrie recorded of the artefacts he collected give an insight into the culture on the islands at that time. They show he had a real interest in the culture of the people of Vanuatu, as opposed to some missionary collectors who focussed on using material culture to over emphasise cultural differences and justify what they saw as a need for mission work.

The first Presbyterian church in Vanuatu was established on Aneityum in 1852 by Rev John Geddie. Geddie was born in Aberdeenshire in Scotland and his family emigrated to Nova Scotia in Canada when he was young. Geddie was on Aneityum from 1848 and was joined in 1852 by another missionary, a Reverend John Inglis from Scotland. The Vanuatu collections in Scotland that were collected by missionaries reflect their interests and work on the islands: there are artefacts such as sacred stones and items of dress that reflect the missionary desire to modify people’s behaviour and convert them to Christianity, there are objects that tell the story of local culture and everyday life at that time, and there are artefacts that reflect the cash economy that missionaries were helping to create such as samples of arrowroot (a plant people were encouraged to cultivate and process for trade). There are also some items in Scottish collections that may not automatically be thought of as being associated with Vanuatu including bibles that have been translated into the local language of an island and communion tokens. Tokens are particularly associated with practices of the Scottish Presbyterian church and I gave a paper on them at Pacific Arts Association Europe conference last month in Cologne. Communion tokens offer a starting point to think about the complex relationships that existed between missionaries, local communities and others in Vanuatu in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
IMG_9069

Both sides of a communion token from Aneityum, first used on the island c.1852. One of 2 communion tokens brought to Scotland by Rev JH Lawrie.

Both sides of a communion token from Aneityum, first used on the island c.1852. One of 2 communion tokens brought to Scotland by Rev JH Lawrie.


Rev. JH Lawrie’s collection includes a wide variety of material ranging from body adornments such as combs…
Comb from Erromango (A.1890.170)

Comb from Erromango (A.1890.170)


To clubs including this dance club carved at the end with a shark’s tail…
Club (nelup) of wood from Aneityum which was used in dancing. Donated to National Museums Scotland by Rev JH Lawrie in 1889 (A.1889.514)

Club (nelup) of wood from Aneityum which was used in dancing. Donated to National Museums Scotland by Rev JH Lawrie in 1889 (A.1889.514)


Detail of one end of club (nelup) from Aneityum which was used in dancing. Donated to National Museums Scotland by Rev JH Lawrie in 1889 (A.1889.514)

Detail of one end of club (nelup) from Aneityum which was used in dancing. Donated to National Museums Scotland by Rev JH Lawrie in 1889 (A.1889.514)


To two tree fern grade figures from Malakula which Lawrie sent to the museum in 1896.
two fern grade figures from Malakula collected by Reverend James H Lawrie and donated to National Museums Scotland by him in 1896 (L-R: A.1896.15 & A.1896.14). The suit of armour from the Scottish history collection gives an idea of scale!

two fern grade figures from Malakula collected by Reverend James H Lawrie and donated to National Museums Scotland by him in 1896 (L-R: A.1896.15 & A.1896.14). The suit of armour from the Scottish history collection gives an idea of scale!


These figures relate to grade taking ceremonies where a person rises in status. They are made of a tree with multiple aerial roots. The green pigment is special and is particular to one area of Malakula from which it was traded.
Reverend Lawrie took many photographs during his time in Vanuatu and also brought a photo collection back to Scotland. Sadly the collection has been lost but there are still copies of many of his photographs in the Mitchell Library in Australia. One of these images shows an older man with a caption reading ‘Numrang, sub-chief of N side of Aneityum – Bequeathed his beard when dying to his successor. The beard was intermixed with dried seaweed and worn by the man in the opposite photo. 1890’The photo of the younger man shows him wearing the neck ornament and after studying these photos and the artefacts in Scotland I’ve discovered that the neck ornament is now here in Edinburgh in National Museums Scotland:
Chiefly neck ornament from Aneityum, Vanuatu, made of seaweed and human hair on a twisted plant fibre cord. Pieces of pink coral still remain attached to some parts of the seaweed (A.1895.413.74)

Chiefly neck ornament from Aneityum, Vanuatu, made of seaweed and human hair on a twisted plant fibre cord. Pieces of pink coral still remain attached to some parts of the seaweed (A.1895.413.74)


In addition to Lawrie’s collection, there is other important material from Vanuatu here in NMS. Christian and I were particularly interested in some of the older ceremonial masks such as this one of Malakula. It was brought to Scotland in 1890 by Reverend William Watt of Edinburgh who was a missionary based on Tanna with his wife.
Ceremonial mask of wood overmodelled with clay from Malakula (A.1890.428)

Ceremonial mask of wood overmodelled with clay from Malakula (A.1890.428)


Side view of mask from Malakula

Side view of mask from Malakula


One of the earliest set of artefacts from Vanuatu in National Museums Scotland are three skirts from Ambrim which would’ve been worn in layers. Although we don’t have an exact date, we know the skirts came via the University of Edinburgh collection which dates them as pre-1854.
One of three skirts from Ambrim, Vanuatu (A.UC.579A)

One of three skirts from Ambrim, Vanuatu (A.UC.579A)


I have recently been awarded generous funding from the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and the Strathmartine Trust to travel to Vanuatu to carry out more research relating to the missionary collections in Scotland. I’ll be on Aneityum for 2 weeks in July and am excited about being able to take photographs and information on the collections in Scotland back to Aneityum where there is work on-going on the island to establish a museum and archive. I’ll be there with archaeologists from Australia National University who are carrying out fieldwork on the site of the old church and missionary’s house from the 19th century. In preparation for going to Vanuatu I have been working through the missionary archives at National Library of Scotland and have recently found what is best described as a scrap book compiled by a friend of Rev. JH Lawrie in Edinburgh. It contains some photographs taken by Lawrie as well as letters from him and pressed plant samples. The photographs from the album have been digitised and you can view them here: http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/search/field/refere/searchterm/Acc.7548%252FF%252F19

– Eve

A visit to the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum

I recently visited the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum to have a look at Pacific material in their collection. I spent the day in the museum store with Michael McGinnes, Collections Manager at the museum, and two of his student volunteers who kindly showed me around. I also met Oswald the museum cat who has his own YouTube channel! The Smith was founded in 1874, funded by a bequest from local artist Thomas Stuart Smith. It has a large art collection as well as local history, archaeology, natural sciences, and world cultures collections.

Historical photograph of the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, c.1900

Historical photograph of the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, c.1900


The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum today

The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum


The museum cares for around 200 artefacts from the Pacific, which came into the museum in the late 19th and early 20th century. Most of these objects are from Melanesia and the associated donors are connected with the Stirling area. There is material from the Solomon Islands, including a collection of twenty eight fish hooks made of turtle shell donated by Colonel J.S. Stirling in 1882. The Colonel was a local man interested in natural history who published extensively on the flora of Stirling area. From the Santa Cruz Islands, which are part of the Solomon Islands, is this bag made of banana fibres:
Woven bag from Santa Cruz islands made of banana fibre, probably late 19th century

Woven bag from Santa Cruz islands made of banana fibre, late 19th century


These finely made bags were woven on a backstrap loom. It would have been used to carry equipment for the process of chewing betel, a plant that acts as a mild stimulant.

The Smith also houses an interesting collection of around 70 objects from Vanuatu that came to the museum in 1930 and includes arrow, clubs, spears, combs and body ornaments. Over the course of the Pacific Collections Review project, we have found that the majority of artefacts from Vanuatu in Scottish museums we have visited were collected by missionaries. It seems likely this collection also has a missionary connection.

Woven girdle of pandanus leaf from Vanuatu. Aquired by the Stirling Smith in mid-20th century.

Woven girdle of pandanus leaf from Vanuatu. Aquired by the Stirling Smith in mid-20th century.


There are a number of clubs from Fiji and Tonga acquired from Sir Seton-Steuart in 1928, the year he sold the Touch House estate (situated outside of Stirling) and auctioned the contents of the house. Two of the clubs are intricately carved in the Tongan style and if you look closely you can see small depictions of frigate birds and people holding clubs or paddles.

Michael has worked at the museum for 34 (and a half) years so knows the collections very well. He told me his favourite object in the Smith collection from the Pacific is an ear ornament of Maori green stone. Maori greenstone, or pounamu, has ceremonial and special significance and this body ornament would have been a treasured object. It is recorded as being found on the North Island of New Zealand in a rifle pit after the battle of Gate Pā on April 29th 1864. Gate Pā, now more commonly known as Pukehinahina, was one of two key battles in the Tauranga area, and part of the New Zealand Wars fought between Maori and British government forces in the 1840s and 1860s. In this particular battle, 250 Ngāi Te Rangi Maori inflicted a heavy defeat on a much larger British force of 1700 men.
You can see a picture of the pendant here:
http://www.smithartgalleryandmuseum.co.uk/collections/world-cultures/australianew-zeland/maori

You can find out more information about the Stirling Smith and its collections here: http://www.smithartgalleryandmuseum.co.uk/

-Eve

Modelling culture: An outrigger canoe from Futuna

Guest post by Ross Irving, Assistant Curator, World Cultures, National Museums Scotland

As part of the Pacific Collections review Eve has been steadily working her way through our Pacific collections here at NMS. While studying material from Vanuatu, Eve started looking at the Reverend James Lawrie collection, which came to NMS in the 1890s from a Scottish Free Church missionary who was based on the island of Aneityum in the south of Vanuatu. The collection is quite large, numbering some 370 objects, including weapons, clothing and personal ornaments, objects of ceremonial and magical use and several models. Lawrie collected a number of ‘models’ to bring home with him, many of which survive in the NMS collection. They can tell us a great deal about the objects they represent and are a rich resource for researchers.

One model in particular came to our attention; a boat model from the island of Futuna around 50 miles from Aneityum. This island is not to be confused with the Polynesian island Futuna of Wallis and Futuna. The model represents a small outrigger canoe with dugout hull and sewn washstrakes, panels used to raise the height of the canoe. Models like this were popular souvenirs for European visitors, allowing them to take home examples of traditional craft in miniature (much easier to transport home than the real thing!).

Model of a Futuna outrigger canoe made of bread-fruit wood with paddles and baler (A.1895.413.2 + A-C)

Model of a Futuna outrigger canoe made of bread-fruit wood with paddles and baler (A.1895.413.2 + A-C)


Model of a Futuna outrigger canoe in the NMS collection (A.1895.413.2 + A-C )

Model of a Futuna outrigger canoe in the NMS collection (A.1895.413.2 + A-C )


‘Collection of Native Models Aneityum (now in Edinburgh Museum)’, courtesy of J.H. Lawrie. State Library of New South Wales

‘Collection of Native Models Aneityum (now in Edinburgh Museum)’, courtesy of J.H. Lawrie. State Library of New South Wales


The Futuna model can be seen at the front in the photograph above, interestingly with a fish hook tied over the stern carving which is still in the NMS collection. There is also a comparable model from Aneityum propped vertically at the back. Other models, also in the NMS collection, shown here include the model fish trap, shell adze and model house.

The Lawrie collection highlights the fact that models are extremely useful, along with other evidence like photographs, as records of traditional craft and constructions that would have been impractical for Europeans to bring home. Often constructed to scale (this model is estimates to be ¼ actual size) and using the same building materials and techniques as the full sized objects they represent, they can tell us much that other records cannot. Looking at this particular model, we can draw on Lawrie’s own published observations as well as his photography to learn more about it.

Having an interest in local culture, Lawrie wrote about and photographed different aspects including: appearance, dress and ornamentation, music and instruments, carving, weaponry, legends and traditional belief systems. Lawrie’s article entitled ‘New Hebrideans’ was published in The Scottish Geographical Magazine in 1892. On canoes, Lawrie observed that:

“The canoes on the southern islands are usually small and rude in construction; they are hollowed out of a single log with an outrigger attached, and are intended to carry from two to six adults”

Lawrie then goes on to discuss Futuna canoes in particular:

“On Futuna they have an ingenious method of heightening the sides of the canoes by building on extra pieces. They bore holes in the wood with a heated iron and sew the slabs to the body of the canoe with sennit, plugging up the holes afterwards with coco-nut fibre.”

This is also documented in one of Lawrie’s photographs:

Man with an outrigger canoe, Futuna, Vanuatu. Photo taken by Reverend J.H. Lawrie from 1891-94. Courtesy of J.H. Lawrie. State Library of New South Wales

Man with an outrigger canoe, Futuna, Vanuatu. Photo taken by Reverend J.H. Lawrie from 1891-94. Courtesy of J.H. Lawrie. State Library of New South Wales


The model collected by Lawrie shows this perfectly. Adding wash strakes to raise the height of the sides of the canoe would allow for travel in more open water. William Gunn, Lawrie’s predecessor who was based on Futuna, also commented on this element in his book The Gospel in Futuna (London, 1914):

“The sides are raised by a row of planks, sewn by sinnet, the holes being plugged with coconut fibre…These Futunese canoes, now used when catching flying fish, were their ‘ships’ in early days, for going to other islands. Then two rows of planks raised the height of the canoe and kept out the sea. The baler is a wooden scoop with the handle raised. The natives never go to sea without a bailer, as their canoes always leak, more or less.” P198

This contrasted with those made on Aneityum which Gunn stated were not built with wash strakes and were intended only for calmer waters. The Futuna model comes with miniature paddles and a baler. The model baler can be seen in 1st photo of this blog post. Gunn also mentions that the carved ornament on the stern is “supposed to resemble the tail of a fowl” (this can be seen on both the model, and in the photograph above).

It would appear that the Futuna model was made using the same techniques as described by Lawrie and Gunn. The washstrakes are sewn to the hull using coconut fibre cordage, with cane strips. There appears to be coconut fibre pushed into the joins, the spaces between the washstrake and the hull, a method of making craft watertight known as caulking.

Close up of the coconut fibre binding and caulking used in the construction of the model canoe.

Close up of the coconut fibre binding and caulking used in the construction of the model canoe.


The model appears to be a miniature version of the canoe both in form but also in construction. Although valuable as a record of larger objects, this focus often leads to other interesting aspects of models to be overlooked. A question that springs to mind is ‘why would a model need caulking?’ A master teaching an apprentice, or just a matter of authenticity?

Forming a part of most ethnographic museum in the UK, model boats are commonly displayed and interpreted simply as ‘boats’ rather than being discussed as models. Although they are definitely valuable as historical record of vessel types (which often are no longer made) their status as ‘model’ is rarely discussed. Early trade in these models between islanders and Europeans showed a mutual interest in watercraft and seafaring. Perfect as souvenirs these models were easily brought home as curios and so are widely represented. I feel the appeal and interest in the models from a European perspective is clear, but what needs further research is the history and process of model making from the Pacific islanders perspective. What role (if any) do models and model making have in local culture and craft? Were they made before European arrival and played some part in passing on knowledge about construction and craft, or are they simply a souvenir used to trade with Europeans? The fact that this model is constructed in the same way as the full sized version does suggest that time and care were taken to make them.

What we do know is that the models form part of Lawrie’s record of New Hebridean culture and allow us, without travelling to Vanuatu, to closely study many of these structures which would otherwise have been impossible.