PAA Europe 2008

By Katrien Elsen
Sketch of the nenna  tree fern sculpture of the eastern part of the island Ambrym (Vanuatu) in the Ethnograpic Collections of the University of Ghent by Katrien Elsen. This sculpture will be in the exhibition in Brussels during PAA-E

Wednesday, 29 - 31 October, 2008, in Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp, Belgium

Based on the “Oceania” exhibition in the ING Cultural Centre, Brussels, the symposium is in the context of the annual conference of the Pacific Arts Association (PAA), an international organisation that concerns itself with the study of the art of Oceania. The PAA generally holds a symposium in conjunction with an important exhibition, and “The Art of Oceania” provides an ideal occasion for holding the conference in Belgium. Presentations will be held on 29 October in the Royal Museums of Art and History and on 30 October in Het Pand in Ghent, where the University’s ethnographic collections will be opened up especially for the occasion. There will be a tour the following day of the Ethnographic Museum in Antwerp and a visit to a private Oceania collection. In the evening, there will be a nocturn in the ING Cultural Centre. Dr. Pauline van der Zee of the faculty of Ethnic Art at the University of Ghent is organising the symposium in co-operation with Bart Suys of the Royal Museums of Art and History. Interested parties can obtain information on this European conference from the website of the Pacific Arts Association.

For possible participation in the symposium, please contact Pauline van der Zee: or Bart Suys:

The occasion for the conference is the “Art of Oceania” exhibition in the ING Cultural Centre and the new display of the Oceania collection in the Royal Museums for Art and History (Dutch abbreviation: KMKG). The presentations during the symposium will take two themes. Firstly, the cultural significance of the human body in the art of peoples from the region of the South Pacific. These peoples transform the body in order to represent ancestral or mythical beings. Exhibiting the body as a metaphor can be seen in sacred images, utensils and even in the architecture. By wearing masks or through dance, the human body itself can of course also change. Artefacts transfer knowledge. The second theme of the symposium is therefore the question of how indigenous knowledge can be transferred via artefacts within their own culture or to western culture.

The presentations by Nicolas Cauwe and Serge Lemaitre of the KMKG will provide an archaeological perspective. The talks will range from the historic ritual monuments of Easter Island and Polynesian rock art, to contemporary appearances this summer of Sulka masks from New Britain in the mask festival of Rabaul. New interpretations of old artefacts will be discussed, besides reflections on how ‘forgotten’ traditional tattoos have again become modern ‘tribal body art’ applied in separate contexts, and how traditional knowledge can serve as inspiration to present-day Maori artists. Internationally renowned speakers will come from not only Europe and the US, but also from New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii. Art experts, including Christian Kaufmann, Carol Ivory, Deborah Waite and Wilfried van Damme, to name but a few, will speak, as well as cultural anthropologists (Harry Beran, Gozewijn van Beek), museum curators (Antje Kelm, Ingrid Heermann, Roberta Colombo) and art teachers like Jacqueline Charles Rault.

This symposium will highlight within Belgium the colourful and expressive art of Oceania. The exhibition and academic studies also indirectly promote current indigenous art production, thus contributing to the preservation of cultural traditions that are important to the identity of the peoples of the South Pacific. That is why Ghent University’s faculty of Ethnic Art is taking this opportunity to organise this first international conference in Belgium on the art of Oceania.

Information on the Pacific Arts Association
The Pacific Arts Association is an international organisation that enthusiastically pursues studies of all the art disciplines of Oceania. Their aims are:
•    To increase members’ awareness of the situation as regards the art of the South Pacific
•    To promote serious study, interpretation and reporting on the art of Oceania
•    To encourage interest within education for academic-level courses on the art of the South Pacific
•    To develop co-operation between institutes and individuals involved in the art of Oceania
•    To contribute towards the conservation and management of the material culture of Oceania
•    To improve mutual understanding between nations involved in the art of Oceania.
Membership of PAA Europe (10 euros) is required for participation in the conference.

For program information, see:

For registration and accommodations, please visit:
PAA-E Information

Please address questions, or suggestions regarding the program to the  organizing committee:
Pauline van der Zee:
Frank Herreman:
Bart Suys:

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