ACT News

Polynesian dancers at the NGA to celebrate the exhibition Atua: Sacred Gods from Polynesia

Samoan dancers gave an energetic performance at the National Gallery of Australia on Saturday, to coincide with the new exhibition Atua: Sacred Gods from Polynesia.

The performance was part of a Pacific community day at the gallery, which featured a panel discussion about the role of ancestry in Maori society, mythology and the value of cultural objects.

Dancers from Tama Tatau at the NGA.
Dancers from Tama Tatau at the NGA. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The celebrations included Tongan performers who sung harmonies and demonstrated a traditional dance ritual that described the process for mixing the welcoming drink kava.

The exhibition opened in May and features more than 80 works, most of which were created in Polynesia before the early 19th century.

Moeata Faleafa performing with the ACT Tongan Language and Cultural School.
Moeata Faleafa performing with the ACT Tongan Language and Cultural School. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The pieces hail from Easter Island, Mangareva, Tuamotu, Tahiti, Nuku Hiva, Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Tonga, Fiji and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Many of the works are sculptures that have been carved from wood or stone. Gallery director Ron Radford said the exhibition explored the Polynesian concept of gods, figurative objects and associated beliefs that were developed over many years and spread throughout the region.

Many of the works in the collection were designed to contain or attract supernatural beings.

The gallery has borrowed major works from more than thirty museums around the world to stage the exhibition. Some of the museums have never lent the pieces before.

Samoan dancer Lisa Fa-Alafi at the NGA.
Samoan dancer Lisa Fa-Alafi at the NGA. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The exhibition includes works from the British Museum, which lent Hawaiian god figures. The Kunstkamera museum in St Petersburg sent its precious Easter Island "bird man".

The exhibition will continue until August 3 and entry is free.