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From 'primitive' to contemporary: a story of Kanak art in New Caledonia

CollectionsANU Dept. of Pacific Affairs (DPA) formerly State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) Program
Title: From 'primitive' to contemporary: a story of Kanak art in New Caledonia
Author(s): Graille, Caroline
Keywords: visual arts
Kanak art
New Caledonia
indigenous culture
Tjibaou Cultural Centre
contemporary artists
Date published: 2001
Publisher: Canberra, ACT: State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) Program, The Australian National University
Series/Report no.: State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) discussion paper series: 2001/2
In New Caledonia, the late 1980s saw the emergence of new cultural institutions and development programs dedicated to the indigenous Melanesian people of the Territory. After their struggle for immediate political independence failed in the mid-1980s, New Caledonia’s indigenous Kanak people obtained French recognition of their cultural identity through the 1988 Matignon Accord. The French Government subsequently implemented new measures both to preserve the Kanak cultural heritage and encourage indigenous artists to come up with new cultural expressions. In the last fifteen years, new Kanak artists have appeared, producing hybrid forms of art which claim to be rooted in the traditional Kanak world whilst at the same time being very much influenced by Western art standards, media, and techniques. This paper attempts to define the contemporary Melanesian art world in New Caledonia and to underline both its modernity and hybridism. It will show how contemporary Kanak art is breaking some dominant aesthetic rules and is changing the way both Westerners and Islanders decide what indigenous culture should be like. It will also focus on the emergence of new art professionals and new aesthetic icons, thus trying to give a better view of social and cultural change in this Melanesian postcolonial society.
ISSN: 1328-7854


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