Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mona Tapas

There's this new institution in Hobart - Mona, the Museum of Old and New Art. 

Totally remarkable place, in a very Tasmanian way.  To begin with, it is, as far as I can figure, completely self-financed by a professional gambler from the daggy end of Hobart, and the permanent collection is, again, as far as I can figure, entirely his personal collection.

Just went by this week (a Tasmanian driver's license gets you in for free), and got a wonderful surprise, a jaw-dropping surprise.

The current special exhibit features the tapas collection from the Tasmania Museum of Natural History and Art.  This is a very old institution in Hobart, and it turns out that it possesses an incredible collection of tapas from various corners of the South Pacific.  The collection has apparently never before been put on display all at once like this because of the shortage of space in the older museum.

Tapa is cloth made from bark, typically from the mulberry tree, that has served a variety of utilitarian and ritual uses in various Polynesian and Melanesian cultures.  Some of the pieces in this collection are contemporary, but a number were collected in the 19th century.  And they're stunning - they're huge, and beautiful.

I reckon that's one of the joys of travel, the connection that you develop with random art forms.  I'm still enchanted by the sound of the oud, 16 years after I travelled in Yemen.  And, if you've sailed around in the South Pacific, you can't help but spend an hour in a roomful of tapas every time you run across one...

Futuna tapa - known for its intricate design, and particularly close to our hearts.

The exhibit runs through April 2013.

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