Art of Vanuatu

Dates + times

February 8 – June 16 2013
Open 10.00 am – 5.00 pm every day

Orde Poynton Gallery




Recorded information +61 2 6240 6501
General information +61 2 6240 6411
For visitors with mobility difficulties +61 2 6240 6411
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For public programs associated with the exhibition click here

Gallery of works

Vanuatu is very different from other Pacific nations. Traditional practices better known as Kastom remain strong even after a century of dual colonial religious influences. Kastom: Art of Vanuatu presents for the first time the unique collection of arts from this area held by the National Gallery of Australia. In the early 1970s the Gallery contracted an agent to field collect in Vanuatu resulting in the acquisition of nearly two hundred works, a selection of which will be accompanied by other important works from the NGA's Vanuatu collection.

An array of compelling sculptures created for ritual events include the towering four metre figure Maghe ni Hivwir created from tree fern to Ramparamp - the life sized effigies of chiefly men which enabled them to live beyond death. Upright slit drums Atingting hewn of entire tree trunks topped with big eyed faces, sculptures of otherworldly beings in wood, tree fern, clay and stone all feature with the exhibition alongside one of the oldest scientifically dated works from Vanuatu a rare mask known as Chubwan.

Through the NGA's rich collection it can be seen that Kastom is an inseparable part of Ni-Vanuatu culture, a vibrant living culture where the arts produced for traditional purposes, as recently as the early 1970s, are remarkably comparable to those of long ago.


Proudly supported by the National Gallery of Australia Council Exhibitions Fund.

Chubwan mask 15-17th Century (1448-1635 AD) Vanuatu, Penama province, Pentecost Island wood, patina. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2011
Image detailed above: Kavankanamuel 'Anglautaki' Vanuatu, Malampa Province, Malakula Island, Kamanliver Village c.1970 Purchased by J-M Charpentier on behalf of the CAAB wood, clay, ochre, fibre National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.