Oceanic art is a sweeping category of art history encompasing the creative heritage of the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand, including areas as far apart as Hawaii and Easter Island.
One of the more notable among the varied cultures and traditions of Oceanic art (dating as far back as 50,000 years) is the rock art of Australian Aborigines, arguably one of the world's oldest examples of prehistoric artwork.
More widely famous examples of Oceanic art include the monolithic statues of Easter Island, as well as the tribal art of New Guinea that were used in religious rites and fertility rituals. As is often the case with indigenous expression, the vast majority of ancient Oceanic art would not be viewed as 'art' by its creators. More likely they were considered vital tools of war, as a physical portal to the spiritual world, or for sheer personal adornment.
Australian aboriginal mourning
mask, 19th century.
Maori feather cape, 19th century.
More about Oceanic art around the Web:
Oceanic Art - Great intro to the topic including a detailed overview of its history and stylistic comparisons among the art of New Guinea and Melanesia, Polynesia, and Easter Island, with photos and related resources.
History Resources: Oceania - Top-of-the-line resources to the subject; courtesy of Chris Witcombe, Professor
of Art History at Sweet Briar College.
Online - Secrets of Easter Island - The PBS television
network's look at the mystery of the island's famous giant stone
statues were moved and erected, using only the tools and materials
available to ancient Easter Islanders.
Museum - The official site offering online exhibits, galleries,
information on activities and events, related resources.
Pacific.com - Online market for New Guinea tribal art
and Indonesian folk art that also offers an education on the topic
and an extensive list of related resources.