The Ethnographic Collection PEOPLE OF THE SEA
The ethnographic collection People of the Sea presented at the Maritime Exhibition Centre in Svetlogorsk acquaints visitors with life of the people inhabiting Southeast Asia: the continental part, thousand islands between the Indian and Pacific Ocean as well as Hindustan.
Numerous cultural traditions of this densely-populated region are reflected in household and cultural items as well as in handicraft. All the artifacts presented at the exhibition are original, they were collected in New Guinea, Java, Timor, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Bali, India, China and Nepal.
The sea is an integral element in these people’s life that can be spotted in diverse items and materials, stories and symbols. The exhibition People of the Sea reconstructs the world of the primitive tribes and their cults; ancient Asian religious practices and high skill of indigenous artists. It is the first ethnographic project of the kind in the Kaliningrad Oblast. Only a few largest museums worldwide can be proud of such exhibits: the Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA), the Weltmuseum Wien (Austria), the Museum of the Tropics (Netherlands), the Ethnological Museum of Berlin (Germany), the State Museum of Oriental Art and the Kunstkamera (Russia). Many artifacts presented at the exhibition are unique in Russia and displayed here for the first time. According to researchers who studied the collection, it is one of the best five in Europe today.
The collection of Papuan art and culture of New Guinea (Asmat, Dani, Yatmul, Tolai, etc.) is the most important section. It comprises ritual objects, weapons (spears, axes, bows and shields) and works or art – traditional wood carving. The Papuan art of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island, is very diverse and each art-and-ethnographic part of the island has got particular features, its own specific style and techniques, its own types of articles and ornaments. Papuan tools and weapons are the objects of fine handicraft by their aesthetic level. Ornamental pattern variations are truly infinite and they uncurl wide scope of master’s creative imagination. Remarkably, these artifacts were created by people having only wooden, bone and shell tools. Another stunning section of the collection is decorative and applied art from Bali. Balinese rich sensual culture is reflected in art and handicrafts. The island is famous for its traditional wooden sculpture made in accordance with archaic, pagan and Hindu traditions – it is displayed here in detail – and Balinese painting is also distinctive by its decorativeness. The main topics are based on the eternal struggle between good and evil. The epic Ramayana, mythology, fairy tales and an endless succession of rituals and religious beliefs are the priority in defining style and meaning of life of the Balinese. Along with culture and art of the islands of Indonesia, the exhibition features handicraft from China, India, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. The artifacts as a whole are a unique example of the collection that accumulates vast ethnographic material and makes it possible to get to know culture of the primitive tribes hidden on the islands and highly developed culture of the ancient Asian civilizations. The exhibition People of the Sea is based on tolerant attitude to different cultures. Encounter with dwellers of distant islands via unique cultural code holders – handicrafts, items of cult and everyday life – gives a key to understanding fundamental principles of the natives’ worldview in Southeast Asia. It particularly important today since many primitive cultures survived by a miracle may disappear.
The Museum of the World Ocean expresses gratitude to Mr. Vladimir Shcherbakov for providing an opportunity to display the unique ethnographic collection; the State Museum of Oriental Art (Moscow, Russia) and the Russian Museum of Ethnography (Saint Petersburg, Russia) for their assistance and support in creating the exhibition and attributing the artifacts.