Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and The Ethnographic Collection

2015


GISCA Nr. 1 Titel

GISCA No. 1, 2015



Jasmin Ii Sabai Günther

"Malereien aus Papua-Neuguinea: Akteure, Repräsentationen, Identitäten"



Bark paintings of Papua New Guinea present themselves in their local contexts as well as in museums and galleries for contemporary art in other parts of the world. In these processes, their categorization as art or non-art is constantly discussed, because ‘traditionally’ their making is based on semantics and not aesthetics. In contrast to several other publications on bark paintings or art from Papua New Guinea, the present paper examines not an ‘either-or’, but an ‘as-well-as’. It is argued that this is possible because things also have multiple identities: in this way, bark paintings are established here as agents of myths and morals, articulations of human/non-human relationships as well as landmarks of places and identities. Interestingly, these roles are also performed by contemporary pieces, whose status as art is usually not disputed. In sum, they all form platforms for (re-)presentations that are negotiated by different actors in multiple ways. Therefore, they are – despite their perceived passive materiality – constantly in motion. These movements are not always of a physical nature, but consist mostly of recontextualizations, which can occur linearly but also simultaneously. The present paper establishes things as participants of actions that question a subject-object-dualism with their demonstrated multiple identities. To reveal the paintings’ agency, the author links relevant anthropological literature and theories with her own ethnographic material gathered in Papua New Guinea and Australia.