Presented by the Oakland Museum of California
“Pacific Worlds” presents Californian identity as tied to and shaped by the histories, peoples, and geography of the Pacific Islands. The Museum’s exceptional Pacific collections have before never been shown on a large scale. Most of the artifacts were collected by an Oakland dentist, John Rabe, who traveled the Pacific in the 1880s and 1890s, doing dentistry and buying and trading dental work for artifacts. Other items were brought to California by naval personnel stationed in the Pacific.
The cultures and peoples featured in the exhibition include those of Tonga, Samoa, Hawai’i, Guam, Fiji, Maori, Palau, and the Caroline Islands. Pacific Worlds focuses on the way historic collections continue to speak to the cultural practices of Pacific Islanders in California today. For example, the Museum’s 25- foot historic outrigger canoe from Manus, Papua New Guinea will be displayed alongside a discussion of contemporary canoe reclamation among many Pacific cultural groups.
The exhibition will explore the Pacific as a region that includes California, focusing on Pacific history, the role of collectors in the region, and the role of Pacific people at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The majority of the exhibit focuses the experiences of Pacific Islanders in California and how they maintain cultural practices including dance and music, “foodways,” fiber arts, respect for ancestors, tattooing, surfing, and other practices. Life-sized photographic portraits and biographical profiles of Bay Area Pacific Islanders will help visitors learn more about people and culture.