Pacific Lifeways displays the diversity of island communities across the Pacific and the common concepts and technologies that bind them across the vast reaches of that ocean.
Our Pacific collections are one of the most important in the world, and reflect New Zealand's place as a Pacific Nation. In the Lifeways gallery histories and cultures are explored. With over 1,200 artefacts, what becomes apparent to visitors is the enduring strength of these cultures and their survival through centuries of peacetime and warfare as well as colonisation.
Greeting visitors as they enter the gallery is Kave, the supreme and malevolent goddess from the island of Nukuoro in the Caroline Islands. Made from the wood of a breadfruit tree and standing over two metres high, Kave is thought to be at least 160 years old and was brought to New Zealand in the 1870s by a Pacific Islands trader.
Displays reflect the Pacific Island groups who live in Auckland and show different communities' tools and utensils for communal living, hunting, fishing and recreation. Artefacts from Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Kiribati, Niue, Cook Islands, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea dominate.
There is also an impressive collection of special ceremonial items including a small, late 18th Century Tongan figurine once owned by the first king of Tonga, Taufa'ahau, which represents an ancient Tongan god. There are only six such figurines still in existence, three of which are housed at Auckland Museum.
The later influence on Pacific art of Christianity, the tourism industry and European ideas and materials are reflected in a number of artefacts, including portable altars, embroidered cotton t-shirts, tivaevae (quilts), and sun hats made from synthetic ribbon. A contemporary dance mat was made in Tonga and purchased by the Museum and its accompanying decorative belt was purchased for $20 from the Otara Flea Market in South Auckland.
Lifeways provides a rich encounter with the cultures of diverse Pacific Island groups; people who remain New Zealand's closest neighbours and who are visible within our community. It also provides an introduction to the Polynesians who were to stay and settle the land - Māori - in the adjacent gallery. From there visitors can explore other aspects of New Zealand's history.