Kanak Arts (2006)

English version
The artefacts tell their story... Kanak Arts by Roger Boulay. Please come into the Great House: the Kanak Country invites you to discover artefacts from ancient times...

The artefacts in the Museum of New Caledonia tell the story of Kanak civilization. Jade jewellery, big masks decorated with black feathers, shell currency, finely decorated pottery and majestic wooden rooftop carvings, all reflect the Kanaks' ideas on life, death and the other world. Some of these items are still in use today.

Nets, traps, knives, axes, mats, baskets, fishhooks and other pieces of work show how the elders used what nature offered to grow food, fish, sail, and build houses and make them comfortable.

Here are a few pages to explain what these artefacts have to tell us from their deepest hearts and souls.

Roger Boulay

Please come into the Great House: the Kanak Country invites you to discover artefacts from ancient times...

  • Lapita pottery or the voyage of our ancestors,
  • The jade axe of the high chiefs,
  • The Gomawé mask in the land of the dead,
  • Kanak currencies for the 'Word', which we hold sacred ...

This book contains clear and well-illustrated descriptions to help you understand the many dimensions of Kanak culture.

Most of the artefacts described in this book can be seen at the Musee de Nouvelle-Caledonie (Museum of New Caledonia)

Roger Boulay was in charge of the Pacific Arts Department of the former French National Museum of African and Pacific Arts in Paris for fifteen years. He also helped to make preparations for the Tjibaou Cultural Centre and now has special responsibilities for Pacific collections with the French Museums Department. He is currently working on an inventory of Kanak artefacts currently held in French museums.

He has also designed many exhibitions, including some in partnership with the Museum of New Caledonia, the Agency for the Development of Kanak Culture or the Conference of National Museums: Patrimoine kanak, De Jade et de Nacre (Kanak Heritage: of Jade and Mother-of-pearl') in 1990, Arts du Vanuatu (Arts of Vanuatu') in 1996, Kannibals et Vahinés in 2001. He is currently preparing a history of the exploration of the Pacific for Hachette/Le Chêne Editions.

This book is published by the Editions Grain de sable with the support of Musee de Nouvelle-Caledonie.
Cover: Rooftop carving Sculpted wood (Montrouziera cauliflora) Touho, Hoot Ma Whaap customary region, New Caledonia