Community Hofstra University Museum

“Spirit and Identity” ~ HUM Exhibit of Melanesian Works

Spirit and Identity: Melanesian Works from the Hofstra University Museum Collections, on view from February 18-August 29, 2014 at the David Filderman Gallery, highlights ethnographic artworks and objects created by members of the distinct regional communities of the South Pacific, a rarely seen and extraordinary aspect of the HUM collections.

The David Filderman Gallery is located on the ninth floor of Hofstra’s Joan and Donald E. Axinn Library on the ninth floor, South Campus.

Oceanic, Melanesian, Iatmul peoples; Papua New Guinea; Suspension Hook, c. 1950s; Wood, pigment, cowrie shells; 17.25 x 6 x 2 in.; Hofstra University Museum Collections; Gift of Cedric H. Marks
Oceanic, Melanesian, Iatmul peoples; Papua New Guinea; Suspension Hook, c. 1950s;  Hofstra Univ. Museum Collections; Gift of Cedric H. Marks

Curated by Kristy L. Caratzola, this exhibition showcases ancestral figures, ceremonial masks, warrior shields, and ritualized practical objects crafted from natural materials sourced from sacred sites within the territory of each individual culture.  The exhibit also includes sophisticated wooden sculptures carved and hand-painted to express complex ideological beliefs through the use of stylized human and animal forms that are complemented with colorful, abstract geometric designs.  Vital connections are presented through the works, between humans and the active role of ancestral spirits in providing guidance and protection.  These concepts are essential ones shared among many Oceanic cultures and are defining characteristics of Melanesian art.

Beth E. Levinthal, executive director of the Hofstra University Museum said, “We thank Astoria Federal Savings for their support of the arts on Long Island, and specifically for their funding that helped bring this important exhibition to fruition.  As visitors engage with the works in this exhibition, they will be transported to another time and place, through interactions with authentic works of art introducing us to fascinating cultures in another hemisphere.”

An illustrated catalog with a curator’s statement will accompany the exhibition.  Additional interpretive educational materials including information about the varied cultures and nations included in Melanesia, as well as glossaries and examples of artistic techniques will be available on a touch-screen gallery kiosk.

An exhibition reception and curator’s talk will take place on Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 4-5:30 p.m. in the David Filderman Gallery. Admission is free.

Additional exhibition events:

Bethpage Federal Credit Union Global Explorations at the Hofstra University Museum
Friday, February 21, and Friday, June 20, at 2 p.m.

Global Explorations offers learners of all ages the opportunity to discover and explore the diverse cultures that make up our global community, through the interaction with and examination of authentic objects from the Museum’s vast permanent collection. These winter and spring installments of Global Explorations will focus on Melanesian Works. The fee is $5 for the general public and $3 for senior citizens (over 65).

“Second Saturdays at the HUM”
Saturday, March 8, and Saturday, April 12, at 1:30 p.m.

The Second Saturdays program invites children and their grown up companions to explore works of art, hear a related story, and engage in a hands-on activity. On March 8, Mask It! will teach children about the masks as used in Asian Pacific cultures, and then they will create their own. For Shield It! on April 12 children and families will learn about the designs of Melanesian shields and then also create one. The fee for Second Saturdays at the HUM is $5 per child; $9 per child for two sessions when prepaid and $12 per child for the entire series (three events total) when prepaid. Admission is free for adult companions.

For more information on this exhibit and associated public programs please call (516) 463-5672 or visit the Hofstra University website at

The Hofstra University Museum has been awarded the highest honor a museum can receive, continued accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Approximately 4% of museums nationwide have earned this distinguished recognition. Accreditation certifies that the Hofstra University Museum operates according to professional standards, manages its collections responsibly and provides quality service to the public.
Top image:

Oceanic, Melanesian, Abelam peoples
Papua New Guinea, Sepik River
Yam Mask, 20th century
Woven rattan fiber, pigment, balsa wood
20 x 8.75 x 13.5 in.
Hofstra University Museum Collections
Gift of Cedric H. Marks

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