In December of 2007 Christopher J. Philipp went on a collecting expedition to Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. A new acquisitions proposal had been submitted to and approved by the Department of Anthropology to obtain contemporary objects there for the Museum, and to establish new contacts and relationships with the Marquesan people.
At the core of this collecting proposal was one artifact: Field Museum catalog number 38294 – a large temple drum, or pahu me'ea, that had been obtained for the Museum by Dr. Ralph Linton in 1928.
Our goal in going back to the Marquesas in 2007 was to use this drum as a way to facilitate contact and communication to achieve the main objective of this expedition: to initiate a new relationship with drum makers, drummers, and other Marquesan people so that future programs at the Museum involving the Marquesan collections can be done collaboratively.
Philipp could not have arrived in this archipelago at a better time. The 7th Marquesan Festivals of Art was about to begin on the island of Ua Pou.
While there, Chris learned that drumming in the Marquesas had essentially died out some years earlier. However, beginning with the first Festivals of Art and continuing to present day, Marquesans have been both reviving and reinvent the art of drumming locally.
Chris discovered that even before he told people on Ua Pou about the Museum's temple drum (which is believed to be perhaps one of only three or four still extant), it was one Marquesan drum-maker’s dream to make just such a large and impressive drum for the next Festivals of Art (to be held on the island of Nuku Hiva in 2011) using traditional Marquesan methods.
Chris Philipp returned to Chicago after Christmas 2007 with over 30 new pieces of modern Marquesan art as well as several hours of video & sound recordings and hundreds of photos documenting his trip.
He also came back with something even more important: friends in the Marquesas that, we hope, will help us nurture a new partnership between the Museum and these famous islands in the South Pacific.
Click on this link to see a short photoshow about some of our new Marquesan acquisitions.