Introduction to South Pacific

Welcome to the South Pacific, otherwise known as Oceania. This is a region of islands, ranging from the oldest continent of Australia to the thousands of smaller islands scattered across the Pacific, covering 8.4m square kilometres. The most common religion is Christianity and English is the most widely spoken language.

After European colonisation, there continues to be a strong indigenous presence, including Aboriginal Australians, Māori in New Zealand and Melanesian, Polynesian and Micronesian peoples across the Pacific. While some crafts continue to be practised in the traditional manner, many have adapted to modern forms, such as studio practice and souvenir trade.

The English Arts & Crafts movement had a strong influence in the British colonies of Australia and New Zealand. After the Second World War, the modernist paradigm took hold as craft became increasingly a studio activity, involving the production of work for sale in galleries as art. This continues today, though the 21st century has also seen the emergence of the maker movement, taking advantage of e-commerce platforms like Etsy. The crafts here are very similar to those found in Europe and North America.

Some of the more remote areas of the South Pacific still practice craft in a traditional context, according to custom and tied to important cultural rituals. Barkcloth tends to be the most common craft across the Pacific.

With globalisation, cultures are increasingly subject to influence from other regions, particularly China. Australia and New Zealand are largely migrant nations that reflect a great diversity of cultures and a growing Asian population.

The crafts of the South Pacific reflect a diverse region that preserves traditions in a modern world. Its crafts are very much of the people.