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Panel 27: Sailing into the future: revisiting canoes of Oceania


Maria Wronska-Friend

Session presentation

During the last two decades, several parts of the Pacific experienced renewed interest in the construction of canoes and long-distance sailing. While the process of canoe construction remains an important way of transmitting cultural practices and knowledge, in several cases successful experiments have been conducted with the introduction of new materials and technologies. The reasons for sailing have also changed: the aim of the voyages is not only to renew engagement with people from other parts of the Pacific but also to send political and environmental messages or address social issues. In some communities canoes are the largest and most spectacular works of art and have become the focal point of local festivals, celebrations and tourist programs. A new phenomenon is the construction of Pacific canoes outside Oceania, with groups of canoe builders invited to Europe, Japan and Australia to construct, in situ, full-size sea-going vessels. These events, frequently organised in partnership with ethnographic museums, commemorate historical anniversaries or help to establish new relations. The canoes once again reconnect people across the Pacific and have become a tangible marker of the Pacific presence in the other parts of the world.

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