Oceania: a Royal Academy show celebrating the 250th anniversary of Cook’s first expedition

The Royal Academy is celebrating the 250th anniversay of Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific with an exhibition of the art of the region of Oceania: Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

I think it’s will be a fascinating, complex day out for those of us who can get there. Here’s what the Royal Academy says about it:

‘The year is 1768, and Britain is in the throes of the Age of Enlightenment. As a group of artists agrees to found the Royal Academy, Captain James Cook sets sail on a voyage of discovery to track the transit of Venus and search for terra australis incognita – the unknown southern continent, as Europeans called it. What Cook and his crew encounter on arrival is a vast number of island civilisations covering almost a third of the world’s surface: from Tahiti in Polynesia, to the scattered archipelagos and islands of Melanesia and Micronesia.

‘The indigenous populations they met came with their own histories of inter-island trade, ocean navigation, and social and artistic traditions. This spectacular exhibition will reveal these narratives – celebrating the original, raw and powerful art that in time would resonate across the European artistic sphere.

‘Oceania will bring together around 200 exceptional works from public and private collections worldwide, and will span over 500 years. From shell, greenstone and ceramic ornaments, to huge canoes and stunning god images, we explore important themes of voyaging, place making and encounter. The exhibition draws from rich historic ethnographic collections dating from the 18th century to the present, and includes seminal works produced by contemporary artists exploring history, identity and climate change.’

Meanwhile, there has been considerable excitement over a claim by archaeologists that they have identified what they believe to be the wreck of the Endeavour, Cook’s ship on his voyage of two and a half centuries ago.

My thanks to regular contributor Chris Brady for the interesting Royal Academy link.

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Old Sailortown, Sheerness

Old sailortown, or Bluetown, by the docks at Sheerness. An interesting place where you can still get a sense of what life there was like long ago – yet the row of officers’ houses and the burnt-out but once very elegant church is just yards away from what I sure was often noisy debauchery… That music hall looks cool too.

The Brightlingsea Tiles: an unusual and touching memorial to lost sailors

The History House website has the story about the remarkable Brightlingsea Tiles. (Images reused under the Creative Commons Licence.)

Malcolm Woods has alerted me to these memorials to local fishermen and sailors who died at sea in All Saints Church, Brightlingsea. They include 213 memorial tiles placed in frieze that runs around the nave.

The local custom of placing the tiles on the church wall was begun by All Saints vicar Reverend Pertwee following a big storm in March 1883 in  which 200 mariners from the counties bordering North Sea were lost, including 19 from Brightingsea.

Pertwee decided that a memorial tile should be made for each of his lost parishioners going back to 1872, when he first became vicar at the church. The first tile is dedicated to William Day and his son, David, who were drowned off Hartlepool.

The tiles were continued in later decades, and later tile memorials are to sailors killed in various storms, the loss of the Titanic and the World Wars.

I’ll make a point of taking a look when I get the chance – last time I was in the area the church was locked, as usual in a town.

Thanks Malcolm!