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New Caledonia; French Convict Art. ( Including Engraved mother of pearl shells)


History of New Caledonia including French convict art:

New Caledonia ( Nouvelle-Calédonie) is located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, approximately 1,200 kilometres east of Australia and 16,000 kilometres east of Paris. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grand Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Chesterfield islands, the Belap archipelago, and the Isle of Pines.

MelanesiaNew Caledonia was first settled by the agricultural and seafaring Lapita people who were there as far back as 1350 BC. The Lapita are thought to  be relatives of modern day Polynesians, Melanesians and Micronesians. The archaeological culture and its characteristic geometric dentate-stamped pottery are named after the type site where it was first uncovered in the Foué peninsula on Grande Terre, the main island of New Caledonia.

The indigenous Melanesian peoples of New Caledonia, “The Kanaks” have inhabited the islands for about 6,000 years, living in autonomous tribal groups in the narrow valleys between the mountains. Kanak society is organised around clans, which are both social and spatial units. The clan could initially be made up of people related through a common ancestor, comprising several families. There can be between fifty and several hundred people in a clan.


Aboriginal Bark Paintings of Arnhem Land

Aboriginal Bark Paintings of Arnhem Land:

About twenty years ago there came to Yirrkala, in remote Arnhem Land, a letter addressed to the Aboriginal artist living there, written by Picasso. It said: ‘I admire and envy your art’. Since then the work of Mawalan, Madaman, Nanyin, Birrigidi, Djawa, Dawdi, Malangi, Yirrwalla and many other Yulngor artists has captured the attention of the international art world. For this is the art of a people whose occupation of this area has been established at 40,000 years or more. The art is unique, in as much as it is one of the oldest primitive arts surviving in the world today. In addition, anthropologists have long considered the Yulngor to possess the most complex social structure amongst all native peoples. This is reflected in the complexity of their art. The bark paintings, as well as being the art of the Yulngor, are also their theology, history and literature.  


Jim Davidson: Collector/Art Dealer

James (Jim) Albert Davidson was born 31st March 1908 at Landybrandt in Orange Free State, South Africa to an Australian father and a South African mother. Jim’s initial schooling with his siblings (2 brothers and 1 sister) was with home tutors. Jim recounted his early childhood as “wonderful,” he was allowed to roam freely with other Zulu children to hunt wild turkeys and pea hens. Possibly, at this early stage Jim’s love of anthropology developed. A stint at boarding school in Pretoria and finally Jim graduated in South Africa in Mining and Engineering, this completed his early formal education

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