Open daily, 10am–5pm, Free

419 Great King Street Dunedin, New Zealand

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Creative Pasifika showcase: ocean shells and swells

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Shells have a special allure. In many Pacific cultures they are transformed into beautiful objects of adornment. For Creative Pasifika 2017, a selection is featured in a special exhibition on the Museum’s Atrium Level 1. The display includes a pearl shell nelo (nose ornament) from the Santa Cruz Islands, given to the Museum by the Reverend George West.

West was an Otago man, a carpenter, who worked for the Melanesian Mission for nearly a quarter of a century. He began his service with the Mission in a lay capacity in 1913, but returned to New Zealand to study for the ministry at St John’s College in Auckland. He was ordained in 1925.

West worked as a priest in the Santa Cruz and the Reef Islands, travelling to his widespread congregations by long sea voyages; some more than 150 kilometres. 

In 1930, the New Zealand Herald reported that ‘Two new whaleboats for the Melanesian Mission in the Solomon Islands underwent successful trials on the Waitemata Harbour yesterday. They have been specially designed for dangerous, long cruises among the coral reefs. The Rev. George West,   formerly of New Zealand, who is stationed on the Reef Islands, will have the use of one of the boats.’ The boats were less than eight metres long and each cost approximately £IOO. They carried sails and oars, and were delivered by the Mission’s Southern Cross steamer.


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Image: Pearl shell nelo (nose ornament). Gift of the Reverend George West; Otago Museum Collection 


The Sydney Morning Herald in March 1937 printed the sad news that ’Advice was received in Sydney yesterday from the Bishop of Melanesia (Bishop Baddeley) that on January 19 the Rev. George West, of the Melanesian Mission, was lost at sea’. It was thought that West’s vessel was wrecked on reefs around the island of Utupua during what was described as a ‘terrific N.W. “blow" ’ – as the gales experienced in the Solomon Islands in January 1937 were locally described.


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Images: Pearl shell nelo (nose ornament). Gift of the Reverend George West; Otago Museum Collection  

The Melanesian Mission was begun by George Augustus Selwyn, first Bishop of New Zealand, in the mid 19th century. Selwyn formed the missionary Diocese of Melanesia within the Church of the Province of New Zealand. John Coleridge Patteson was consecrated as the first Bishop of Melanesia on 24 February, 1861. His name is remembered today in Bishop Patteson Theological College in the Solomon Islands’ capital, Honiara.

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The Otago Museum is celebrating Creative Pasifika with live performances – song, dance, and music, workshops and sharing of knowledge. Check out our events page for more information, and to book.

1pm, Saturday 16 September: Pasifika performances showcasing Dunedin youth with their 2017 Polyfest performances

10am–1pm, Sunday 17 September and Sunday 24 September: Samoan Weaving Workshops led by award-winning local weaver Misa Emma Kesha

1pm, Sunday 17 September: Waiata in the Dark with Dr Karyn Paringatai, Te Tumu: School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, Barclay Theatre

Throughout the day, Monday 2 – Friday 6 October: Pacific Patterns Makerspace: Self-guided, family-friendly creative fun helping make our lei, or making a kapkap, and a pendant.

Afio mai a Creative Pasifika!