The Iconic: Afterlife and New Beginnings

Researchers: Tina Engels-Schwarzpaul, Albert Refiti, I’uogafa Tuagalu, Nooroa Tapuni
Status: Current

This project is an investigation into transformative appropriations and iconic power in the Pacific, specifically in the relationships between Samoa, Germany and New Zealand. In partnership with co-researchers in these countries, we will trace the exchange of iconic images and objects between Samoa and Germany, in the period leading up to and during colonial contact, until NZ’s occupation of Samoa (1879-1914).

The results will then be interlaced thematically with current, global exchanges through migration, trade, tourism and curation. From different perspectives of a shared heritage, its afterlife and new beginnings, emerging theories of the iconic (“the nested ideas of icon, iconic power, iconosphere, and iconology” [1]) are developed in relation to material culture.

To identify how Samoan, German and New Zealand experiences of Pacific icons intersect in the (ex)change of concepts and images, expert interviews and material from Pacific and European archives will be analysed and compared with current practices.

While the project focuses on Germany and Samoa, and Samoa and New Zealand, respectively, a consideration of the iconic has wider implications: it can help understand how images gain traction, socio-culturally and economically, and how important concepts from Aotearoa/New Zealand can extend into the realm of icons, spaces, things and people.


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