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For country data on the Pacific Islands and New Zealand, go to AsiaSource's country profiles.

Geographical Origins of the Artists in the Exhibition

The Pacific Islands are geographically and culturally divided into three groups: Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia. The majority of artists in the exhibition come from Polynesia. Click on map to see larger view.

The vast complex of islands and atolls within the geographical triangle of Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand. The main archipelagos are Samoa, Cook Islands, and Hawaiian Islands.

The collective name for the archipelagos northeast of Australia: Papua New Guinea, Admiralty Islands, New Ireland, New Britain, Solomon Islands, Santa Cruz Islands, New Hebrides, New Caledonia, Banks Islands, and Fiji.

The islands extending east from the Philippines: Marianas, Caroline Islands, Marshall Islands, Gilbert Islands, Tuvalu.
An area strewn with islets, atolls, and reefs.

An archipelago in Melanesia, consisting of approximately 800 islands and atolls. It is said to have been the first stop of the voyagers who, some 3,000 years ago, migrated to the mid-Pacific from Asia. The first European sighting was by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1643; it was subsequently visited by Captain James Cook (1774) and more thoroughly explored by William Bligh (1789). Annexed by Great Britain in 1874; gained independence in 1970.

Hawaiian Islands
An archipelago in northern Polynesia consisting of 8 inhabited islands and 124 uninhabited atolls. Originally peopled by the Polynesians about 500. Cook was the first European visitor in 1778 and named them the Sandwich Islands. After they were annexed to the United States in 1898, they reverted to their indigenous name. In 1959 the islands became the 50th state of the Union. Today, more than 80 percent of the population is Caucasian, Japanese, or Filipino.

New Caledonia
A large island and a cluster of small islands in Melanesia. The island may have been sighted by the French explorer Louis Bougainville in 1768, but the first European to land on it was Cook (1774), who named it New Caledonia because of its pine-clad hills that resembled Scotland. The island was later annexed by France.

New Zealand
The largest and most southern landmass in Polynesia. Probably first settled by voyagers from Tonga about 900. The first European sighting was by Tasman (1642). In 1769 the northern and southern islands were surveyed by Cook, who used them as a base for his three Pacific voyages. In the 19th century, the islands were a frequent port for whalers and sealers. The first Christian missionaries settled in 1814. With the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the Maori chiefs ceded sovereignty to Great Britain. In 1907 New Zealand became a dominion of the Commonwealth.

Niue was colonized by the Samoans in the 9th or 10th century A.D., but the Tongans invaded the island in the 16th century. In 1774 Cook visited the island three times, but he encountered hostility from Niuean warriors and he called it Savage Island. It was named a British Protectorate and was handed over to New Zealand administration. Niue became independent in 1974, but it continues to operate in free association with New Zealand, and the islanders hold New Zealand citizenship. It is one of the world's smallest self-governing states.

An archipelago in Polynesia consisting of Western Samoa (Palauli and Upolu) and American Samoa (Pago Pago and Tau). The first European sighting was in 1722, and it was subsequently visited by Bougainville (1768).

Torres Strait Islands
Situated in Melanesia between Australia and Papua New Guinea, the Torres Strait Islands consists of more than 100 islands. The strait was discovered by the Spaniard Luis Vaez de Torres in 1601 as a vital gateway to the Pacific. One hundred sixty years later, Cook's Endeavour discovered more of the islands. Pearl fishing began in 1868, and the islands were annexed to Queensland, Australia's northern state, in 1878.


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