The Far Side of the World: Torquay's Fijian Connection
Learn about the fascinating history, traditions and crafts of Fiji through the museum's rich collection of objects and the stories of the collectors who brought them to Torquay.
“Torquay is a beautiful place. The palms and the tropical trees, the broken formation of the coast and the undulating land remind me of home. Torquay is more like Fiji than anything else I have seen since I left for England.”
Ratu Veli, Roko Tui Macueta or Native Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Macuata, Fiji. Torquay, June 16, 1924.
The important collection of art and artefacts from nineteenth century Fiji were left to the museum by three collectors, who had all worked in official posts in the colony: Adolph Brewster Brewster, Arthur Hebden Ogilvie and the Hon. Charles Richard Swayne. Despite having no previous connection to Torquay, two of these men retired to our palm-filled seaside town, and all three left their significant collections to the museum. Perhaps the 'tropical trees' and 'undulating land' mentioned by a visiting Fijian official in the early twentieth century reminded them of life in their former home.
Although Europeans discovered the Fiji in 1643, explorers avoided contact with the islands because of the reputation of the native peoples for cannibalism and violent warfare. This exhibition contains several weapons and tokens of tribal conflict, but also reveals how communities lived in peacetime, forming alliances and friendships through the exchange of valued objects.
This exhibition is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of The Fijian Art Research Project in conjunction with the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) at the University of Cambridge.