Covering a third of the earth, the Pacific Ocean is home to diverse people that speak a quarter of the world’s languages.

This gallery celebrated and showcased these vibrant Pacific cultures through the skill, creativity and spiritual complexity shown in their ceremonial objects, artworks, and everyday items.

On display were ghostly masks of the Asaro Mudmen, ceremonial poles from New Ireland, and Bird of Paradise headwear from the highlands of Papua New Guinea, alongside intricately carved door panels from New Zealand, towering slit drums from Vanuatu and delicate jewellery from Fiji. Each of these objects is a celebration of living cultures that continue to thrive in contemporary Pacific societies, including here in Sydney.

The Australian Museum works closely with communities around the Pacific and with Pacific migrant communities in Australia to nurture this collection and shape its exhibitions and programs.

Exhibition highlights

Couple in Pacific

Carved ceremonial poles

The Australian Museum’s Pacific Spirit exhibition showcased an astounding collection of items from across the Pacific region. Holding one of the largest cultural collections of this kind in the world, with over 60,000 items, the Australian Museum gives its taste with 23 awe-inspiring Malagan masks; intricately carved ceremonial poles from New Ireland, Papua New Guinea; breathtaking kava bowls and drums from Samoa, and astonishing slit drums from Vanuatu.

Asaro - Komunive village

Asaro collection

Papua New Guinea has over many years enthralled and charmed people. Inhabitants of Komunive village, Asaro River area near Goroka, the capital of the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, are famous for their fearsome Asaro mud masks in the form of clay head-dresses and dramatic ritualised dance celebrations. Discover the masks on display in the Pacific Spirit exhibition.

Visiting information

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To help keep our staff, visitors and community safe, the AM has COVID-19 protocols in place, including physical distancing, increased cleaning and hygiene practices. Facemasks are encouraged.

View our full COVID-19 safety information here.

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