RESEARCH PROJECT | Tattooing in the Pacific Archipelago of Tonga | Piecing together an historical and anthropological narrative
As a Barbro Klein Fellow at the The Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS) in the spring semester of 2022, curator Wonu Veys, is researching and – uses visual and textual sources – to piece together the fragmentary historical and anthropological narrative of tattooing in the Pacific archipelago of Tonga.
Fanny Wonu Veys obtained her PhD at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, working at the intersection of anthropology, art history and museology. Her fieldwork sites include New Zealand (since 2000), Tonga (since 2003) and Arnhem Land, Australia (since 2014). She has worked at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge (2004–06, 2008–09) and has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2006–07) and the Musée du Quai Branly -Jacques Chirac in Paris (2007–08). Veys co-curated a barkcloth exhibition, Tapa, Étoffes cosmiques d’Océanie, in Cahors (2009). She has contributed curatorial expertise to numerous exhibitions and has curated the following large shows: Mana Maori (2010–11, Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden), Things that Matter (semipermanent 2017 –, Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam), What a Genderful World (2019–20, Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam; 2021–22, Wereldmuseum, Rotterdam) and A Sea of Islands – Masterpieces from Oceania (2020-21, Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden). Since 2014, she is the President of the Pacific Arts Association Europe. She has published dozens of articles in journals and books, including “White for Purity, Brown for Beautiful Like Us and Black Because it is Awesome” (Frances Lennard & Andy Mills, eds., Sidestone Press, 2020). Her most recent single-authored book is Unwrapping Tongan Barkcloth: Encounters, Creativity and Female Agency (Bloomsbury, 2017). Her most recent co-edited book is Collecting in the South Sea. The Voyage of Bruni d'Entrecasteaux 1791–1794 (Sidestone Press, 2018). Since 2020, she is the chief editor of the Provenance series published by the National Museum of World Culture.
Image: RV-1256-93, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen. Tattooing (ta tatau) remains an important element in body decoration among Samoans, the context from which this type of tattooing comb emerges. A comparable tool is also used among Tongans.
The Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
The Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS) aims to provide optimal research conditions for curiosity-driven research. The Collegium is a scholarly community where Fellows pursue research of their own choosing in a context of interdisciplinary dialogue and cooperation. Since its foundation in 1985, it strives to protect and nurture independent inquiry, collaborative and deep thinking, and to emphasize the importance of academic freedom worldwide. Governmental support and support from major research foundations allow the invited Fellows to freely decide on their study and to engage in focused research.
Chartered by the Government of Sweden as an institute for advanced study, SCAS is a national scientific institution. The Collegium is open to applications from scholars across the range of the human and social sciences, as well as from the natural sciences. All candidates are assessed on the basis of their individual achievements and the quality and promise of their research proposal, including those who apply within the framework of a group. Every year presents a novel mixture of Fellows from all over the world who either work on their individual projects or who are part of a cluster of scholars with similar interests.