Degree Name

Master of Arts (Hons.)


School of Creative Arts


The perception of Massim art by members of Massim societies is contrasted with the conceptual framework from which Europeans have viewed and commented on their forms of creative expression since late last century. In particular, the recognition now emerging that there is a system of visual communication with layers of encoded meaning contained in the carved and painted designs of master carvers on canoe prow boards leads to the characterisation of sets of canoe prow carvings as the first steps towards a better understanding of this system of communication.

The similarity of design motifs occuring on some rock art sites, ancient carved shells and pottery sherds with curvilinear motifs featured in present day graphic and plastic art forms is discussed in the contexts of cultural diffusion, the influence of environment and local development.

Photographs from several unpublished collections are included to illustrate the themes of art in its cultural context and the distinction of design in Massim visual arts.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.