Outrigger boat of Luf Island

Oceania – People and the Sea

The view from above of the ship is particularly impressive in this space: it’s as if the boat is floating in the Pacific rather than standing on the dark floor. The theme here is about the significance of the sea for the inhabitants of the Pacific Islands – as a means of communication, migration path, supplier of raw materials and also as a threat and identity-giver.

In the centre of the spectacular architecture of the space stand six boats that originate from different regions of the oceans, and from 2022 there will also be a special boat adapted for children, a walk-in boat from Fiji. One wall functions as a map of the ocean: it illustrates impressively the size ratio between the many islands and the expanse of the sea. The radiant genuine coral skeletons, lined up in an 18-metre long glass wall cabinet, referring to the death of coral as a result of climate change, form a strong colour contrast.

Outrigger boat of Luf Island
This outrigger boat originates from Luf Island, which today belongs to Papua New Guinea. In 1881, the trading company Hernsheim & Co built a trading station on the island. The population resisted. At the instigation of Hernsheim, in 1882/83 soldiers of the Imperial German Navy attacked the island with a “punishment detachment”, destroying a large number of buildings and boats, killing inhabitants and plundering the villages. The building of this big outrigger boat began eight years after this attack. It is said that the men in it wanted to bury their recently deceased leader Labenan at sea. However, this didn’t happen because there were too few of them to get the enormous boat onto the water. Through diseases that were introduced and the consequences of the military attack, the population decreased dramatically. For the next few years, it remained in the boathouse, deprived of its purpose. In 1903, it was acquired by Max Thiel von Hernsheim & Co and sold to the Ethnological Museum in Berlin. The circumstances of the acquisition of the boat on Luf are not documented. The building and acquisition of the boat are the subject of a media station in the “Oceania – people and the sea” room. Interviews of the film maker Martin Maden from Papua New Guinea with Luf inhabitants on the island are also shown here.

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Room 215 – Oceania: People and Sea