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Asmat Art Exhibited - University of St. Thomas

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Published on Apr 16, 2010

Rarely does art from university collections go on display in major museums. Sixty-nine objects from the American Museum of Asmat Art at St. Thomas are on display through Sunday, July 26, at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in an exhibition, "Time and Tide: the Changing Art of the Asmat of New Guinea."

These impressive shields, drums, carvings and masks are in the U.S. Bank gallery on the MIAs second floor. Included in the exhibition are two tall ancestor poles: one of them towers near the ceiling at 16 feet! You also can see the 20-foot-long wuramon or soul ship, a treasure of our collection.

More than 8,000 miles away from Minnesota live the Asmat, a semi-nomadic people who inhabit the dense coastal rainforest of West Papua, Indonesia. Asmat art and artifacts including shields, spears and masks that the Crosiers collected in the last half century have found a new home at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. The Crosier Catholic fathers and brothers, who have been based in Minnesota since 1910, were among the first outsiders to enter the isolated Asmat region and have worked there since 1958. The Crosiers collected Asmat carvings, sculptures and artifacts to preserve them from extinction. They founded the American Museum of Asmat Art, and in 2007, donated the museums entire collection to St. Thomas.

Last summer, three Crosiers, who happen to call as many continents home, visited St. Thomas to see how our community is incorporating the new collection of Asmat art into its educational efforts. Our visitors were Crosier Master General Father Glen Lewandowski, who serves in Rome; Father Virgil Petermeier, who works with the Asmat in Agats, Papua, Indonesia; and Father Ed Greiwe, who serves at the Crosier priory in Onamia, Minn. All three appreciate the value of fostering awareness of Asmat culture because they have spent many years living in the Asmat region and advocating on behalf of the 70,000 Asmat people.

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