Reinventing Fiji at 19th-century and early 20th-century Exhibitions

Ewan Johnston

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    The images of Fiji (and the Pacific generally) that were both employed and consumed at the international exhibitions of the late-19th and early-20th centuries together with the stereotypes associated with such representations exhibited a continuity that can be traced back to earlier accounts and displays of Pacific Island peoples. While attempts were made at later exhibitions to shift the focus of displays away from tales of 'savagery' and 'cannibalism' to those of 'progress', 'civilisation' and even 'modernity', the apparent popularity of Fiji's displays as evidenced in contemporary accounts remained firmly located in the appeal of the already existing 'idea' of Fiji. This article focuses on the representation of Fiji at two British imperial exhibitions: the 1886 Colonial and Indian Exhibition, and the 1924 British Empire Exhibition, and demonstrates that the 'idea' or 'knowledge' of Fiji that audiences brought to the exhibitions, and despite the best efforts of display organisers usually representatives of the colonial administration to reposition Fiji within the minds of the metropolitan audience, visitors as always saw what they wanted to and in so doing reconfirmed their 'knowledge' of Fiji.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)23-44
    JournalJournal of Pacific History
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


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