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“KWOMA RED”: Sharing Contemporary Experiences in a French Museum Context



The exhibition Kwoma Red: Mythical Paintings from Papua New Guinea, shown at the Musée du quai Branly (Paris, France) in 2008–09, presented the paintings of three Kwoma contemporary artists from Papua New Guinea: Kowspi Marek, Chiphowka Kowspi, and Agatoak Kowspi. This exhibition was built around three principles: collaboration with the artists and the Kwoma communities, the affirmation of this culture's future, and the direct transmission of this culture to the public. Throughout the display, Kwoma myths, contemporary paintings, and artifacts from the museum's collection that were collected over the course of the 20th century were presented as complementary ways of making sense of the Kwoma world, from past to present. The development of this project revealed how deeply involved the contemporary artists were in transmitting ancient knowledge through new visual forms and toward new audiences, which has, for a long time, been the way Kwoma people conceive of arts and culture.