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Highly Structured Tourist Art: Form and Meaning of the Polynesian Cultural Center

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Title: Highly Structured Tourist Art: Form and Meaning of the Polynesian Cultural Center
Authors: Webb, T.D.
LC Subject Headings: Oceania -- Periodicals.
Issue Date: 1994
Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
Citation: Webb, T. D. 1994. Highly Structured Tourist Art: Form and Meaning of the Polynesian Cultural Center. The Contemporary Pacific 6 (1): 59-86.
Abstract: The Polynesian Cultural Center in La'ie, Hawai'i, is a popular and profitable ethnic
theme park established by the Mormon church. The center's management
claims the park is a living museum that preserves the traditional arts of several
Polynesian societies. But the center's commercial purposes, large tourist audiences,
and manner of presentation clearly place it in the category of a tourist
attraction. As such, the center has been criticized by anthropologists and other
experts for its superficiality and lack of authenticity. Aesthetic analysis of the center,
however, reveals a theme and variation form that unifies the center's components
into a single, complex work of tourist art. When examined as a unified artwork,
the center exhibits an aesthetic that is distinctly Mormon. Its messages are
the fundamental tenets of Mormonism. Although religiosity is hardly uncommon
in fine art and even folk art, in tourist art it is remarkable. The present study
leaves aside the continuing controversy over the center's authenticity versus its
commercialism to introduce an aesthetic interpretation of the center's form and
meaning. Inso doing, the study offers insight into an unexpected capacity of tourist
art to carry deep religious meanings.
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/12957
ISSN: 1043-898X
Appears in Collections:TCP [The Contemporary Pacific], 1994 - Volume 6, Number 1



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