By Meghan Price
In recognition of MOA’s founding collections from the South Pacific, the Shop is currently featuring palm nut carvings by Tony Bruce.
Born in 1979 in Santo, Vanuatu, Tony Bruce was taught traditional wood carving by his cousins, and with promising talent, he began creating elaborate miniature carvings out of palm nut before his twentieth birthday. Palm nut, also referred to as corozo, tagua, or vegetable ivory, can be carved like elephant ivory when dried out. The kernels are typically harvested after the ripe fruit has detached from the tree and fallen to the ground. Carving palm nuts is a tradition found in numerous cultures around the globe, all the way from Panama to Japan. For an interesting comparison for the objects in the MOA Shop and objects in the collection, compare Bruce’s work to a Japanese palm nut carving (Ed5.3188) found in Case 79, Drawer 1 in the Multiversity Galleries.
Using small chisels and a coping saw, Bruce creates highly detailed miniature carvings. When embarking on a new carving, Bruce says, “I don’t draw; the picture comes to me like a revelation. The image is in my mind, and when I start carving
, it develops more and more.” His vision is to combine traditional stories and traditional ways of living with contemporary ideas. Bruce has a particular interest in marine life and focuses on sea creatures, diving, and the ocean’s movement.
Since branching out into palm nut, Bruce’s work has been purchased by collectors from around the world. He currently lives in Port Vila, Vanuatu with his wife, Asnet, and their two children, Andrew and Cathleen.
Tony Bruce’s carvings can be seen exclusively in the MOA Shop.