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How Materials Matter: Design, Innovation, and Materiality in the Pacific

15 March 2019

By Professor Graeme Were. Published by Berghahn

How does design and innovation shape people’s lives in the Pacific? Focusing on plant materials from the region, How Materials Matter reveals ways in which a variety of people – from craftswomen and scientists to architects and politicians – work with materials to transform worlds.

Recognizing the fragile and ephemeral nature of plant fibres, this work delves into how the biophysical properties of certain leaves and their aesthetic appearance are utilized to communicate information and manage different forms of relations. It breaks new ground by situating plant materials at the centre of innovation in a region.

Written by Professor Graeme Were, it is the outcome of several years of ethnographic research in Papua New Guinea and amongst museum collections, focusing on plant use in design projects, from canoe-building, house construction, mats, surfboards, and fashion baskets.

The book reveals how the material properties of plant fibres manage social relations, indicative through their biophysical properties which make themselves known through their rate of decay, their permeability, their growth, and their texture.   


Further information

The book can be purchased by visiting the publisher's website.

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