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Chrome carte d’Oceanie, c. 1840 et masque Kanak, collection privée.
Anthropologist Maurice Leenhardt (1878-1954) pioneered the concept of interactive ethnographer, at a time when most scholars remained removed from their subjects. In 1902 he sailed to Oceania to study the art and culture of the Kanak tribe. At the time, the little-known (and often feared) island tribe was on the verge of extinction and Leenhardt dedicated the rest of his life to trying to save them.When he returned to France in 1927, he founded the Société des Océanistes and the Musée de I'Homme in Paris.
Vue de L’exposition ethnographique des colonies françaises au musée d'Ethnographie du Trocadéro, 1931.© Musée du Quai Branly.