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Major exhibition showcasing 500 years of Pacific art set to open in London

An exhibition showcasing 500 years of Pacific art is about to open to great fanfare in London.

It's one of the largest ever displays in the UK, with pieces by some of our best known Māori and Pasifika artists.

The work of Su'a Sulu'ape Paulo the Second has fascinated Kiwi photographer Mark Adams for four decades.

And now two of his prints capturing the Samoan tattoo process known as tatau are part of the major exhibition at the prestigious Royal Academy of Art in London.

"The tatau itself on the body is magnificent and powerful thing and very beautiful," Mr Adams told 1 NEWS in London. 

Mark Adams' work depicts the controversial globalisation of the Samoan tradition.

He's one of 10 contemporary Kiwi artists to feature in the Oceanic art show. 

So too are the Mata Aho Collective. They've spent the past week installing their piece Kiko Moana which they created last year.

"From conception to exhibition it took four of us working for nine months. It's a huge piece made out of layers and layers of blue tarp that we've stitched together," said Sarah Hudson of the Mata Aho Collective.

Bridget Reweti of the collective said: "Just as 250 years ago our people were making these amazing, unique works about their current day issues, we're doing the same thing, and making these works about our waterways."

Dozens of pieces have been carefully packaged, like a piano from Te Papa, and sent across the globe.

But some cultural treasures haven't travelled far, coming instead from European museums where they've been hidden away for generations.

"It's an incredible feeling to see these works and be in their presence. Some of them we've only read about and lots of them live overseas, so we've had a few tears," Ms Rewiti said. 

And there's sure to be plenty more when the exhibition opens to the public on Saturday.

In her first solo engagement, the Duchess of Sussex will tomorrow open the exhibition, giving it an extra publicity boost and providing Meghan Markle with a taste of what she might encounter in her upcoming trip Down Under.

It’s one of the largest ever displays in the UK. Source: 1 NEWS