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John Anthony Waldo Forge: 27 February 1929-7 October 1991.

Anthony Forge died at his home in Canberra on the 7th of October 1991. He was born in Elgin Crescent, West London, the only child of Kitty and Waldo Forge. Anthony's father was an editor and his mother the headmistress at Camden School for Girls. Both parents were graduates of the London School of Economics. Kitty in particular was an important influence in Anthony's life, instilling in him a wide range of intellectual interests.

Anthony was educated at Highgate School and went on, in 1948, to do national service in Intelligence. As he used to tell the story, this period of his life gave him time to read the whole of Frazer's The Golden Bough and kindled in him his first interests in Anthropology. At Cambridge, instead of reading Chemistry as he originally intended, Anthony chose the Archaeology and Anthropology Tripos and graduated in 1953. He then spent three years following in his father's profession, holding various positions in the printing industry. Finally, in 1957, he enrolled at the London School of Economics and began graduate work in Anthropology. Some of Anthony's future career may have been prefigured. Kitty, his mother, used to brag that decades earlier she had danced with Malinowski at an LSE Ball -- something that Anthony never managed to do.

Anthony was fortunate in his teachers both in Cambridge and in London. At the LSE, he established a close friendship with Sir Raymond Firth, a personal and intellectual association that continued to the end of his life. Anthony believed in maintaining traditions in Anthropology. Just a few weeks before his death, following a tradition that Raymond Firth established on his retirement, Anthony invited his anthropology colleagues to select two books each from his library. One of the books that I was able to select was Raymond Firth's first edition of The Work of the Gods in Tikopia which bears this inscription:

'To Anthony, who made the second edition possible, this copy of the first edition is presented with gratitude. Raymond 10.J.67.'

Raymond and Rosemary were the first to send flowers to the Forge house on hearing of Anthony's death.

In 1957, Anthony began a period of twenty-three months fieldwork in Papua New Guinea among the Abelam of the Sepik District. This experience among the Abelam formed the foundation for his development as an anthropologist with special interests in aesthetics, ritual and social organization.

On his return from New Guinea, Anthony became a research officer on the LSE's 'London Kinship Project' and a year later, in 1961, he was appointed as Assistant Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the LSE. In 1962, he returned to New Guinea for another year's fieldwork in the Sepik. In 1969, Anthony spent a year as a Visiting Professor at Yale University. By 1970, he had become Senior Lecturer and an established figure in British Anthropology.

In mid-career, having delivered the prestigious Malinowski Memorial Lecture and having completed the editing of his book, Primitive Art and Society, Anthony decided on a major change of research fields. With his family, he went off to Bali for a year to study art and ritual in a predominantly Brahmin settlement of Kamasan in the former court centre of Gelgel. While on Bali, he was invited to visit the Australian National University and was chosen to become the Foundation Professor of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts.

At the ANU, Anthony joined John Mulvaney in what became the joint Department of Prehistory and Anthropology. With enormous energy and disarming determination, he built a strong research and teaching department and surrounded himself with a remarkable group of students, colleagues and friends. One of his former students and colleagues, now in Britain, has described Anthony at this time as 'the most sociable and genial of professors in his true element, presiding over alfresco entertainments in the champagne-bright atmosphere of Canberra.'

Anthony revelled in being an anthropologist. For him, anthropology was a way of life and his many students were an important part of that life. Although he was not a prolific writer, what he wrote had a magisterial authority. His Malinowski lecture, entitled 'The Golden Fleece' and his introduction to Primitive Art and Society, together with his paper on 'Style and Meaning in Sepik Art,' set the agenda for a subsequent generation in the study of complex New Guinea exchange systems and of art within anthropology.

No anthropologist did more to make the traditional art of the region the subject of serious study. Anthony's course on the anthropology of art was itself a work of art and his collection of slides a major teaching resource. Anthony had an eye and a flair for collecting, which he directed to support the study of traditional art by providing the documentation essential to its understanding. The collection of Sepik art that he assembled for the Museum of Ethnography in Basel is perhaps the finest collection of its kind in Europe. Equally remarkable is his collection of traditional Balinese painting which was acquired by the Australian Museum in Sydney and for which he wrote a superb catalogue. Anthony was also a member of the Asian Textiles Advisory Committee of the Australian National Gallery and for more than ten years, provided both expertise and enthusiasm in developing the Gallery's outstanding collection of South and Southeast Asian textiles. He was also active in promoting the collection and study of Aboriginal art.

The Forge house at 45 Carstensz Street was hardly ever quiet. For his entry in Who's Who in Australia, Anthony defined his recreational interests as walking, talking and drinking. The Carstensz Street house served two of those interests and provided a vantage point for the third. When developers threatened to build on Rocky Knob, a favoured walking spot near the house, Anthony organized and led the community campaign to preserve the site. Whether on Rocky Knob or on the ANU campus, Forge accompanied by his dog, Gus, or later, Kefa, was a familiar sight.

In some implicit way, Anthony Forge seems to have chosen Gregory Bateson as his mentor. Both men began their careers in Cambridge. Bateson's prior research led Anthony first to the Sepik and then later to Bali. Anthony included a paper by Bateson in his Primitive Art and Society, reanalysed Bateson's Iatmul findings in another paper in the influential volume, Rethinking Kinship and Marriage, and before he died, was working on a film on Bali that incorporated footage taken by Bateson in the 1930s. The videotape, Ngarap: Fighting over a Corpse, which has now been completed by Patsy Asch, posthumously merges the work of these two men in a single production.

Anthropologists, it is often remarked, tend to adopt the characteristics of the people they study. Anthony lived among Big Men in New Guinea and Brahmins on Bali. In different guises, he had a personal style that combined attributes of both such figures. Shortly before his cancer was diagnosed, Anthony had begun a new field study, with his wife Cecilia, in the mountains of Timor. He had also begun to collect objects of local art and appeared to be on the verge of another transformation.

The mere recitation of some of the events in Anthony's life gives no proper sense of the man himself. This escapes description. I had the good fortune of meeting Anthony for the first time when he was in the midst of his fieldwork on Bali. I was travelling to eastern Indonesia with my family and Anthony with his family was taking a brief respite from fieldwork. We met on Sanur Beach and for one marvellous week, our families kept constant company. Nine months later, on leaving eastern Indonesia, we met again on Bali and I was able to see Anthony at work: the artful British anthropologist with an old Land Rover which he managed to keep going, the gentle English Raksasa living in Gelgel, the impeccable collector of art who valued objects with a social context, and who could also manage to outmanoeuvre the cleverest of dodgy art dealers, but above all, the open, outgoing, always interested, engaging ethnographer. Within a year, our meeting on Bali changed my life. By that time, Anthony had moved to Canberra and on his way to a conference in Canada, he came to Harvard to persuade me to accept a position offered to me in the Research School of Pacific Studies. I was, of course, persuaded and came to Canberra where Anthony had already settled in at Carstensz Street. Without his sympathetic ear, without a place to pace, without his good scotch and excellent company, and without his friendship, I, like so many of his close friends and colleagues, can only feel diminished.

Anthony Forge was a remarkable individual who created strong impressions, close relationships, and lasting friendships. Through his collections and writings and through his students and colleagues, he has passed on a legacy that remains vivid. He is survived by his wife, Cecilia, by two children, Tom and Olivia, from a previous marriage to Jane Hubert, and by an aunt, May Garrett, who was a life-long influence on Anthony.

James J. Fox Australian National University
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Author:Fox, James J.
Article Type:Obituary
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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