Kiribati culture showcased in New Zealand
An exhibition referencing issues facing Kiribati like climate change, over-population and threats to traditional cultures is touring New Zealand.
An exhibition referencing issues facing Kiribati including climate change, over-population and threats to traditional cultures is touring New Zealand.
'Tungaru: The Kiribati Project' is a collaboration between New Zealand artists Chris Charteris and Jeff Smith and incorporates sculpture, photography and interactive video.
The project was born out of Mr Charteris's desire to return to his ancestral homeland Kiribati for the first time.
One artwork is Te Ma, a 7.5 metre construction of Venus shells in the form of a traditional Kiribati heart-shaped fish trap.
Mr Charteris told Mary Baines about the inspiration behind his works.
CHRIS CHARTERIS: I was looking at things that were unique to Kiribati, you know, particular forms or traditions. When thinking about the exhibition we wanted to showcase and to highlight Kiribati culture. One thing we saw quite early on were these big fish traps, which is quite a unique device, which I have made out of shells as a centrepiece for the show. And the materials I have chosen to use for the exhibition all relate to Kiribati culture. The islands are very limited in resources. In Kiribati, there's coconuts, there's shells, there's pandanas and coconut string. So I limited myself to using materials that are found there. So I brought some materials back, pandanas mats, which I've kind of overlaid with patterns that I've made up symbols for. Their life would probably be very difficult without coconuts and so I've used quite a lot of coconut shell in the show and there's one work which is dedicated to the coconut, it's like a tribute to the coconut.
MARY BAINES: And I understand there are some interactive warriors?
CC: Yes. So Jeff, who came with us, Jeff Smith, he came to Kiribati and documented everything. So one of the things he's done is built these big Kiribati warriors which are wearing these coconut fibre suits or suits of armour, which is very unique to Kiribati. I think they are about life size or maybe a bit bigger. So basically you stand in front of a wall and these sensors pick up where you are and suddenly there's a Kiribati warrior that pops up on the wall and they mimic your movements.
MB: So what's the purpose of the exhibition, is it to preserve Kiribati culture in a way or to, you know, bring awareness to New Zealanders who might be interested?
CC: To raise awareness about our Kiribati neighbours, to highlight Kiribati culture. It was also was a way of connecting Kiribati communities and bring them into these institutional areas for the Kiribati community to share their culture with the wider community.
The exhibition will tour a number of New Zealand galleries, and is currently at Pataka in Porirua where it will run until 7th of June.
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