My interest in this topic of Abot (boat) songs was sparked by community dialogue with New Guinea Islands community of history relating to Melanesians that were transported by ship as indentured labourers by German trading firm Deutsche Handel-und Plantagengessellshcaft (D.H.P.G.) to work on plantations in Samoa between 1864 – 1921
Of the 31,000 listed entries in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, only 31 biographies are of Pacific people, 2 of these are of Pacific women. My research and highlighting of the incredible 45 F.M.I. Sisters was noted by the workshop organisers as "the perfect blend of creative, public facing and historically informed scholarship that pushes the boundaries of biography as a discipline."
In the year that was, I made a concerted effort to read more books either written by Papua Niuginan authors or about PNG women's practices. Despite this year throwing us a huge curveball, expanding my literary knowledge of my matrilineal homeland and it's people remained a priority. I'm grateful to my wantok meri Deb Chapman, whose Brunswick home I refer to as the unofficial PNG embassy for Melbourne. Her home is full of Papua Niugini artwork, conversations and occasionally wantoks from home. Every time I leave Deb's place my son and I usually leave with books.
Returning the middi back to the Tolai community in Rabaul in Papua New Guinea was both a profound and life changing experience. I gained more knowledge than what I could intellectually contain and realised that I will be doing research within my community for most likely what will be the rest of my life.
In January 2018 I spent three weeks developing a new work on site at Testing Grounds in the City of Melbourne. Trade Stories was an invitation to listen and share the history of materials exchanged and traded between Pacific Islander and European people during the 19th Century. As artist in residence, I requested 'collective labour' to thread a vast amount beads to develop a site responsive work.
This trip was a profound one for a number of reasons; it was the first time my 6 year old son had visited our Madapai (mother land) in Rabaul and Papua New Guinea, it was the first time I travelled back to Rabaul without my Tolai mother and the first time to do cultural research within my community. We spent two and a half weeks in our village re-connecting and researching the relevance of middi, historically and what it means to Tolai people today.