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.