As a solo female traveller I stood out like a sore thumb and was targeted by mostly men who tried many times to take advantage of my solo freedom during my two months in Europe. But there was one man, a kind Algerian man, who saw me wandering alone along the picturesque harbour with my Pentax SLR. It was my last day in Marseille, I was killing time, taking snaps of the colourful fishing boats, before boarding an overnight train to Basque country in Spain. This man had a very small shop in the harbour of Marseille. He spoke very little english, but was able to gesture to me, the kinds of things that he sold.
The body language of each individual in this image speaks volumes to me. Compositionally the framing of this image shows who is important and who is valued, who has power and agency, who doesn’t and who is centred in visual history? When I think about German and Gunantuna relationships, I wonder how this German planter and this Tolai woman communicated? How did they meet? Initially when I first viewed this image I wondered if this child was or is one of the many children who were taken into Vunapope catholic mission by German nuns and bishops, that led to the Unserdeutsch community that exists today in Brisbane. I have lots of questions that I hope to be able to answer and understand during my fellowship research that will feed into my PhD photographic research of Papuan women in front of the lens.
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."
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.
The email, an invitation to join her for an arts residency in Şile Turkey was by far one of the most unexpected blessings to be wished upon my arts journey. Şile is a coastal town north east of Istanbul. Şile historically is known for Bezi cotton fabric . Eddy said she was drawn to my work as there was an enquiry in what I was doing. This was a moment when the right people come into your life at the right time.
The Pacific region covers approximately one third of the earth’s surface. As a woman from this region, I find it strange that we refer to our planet as “earth” when the majority of our planet’s surface is salt water. Solwara is the Melanesian word for Saltwater. Solwara is my word for this region known as the Pacific or Moana for Polynesians. Solwara peoples don’t see this region as disparate islands separated by ocean.
It was a whirlwind, jam packed, full of goodness 5 day trip to Brussels to attend the opening event and public programs. Being amongst so many other women of colour, conversing and seeing how they are using their bodies within their own practices validated the work I had made and compelled me to continue making work that relates to the black female body. I had found my people and my community of practice.