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.
Sister Angelica F.M.I. was born in 1930 her village is Nanga Nanga in East new Britain. She joined the F.M.I Congregation in 1952. Father Damian showed her a picture of an African woman Sister Kosila, which became an inspiration and her calling to God.
The 18th century buildings of Swedish and Russian architecture and cobble stone pathways made this Sea Fortress a UNESCO cultural world heritage site. My 10 year old son was in military history heaven. I asked Ngatia what he remembers most about the Fortress of Finland which we lived in. His response. Geese. Not the K Market, not the eight museums including an old Finnish submarine, the hissing Grey geese.
Pacific Melanesian artist Lisa Hilli shares how her black experience shapes her creativity, from the texture of her afro hair to capturing the joy of black sisterhood, it’s all embedded in her art.
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.
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.
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.
Follow My Blog
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.