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REGION: Artists, writers to celebrate culture with 'Tungaru - the Kiribati project'

Artist Chris Charteris at work. Image: Auckland Museum

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Item: 8635

AUCKLAND (Auckland Museum / Pacific Media Watch): A new museum exhibition in New Zealand is set to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Kiribati Independence Day.

"Tungaru: The Kiribati Project"  will open at the Auckland Museum and Mangere Arts Centre in July.

Tungaru is the pre-colonial name for Kiribati.

The exhibition features artists Chris Charteris (sculptor, carver and jewellery maker) and Jeff Smith (director, designer, filmmaker, 3D animator and musician).

It will display traditional artefacts from the Museum’s Pacific collection alongside a selection of new works from Charteris, an interactive Kiribati warrior created by Smith, and archival film footage of Kiribati.

The project was born out of Charteris’ desire to return to his ancestral homeland, Kiribati, to meet family and experience life on these tiny strips of atoll.

“I was really taken by the simplicity of life on the outer islands. Their lifestyle now is much the same as it has been for centuries. They live in a completely sustainable way even with very few natural resources available” says Charteris.

Always with a camera in hand, Smith was there to capture much of the journey. “We were welcomed with open arms throughout our journey; the generosity that we were met with was very humbling” says Smith.

The exhibition also references the larger global issues of climate change, over-population and threats to traditional cultures.

A book, Tungaru: The Kiribati Project, which includes contributions from arts writer Mark Amery, poet Teresia Teaiwa, NIWA scientist Doug Ramsay and Marion Melk Koch, as well as photos from the journey to Kiribati and the artworks, is due to be released in July.

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Frigate bird in Kiribati culture

I am seeking information about the inclusion of the Frigate Bird in the Kiribati flag. Where can I find explanations about the place of Frigate bird in early Kiribati culture, and why the bird was chosen to be included i n the flag?

My research on the Frigate Bird's place in central Micronesian culture draws on recorded accounts from Nauru, Marshalls, with brief references to the use of Frigate Bird stands in northern Kiribati, such as Butaritari. I would like to contact someone in the Kiribati Cultural Centre who could put me in touch with knowledgable people willing to share information about the Frigate Bird in olden times.

As a key part of Kiribati identity, stories about frigate birds will inform Kiribati cultural heritage. They may be endangered by climate change as they rest on shorelines of atolls. Are the platforms shown in a video for northern Tarawa old frigate bird platforms? I have many questions for which I would welcome some answers
(see Pollock, The Frigate Bird Cult in Eastern Micronesia, in People and Culture in Oceania, Vol.25:pp.97-100 (2009) . A more detailed version of this paper is in Press.)

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