‘ARE PASIFIKA’: the display of Pacific collections, old and new, in Aotearoa New Zealand
Thank you to Nina, Lisa and Hamish for a really thoughtful presentation. I would be interested to know more about how the project and the display was received by wider museum staff and also by the Pacific community in Christchurch? Also was the display there just temporarily or is it permanent? Thanks.
Kia ora Alison
As Lisa stated in the presentation a very small number of Pacific items are permanently on display in the Museum and virtually all of the items in 'Are Pasifika had never been seen out of storage. Having these items out had a profound effect on the Pacific community because they never knew they existed in their home town. Pacific peoples do not see themselves as part of the Christchurch landscape so seeing items that reflected their ancestors was a real highlight. I received many messages during the display period from members of the Pacific community that had visited the Museum with their families for the first time even though they had lived in Christchurch for many years. The items encouraged generous inter-generational talanoa (conversations) as grandparents explained how an item may be used or a father remembering stories told by his grandparents. The work encouraged belonging and Pacific peoples seeing these items shared immense pride towards them and the display, however this was layered with sadness as the items were gone quickly and they wanted to see more.
Canterbury Museum staff were very accommodating and interested in the objects as well as conversations they provoked. They saw what it meant to the community and since then together we have created more opportunities for the items to be view. Lisa was a big part of this connecting to different community groups and providing celebratory viewings. Although their are no plans for the Museum to place more items permanently on display they are very open to more viewings by the community.
As for the wider community, when you walked into the Museum the display was a visual feast not only because of its vibrancy but also how the items were displayed. They called for exploration lapping over each other, one item to the next. There were no information cues, just the items singing by themselves calling visitors over. Although I only received messages from the Pacific community I would often go visit and sit with the items. People would always linger just that little bit longer.
The project was well received by wider museum staff and presented an opportunity for others to witness processes of collaboration. It also allowed colleagues a chance to better understand the embedded relationships between Pacific peoples and their material culture.
Sadly, the exhibition was only temporary and, as mentioned in the presentation, there are very few Pacific objects on display at any given time.