Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Papua New Guinea art takes Australia by storm

Artwork by Mairi Feeger featuring various social ills such as sorcery, violence and alcohol. It will go on show in BundabergArtwork by Laban Sakale
Winnie Weoa (left) and Daniel Waswas - both of whom are involved in the Australian exhibition - at Gerehu in Port Moresby last week
Joycelin Leahy (centre) with artists Winnie Weoa (left) and Daniel Waswas - both of whom are involved in the Australian exhibition - at Gerehu in Port Moresby last week

Lae girl, former journalist and Miss Papua New Guinea Joycelin Leahy is taking Australia by storm with an art exhibition, aptly titled Pacific Storms.
Pacific Storms will feature new and well-known Pacific artists such as Daniel Waswas and brothers Jeffrey and Mairi Feeger from PNG, as well as Paskua from Tahiti.
“The show will show key works, not seen in Australia before,” says the popular former journalist and 1989 Ms PNG, who ran Beyond Art in Port Moresby before moving to Australia.
Ms Leahy, now based in Australia, is well-known in both PNG and down south for being an art curator.
Just last week, she visited home at Wagang (Sipaia) village in Lae and took a boat to the cultural treasure trove of the beautiful Tami Islands off Finschhafen, Morobe province, to buy art works.
Pacific Storms, a contemporary art exhibition will be opened by Australian Minister for Pacific Affairs, Duncan Kerr, on June 3 and ends on July 13 at Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery.
It will, in a way, it will be poetic justice as Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery is historically a significant location for Pacific people including South Sea islanders that have contributed immensely to the sugarcane plantations – many through the infamous blackbirding days - and Queensland's economy.
“There are a number of their descendants and other islanders that live there,” Ms Leahy says.
“The exhibition hopes to draw the community together to re-connect with history in a contemporary and art sense.”
The show is coordinated by Pacific Curator Ms Leahy with the support of Bianca Acimovic, Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery.
In the Pacific, when you see frigate birds, you know, a storm is not far behind.
During a workshop in Bundaberg last year, Ms Leahy proposed Pacific Storms as an idea to Bianca Acimovic, colleague and exhibition officer at the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery.
After much discussion and a written proposal, the gallery accepted the idea and Joycelin, 20 years experience in working with PNG and other Pacific artists, invited over 30 artists across the Pacific islands and within the Australian Diaspora communities to have a collaborative show to highlight climate change and a number of other challenging issues in the Pacific.
These included the killer disease HIV AIDS, security, logging, and many other social threats.
Ms Leahy’s interest in climate change and how it affects cultures of coastal communities in the Pacific culture in the Pacific led to call for new art for a topic which is a hot global debate, but one that is serious for many islanders who watch their homes disappear under the seas with sea level rise and other intense weather.
“Australia has significant geographical, historical and economical ties with the Pacific islands,” she says.
“It is important for Australians to learn more about the Pacific people, as many now live and contribute to the economy and call Australia ‘home’.
“The Pacific Storms programme at Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery extends to and links the community through family and artist community collaborations, professional development and celebrations of Pacific Culture.
“Apart from Bianca and myself, several other artists are all helping to pull together what we need for the show as given the obvious economy state of our country; it has been very tough trying to get assistance.
“However, I am proud to say that the show has developed a momentum and we have been inundated with inquiries about the art, programme and involvement of others.
“It is also a good opportunity to assist the artists to do business with Australian galleries, museums and collectors as well as general public for future business partnerships.
“We are looking for a second venue in Brisbane and in hope to keep the show running for a further six to eight weeks.

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