Fiji's artistic heritage: impact and engagement in Fiji

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Sainsbury Research Unit

Abstract

This project will convert the results of the AHRC-funded Fijian Art research project (2011-14) into significant impacts in Fiji, securing a long-term legacy for the activities of the original project in the country of origin and reaching new audiences. Existing relationships with Fiji Museum and the Fiji High Commission to the UK will be activated alongside new relationships with the iTaukei Trust Fund Board in Suva (which is developing a museum/cultural centre), the UK High Commission in Fiji and other Fiji-based organisations to ensure there is substantial benefit to the cultural and economic sectors in Fiji.

The work of impact generation will take place in two phases. The first (Oct 2016 - Feb 2017) will take advantage of the summative project exhibition, 'Fiji: Art and Life in the Pacific', which will be shown at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia during that period. This will be the most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to Fiji, displaying important historic material from major collections, including those in Cambridge, Oxford, Aberdeen and the British Museum, as well as Fiji Museum. A major theme of the exhibition is the creative adaptability of Fijians over the last two centuries in the context of major political, religious and economic influences and disturbances. The exhibition will accordingly show major contemporary works, including a 26ft-long newly built double-hulled canoe (drua), which recently featured in the Queen's 90th birthday pageant at Windsor, and a large (15ft x 6ft) painted barkcloth, showing continuity of cultural practice.

Four curators and four artists from Fiji, identified as a result of the original project, will be invited for residencies in Norwich, to participate in workshops and knowledge exchange sessions around the exhibition, its content and themes. This will work both ways. Fijians will see the finest material in the UK and receive training in international-standard museum practice. They will reciprocate by engaging with the Sainsbury Centre Education team, providing Fijian perspectives on collections and exhibitions. The canoe, an unexpected outcome of the original project, will be a vehicle, practical and metaphorical, for illuminating issues connected to the use of sustainable resources (it is made entirely of wood and coir cordage), climate and sea-level changes and heritage management. The Fijian guests will also visit Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford to see the Fijian collections there, to establish mutual collaborative relations and to derive inspiration for new artworks in a range of media.

The second phase of the Highlight Notice project mostly takes place in Fiji (Mar-Sep 2017). Here the four curators and four artists will convert their experiences in the UK into practical outcomes - training and inspiring colleagues and the broader Fijian community in the process. Fiji Museum colleagues will feed their experiences into their current strategic development planning, leading to enhanced displays, storage facilities and educational programmes. In addition, Fiji Museum will mount an exhibition in August 2017 of new work by the artists who visited the UK, coinciding with the week-long Hibiscus Festival that brings tens of thousands of people to central Suva. Fiji Museum staff will also conduct workshops focusing on craft skills and schools' engagement with heritage issues. The iTaukei Trust Fund Board will host workshops and develop a network of local fieldworkers to document cultural knowledge, especially in the area of women's arts, achieving impacts in remote areas of the country. They will also transfer their UK experiences into the development of their new museum building and facilities. Foundations will be laid for a commercial canoe-building initiative, to be discussed with the Fiji Government as part of rural development policy, discouraging urban drift.

Planned Impact

The principal focus will be on generating impact from the research previously undertaken on Fijian collections and Fijian history (largely in UK museums), and utilising the non-academic networks developed during that project. There will also be substantial engagement with new non-academic audiences and community groups, leading to impact in terms of policy-making in the cultural sector, heritage awareness and the establishment of active professional networks both within and beyond Fiji. Ensuring a legacy beyond the period of the Follow-on-Funding project is also a priority.

The pathways via which the project will achieve impact and engagement include the following:
Engaging four staff from Fiji Museum and the iTaukei Trust Fund Board (TTFB) in activities centred on the major exhibition 'Fiji: Art and Life in the Pacific' at the Sainsbury Centre at UEA. This will take the form of a series of workshops and sessions in February 2017 at UEA, Cambridge and Oxford, at which staff will experience and reflect on the exhibition, see first-hand a wide range of high-quality Fijian artworks, engage in knowledge exchange about them with UK-based curators and educationalists, and receive information on the latest international-standard museum practices in terms of storage, conservation, public programmes, loans and display. This will provide a permanent legacy in terms of enabling Fijian staff to translate their experiences into policy planning and public activities in their own institutions in Fiji. Likewise, a group of four Fijian artists will also undertake residencies in Norwich, Cambridge and Oxford in November 2016, during which they will engage with the exhibition and its content, participate in workshops and make new work in response to their experiences. Staff at the Sainsbury Centre, and museums in Cambridge and Oxford (project partners in the original project, who wish to follow through) are willing to participate in these visits, gaining insights into their own display practices and collections through knowledge exchange.

In Fiji, the returning participants will themselves conduct workshops and events to disseminate information gained in the UK, including showing dossiers of photographs taken both during the original project and during their recent visit. These will focus on technical aspects, aimed at recovering lost or diminishing skills and encouraging pride in heritage and traditional knowledge. Workshops will take place in Suva, rural areas and outer islands, to allow maximum spread of information and reach specialist craftspeople in their own, often remote, villages. The TTFB will establish a network of local fieldworkers (on a model successfully operated in Vanuatu) as part of their own formal institutional activities.

PI Steven Hooper has had positive meetings with government officials and the Minister of Education (with the Fiji Museum Director in 2015). These will be built upon to facilitate policy discussions concerning heritage issues, in particular regarding an enhanced role for Fiji Museum as the national museum of Fiji and in regard to commercial opportunities for canoe production and sale to tourist hotels (tourism is by far the biggest industry in Fiji). In a recent conversation the Fiji High Commissioner to the UK was enthusiastic about this initiative, building on the celebrity of the recently built sailing canoe which was an unplanned outcome of the original project (see Visual Evidence).

The aim is to achieve enduring cultural and economic impact at the highest policy level, primarily through the Ministry of Education, and also at the village and broader community level through the outreach activities of Fiji Museum, the TTFB and other local NGOs such as NatureFiji (see support letter). Impact and engagement will be measured by documenting workshop and exhibition attendance, by production of manuals and planning documents, by feedback forms, commercial activity and media coverage.

Publications


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Description This is not a research grant, but one aimed at impact. It is still in progress, but we have successfully hosted Fijian visitors in the UK and are currently working with them on the planned outputs, including an exhibition in Fiji, the development of a fieldworkers' network in Fiji and several publications.
Exploitation Route N/A. Project still underway, but optimistic about spin-off impacts
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail,Transport
 
Description Project still underway, but public programmes in Fiji are well attended. Others to follow
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Creative Economy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Economic
 
Description Advising on redisplay of Royal Commonwealth collections at Windsor Castle 
Organisation The Royal Collection Trust
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The research team was visited at UEA on 23 November 2016 by four curatorial and collections staff from the royal Collections at Windsor Castle, to see the Fiji exhibition and discuss strategies for the redisplaly of their collections at Windsor Castle, and how to animate their displays for multiple audiences.
Collaborator Contribution They have significant collections from the Commonwealth, about which we can provide expert advice based on our Fijian Art project expereince.
Impact No outputs so far, besides an instructive discussion
Start Year 2016
 
Description Exhibition planning with Fiji Museum and Taukei Trust Fund Board staff 
Organisation Government of Fiji
Country Fiji, Republic of the Fiji Islands 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Advice in the UK (February 2017) and in Fiji (March-April 2017) on developing and mounting the exhibition 'Kamunaga: a tabua of purpose' at Fiji Museum, due to be shown June-August 2017r
Collaborator Contribution Developing ideas for the exhibition and carrying out preliminary research; designing and planning the exhibition, its installation and all its associated programmes and publicity; fund-raising
Impact Not yet. The exhibition opens in June 2017
Start Year 2016
 
Description Fiji Museum staff training 
Organisation Government of Fiji
Country Fiji, Republic of the Fiji Islands 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We hosted 4 members of Fiji Museum staff, who visited the UK in February 2017 to participate in workshops and visits to museums in Cambridge, Oxford and London to study collections, facilities, education and marketing.
Collaborator Contribution On their return to Fiji they are preparing an exhibition at Fiji Museum based on their experiences in the UK and in partnership with colleagues from the Taukei Trust Fund Board in Fiji. They are also initiating a fieldworkers programme in Fiji.
Impact Workshops in the UK and Fiji
Start Year 2016
 
Description Participating in workshops and exhibition installation with members of the Veiqia [Tattooing] Project 
Organisation Veiqia Project
Country New Zealand 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Since 2015 project members have been in communication with Fijian members of the Veiqia [Tattooing] Project, including during the Pacific Arts Association international symposium in Auckland in March 2016. Fiji project and Veiqia members also met during the opening of the Fiji exhibition and the Pacific Arts Association-Europe conference at UEA in October 2016. They recently met up again in Fiji during a workshop and the opening of the Tattooing exhibition at Fiji Museum. Project team members contributed research information to the Veiqia project team.
Collaborator Contribution The Veiqia project have investigated and revived female tattooing in Fiji, have made several presentations, including at the Pacific Arts Association-Europe conference hosted by Fiji project members. They are also contributing to the new energetic activities of Fiji Museum as part of the Fiji Follow-on Funding project.
Impact The Veiqia Exhibition at Fiji Museum (9 March-May 2017) Veiqia Project Family Day, Fiji Museum, 11 March 2017 Coverage in Fiji Press
Start Year 2016
 
Description Taukei Trust Fund Board staff training 
Organisation iTaukei Trust Fund Board
Country Fiji, Republic of the Fiji Islands 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We hosted 2 staff members of the TTFB in the UK in February 2017, arranging workshops and visits to museums in Cambridge, Oxford and London.
Collaborator Contribution They provided feedback to UK museums and are collaborating in an exhibition in Fiji Museum in 2017. They are planning a fieldworkers programme in Fiji, especially to record oral histories and traditional skills.
Impact Feedback to UK museums
Start Year 2016
 
Description Tourism Fiji: facilitating marketing activities 
Organisation Tourism Fiji
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have liaised with Jane West, director of Tourism Fiji UK (which also covers the rest of Europe), and her staff around the major exhibition 'Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific' at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. We have provided curatorial tours of the exhibition to guests and received visits by Tourism Fiji staff.
Collaborator Contribution Tourism Fiji sponsored the dinner and other promotional activities around the opening of the exhibition, which was attended by HE the President of Fiji. They also promoted ubat the opening
Impact 2 February 2017: the most successful marketing event to travel agents that Tourism Fiji has held, with over 40 participants. It was hosted at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts during the Fiji: Art & :Life in the Pacific exhibition, and involved a curatorial tour by Steven Hooper and promotional of cultural aspects of Fiji. Future collaboration with project members is planned during COP23 in Bonn in November 2017 (Fiji currently chairs the UN Climate Change Conference), when Fiji will be promoted.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Visit by Mr Joji Marau, Mr Setareki Domonisere, Mrs Luisa Vereivalu, canoe building and weaving specialists, to the UK 
Organisation Fiji National University (FNU)
Country Fiji, Republic of the Fiji Islands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Hosting Mr Marau (of Fiji National University), Mr Domonisere and Mrs Vereivalu in the UK in October 2016, so they could visit collections, have meetings with staff at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, rig the Fijian canoe (a key exhibit) and participate in the opening of the Fiji exhibition, and make presentations at the Pacific Arts Association-Europe conference. They also were able to view the Fiji exhibition and participated in a workshop at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.
Collaborator Contribution Making presentations to the conference and general public, rigging the canoe, and providing woven artefacts for demonstration.
Impact Conference presentations, rigging the Fiji canoe for exhibit, production of woven crafts
Start Year 2016
 
Description Cultural Day with Vosa Vakaviti UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact On 2 December 2016, fifteen Fijian children and about ten others attended a workshop run Ana Lavekau, a Fijian in the British Army who is also a dancer, designer and cultural practitioner, who encourages retention of Fijian language and cultural skills by UK-based Fijians. The group toured the Fiji exhibition with project team members and had dance demonstrations and made Fijian-style pottery
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Exhibition tour for Sotheby's special clients - Sotheby's Preferred 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact On 21 October 2016 project team members made a presentation and led a tour of the Fiji exhibition, arranged by Sotheby's for 29 members of Sotheby's Preferred, a special club for collectors. Most participants were not collectors of Oceanic art, but were interested because of the quality of the Fiji exhibition.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Fiji exhibition tours for staff and guests of Archant, the publishing company 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact On 16 November 2016, 30 November 2016 and 25 January 2017, three evening presentations and exhibition tours of the Fiji exhibition were given by project members to staff and guests of Archant, the newspaper company that was one of the sponsors of the Fiji exhibition. The guests were mostly business associates of Archant. There were over 20 people in each group.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Visit by Her Majesty The Queen to the Fiji exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As a result of an audience with the President of Fiji (q.v.) on 19 October 2016, the Palace got in touch to arrange a visit to the Fiji exhibition by Her Majesty The Queen when she was staying at Sandringham in Norfolk in January. After the usual preparations with the Palace, the Lord Lieutenant's Office and other parties, the visit took place on Friday 27 January 2017. A special tour was provided by project members and the Fiji High Commission, including costumed warrior guards, drummers and a Fijian choir. HM is familiar with Fiji and has visited there several times. The visit provided an opportunity for her to meet a range of local arts-related people and students studying at the Sainsbury Research Unit at UEA. The visit attracted global media coverage - there were about 30 photographers and news organisations present - attention being intensified by The Queen's illness over Christmas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/education/the_queen_enjoys_a_cultural_tour_of_fiji_at_the_sainsbury_cent...
 
Description Visit by His Excellency the President of Fiji to open the Fiji exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact We were honoured that the President of Fiji, His Excellency Mr Jioji Konrote, agreed to come to open the exhibition Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific at the Sainsbury Centre on 14-15 October 2016. In fact he built a trip to Europe and the Middle East around this as his primary commitment. An audience of over 300 people witnessed a traditional Fijian reception for him, before touring the exhibition. This event attracted strong media interest and coverage and was attended by many UK-based Fijians and other luminaries including Sir David Attenborough - which also attracted media attention. Among the impacts was that on Wednesday 19 October the President had an audience with Her Majesty the Queen, at which he mentioned the exhibition in glowing terms. This led to a request from the Palace for Her Majesty to visit the exhibition, which she did on 27 January 2017 (reported as a separate item)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Workshops on Fijian garland making 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Two 1-day workshops were held on 26 November and 3 December at the Sainsbury Centre at UEA, the second by demand because the 20-person limit for the first was heavily oversubscribed. The sessions were run by project member Katrina Igglesden and by Sera Tavainavesi, a Fijian craft specialist who lives in East Anglia. Participants were taught how to make fibre garlands by plaiting and weaving techniques. These special garlands (salusalu) are worn by honoured guests in Fiji, and the cultural context of their use was also explained to participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016