Connecting Papua New Guinea and Australia through the Arts – Lowy Institute 13 June 2018

The arts have unique potential to connect people and inspire new interest in a place and its traditions. There are thousands of years of indigenous history and culture in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

A workshop, Connecting Papua New Guinea and Australia through the Arts, was held on 13 June 2018 at the Lowy Institute, Sydney. The audio-visual project a Bit na Ta, developed by the Wantok Musik Foundation for the No. 1 Neighbour: Art in Papua New Guinea 1966-2016 exhibition with the support of DFAT, was screened at the reception. It is a project located in Rabaul, East New Britain, PNG, that engages with the enormous changes over the century 1875-1975 from the perspective of the Tolai peoples who inhabit the surrounding lands. A Bit na Ta features songs by leading Australian and Papua New Guinean musicians that transpose 100 years of Tolai history into contemporary beats.

Connecting Papua New Guinea and Australia through the Arts – Lowy Institute, Sydney 13 June 2018 L-R: Andrea Williams, Lisa Hilli and Steven Gagau

23 participants took part in the day long event. During the evening reception, Lisa Hilli highlighted several points of discussion including existing initiatives – the value of art in communication needs to be better acknowledged and valued, especially by elders; cultural appropriation – copyright and ethics. How are cultural designs managed? Protocols and infrastructure need to provide opportunities for misappropriated art to be re-dressed; and platforms for performing and sharing knowledge.

Lisa recently held an exhibition in Brunswick, Victoria. ‘Through video, photography, textiles and archival research, Lisa explored the impact and trans-formative affect that trade beads had upon her own people, the Tolai/Gunantuna, during a precarious and hostile era of the late 1800s, and how materiality became a language, which was understood and valued by all.’

This event, connecting PNG and Australia through the Arts, was held under the auspices of the Aus-PNG Network, which works to enhance the people-to-people links between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

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