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Sunday, 29 August 2010

A Taste of the Pacific in Sydney's West

The Casula Powerhouse is alive with energy this afternoon.  The dance recitals taking place in the theatre created a buzz of of activity with young girls excited tearing around at speed in brightly coloured coloured costumes, while parents loaded with clothing, sipping on coffees from the cart that never seems to be quiet wait patiently for the dance rounds to finish.  An organised chaos is at work with tables for photos, merchandise and refreshment vouchers.  The smell of hairspray is overwhelming and ever present. We're getting a taste of what parenting in suburbia must be like!
All of this electricitiy seems like such a fitting tribute to the industrial origins of the venue - a sympathetically revamped building with exposed brickwork and steel beams. We're here to catch the penultimate day of the Body Pacifica exhibition. The exhibition opened with a three-day festival in June and now on its final weekend we got to view the exhibition in relative peace.
Hiding away from the craziness of dance competitions, the exhibit was a welcome relief. The space has a number of discrete display areas and we were able to take in the three main events during our visit:

  • Body Pacifica - The NRL Pacific Island Warriors Calendar project produced in conjunction with CPAC Pacific and Aboroginal Cultural Program;

  • Australian National Museum collection of Pacific artefacts;

  • Photographic Exhibit of the Reverand George Brown's missionary tour of the Pacific 1880s.
In silent reverie we wandered the halls and truly absorbed the magic of the objects and images in front of us.  At one stage I was adopted by a young lad who decided to hang out with me rather than play hide and seek with his brothers.  He told me his friend's father was continuing the art of Samoan ta'tau (tattooing) just up the road from him. I enjoyed his company as we discussed the various pieces.
A true stand out for me were the large tanoa (kava bowl) on display which was dwarfed compared to the one we had in our family that my grandfather was gifted during his travels (a treasured piece that unfortunately will only ever be passed through the male line :( ), and the body armour from Kiribati - which demonstrated incredible skill and craftsmanship and the photographs, at least of two which made me remark "they look like modern faces that time travelled".
We have enjoyed another event curated by Leo Tanoi also featuring the work of Greg Semu a couple of years and truly appreciate what these guys bring to not only the Sydney Pacific Island community but the community at large.  Latai Taumoepeau's sister is a personal friend and there is no shortage of talent in this family.  Pacific Island events are strictly regional here in Sydney and we often miss the accessibility we had in Auckland (and then again value the separation as we were both became fairly heavily involved with various ventures and initiatives).
All of this history, and history in the making made available to the public for free is the ultimate act of "community". I left truly grateful to all the agencies and individuals who made this possible.

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Hey thanks!