On 25 June 2011, the Footscray Community Arts Centre (FCAC) came alive with Pasifika sights, sounds and stories. After seven months, this was the night for Pacific Stories participants, friends, family and the community to come together to celebrate the completion of the Pacific Stories project and to premiere the eight short films produced by eight dedicated and talented filmmakers: Leilani Gibson, John Harvey, Lisa Hilli, Ranu James, Paia Juste-Constant, Venina Kaloumaira, Warrie Kome and Pauline Vetuna.
Participants and performers arrived early to start decorating and getting organised. (Thanks to Venina, co-facilitator Lia and others, for making beautiful decorations for the evening including flowers, a giant ukulele and giant coconuts!! See pictures). Emeretta and the FCAC crew were also there making preparations as the clock ticked away. Meanwhile, I was busy doing a final run through of the films – making sure there were no glitches.
When I emerged into the foyer, crowds of people had already arrived and the room was abuzz with excitement. I was a little worried that we wouldn’t have enough room for everyone in the hall, but with the kids down the front sitting on mats, everyone found a place to view the Pacific Stories films for the first time.
Lia Pa’apa’a (what a woman!) was our gracious host for the evening – and what a wonderful job she did. When I got up on the stage I had to take a photo of our awesome crowd – over 200 plus smiling faces! When it was time to play the films, I was so happy to stand at the back of the room with Lia and watch the eight films screen in front of an audience. I had watched the films 100s of times in the edit room, but as I stood there that night, I felt like I was watching them for the first time. The feeling in the room was indescribable – I could hear a few sniffles in the crowd and there were a few tears from me too!!
The Pacific Stories Crew. Photo by Anne Harkin from MAV.
For those of you who couldn’t make it along it’s about time you met the filmmakers – the people that have made this project so great by generously sharing their stories through film (in order of screening program):
This is My Culture
by Ranu James (Motu Kekeni/Papua New Guinean/ Australian)
This film was adapted from a poem I wrote in response to a statement that I often hear from teachers which is: “We treat everyone the same.” I wanted to explain that culture is something intrinsically linked to who we are, it cannot be separated from someone and to treat everyone the same is to deny our uniqueness.
by Leilani Gibson
This film speaks of the spiritual world and discusses the traditional story of a beautiful Tongan woman, Fehuluni, as told through the eyes of artist and curator Loketi Niua Latu. It explores the intersection of traditional cultural stories and contemporary art.
Kome Kalana – My Bubu
by Wari Kome (Papua New Guinean)
Warrie is a young Papua New Guinean man who grew up in a small village on the central coast of PNG. This is a very personal portrayal of his Bubu’s story and how it’s connected to his story. Kome Kalana is an honest and raw narrative about his grandmother and how her unique culture shaped him and allowed him the freedom to discover and to be the man that his is today – now creating his own culture and identity.
Upi Mop Le – The Last Fish
by John Harvey (Torres Strait Islander – Saibai Island & English descent)
Torres Strait Islander artist Ricardo Idagi talks about how his new turtle shell mask is an expression of himself. This film explores how Ricardo, as a Torres Strait Islander artist living so far away from his homeland of Murray Island, maintains a sense of connection with ‘home’ through his artwork.
by Pauline Vetuna (Papua New Guinean)
A young woman talks to her Papua New Guinean mother about her parents’ decision to raise her without their indigenous language or culture.
by Paia Juste-Constant (Motu Kekeni/Papua New Guinean/ Australian)
Reva Reva speaks of my connection to my grandmothers and their full body tattoos. This beautiful canvas is far greater than a staining of the skin, more than a pattern of ink.
Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle
by Lisa Hilli (Papua New Guinean/ Australian)
Love, laughter, excitement and a passion for tradition and contemporary Pacific weaving. It’s a document of what happens when Pacific Islander women get together to weave.
From One to Another
by Venina Kaloumaira (Fijian/ Hungarian)
This film is an exploration of the continuation of cultural connection and belonging to Fiji, through the passing down of knowledge from father to son whilst living in Australia. It unearths a sweet and unexpected tale of not only their relationship with one another, but a revelation of the strength of their identity as first and second generation Fijians, living in Australia.
Credit and congratulations to the filmmakers – the reaction after the films screened was overwhelming. The filmmakers did a short Q&A with members of the audience sharing their thoughts. It was obvious that these films were successful in creating thought and discussion about issues effecting Pacific Islander people & communities but it was also interesting to hear the opinions of some young Aboriginal men who said that they also identified with these issues – as well as other people from migrant backgrounds who said to me that they identified with the films’ themes of connection to homelands, culture and identity here in Australia.
The night was topped off with DELICIOUS food from the West Papuan Community and performances from Drum Drum Pikanini (PNG), Iviiti Girls: Esther & Angelique Iviiti
(the Kingdom of Tonga) Fijian Serenade (Fiji) & Josephine Inia, Brown Roots Collective (we send a huge amount of gratitude and respect to these people because the night would not have been so wonderful without this beautiful display of PI culture).
To read more about what happened that night and what people thought, check out these blogs: Pearson’s Space by Pearson Vetuna and Just the Messenger by Pauline Vetuna.
As co-facilitator of Pacific Stories I feel privileged to have worked side-by-side with co-facilitator Lia Pa’apa’a and the wonderful participants – I can’t say enough how fantastic they are!! BUT this is by no means the end of Pacific Stories – the DVD will be available soon; there has been interstate and international requests for screenings; and Lia and I are investigating how to broadcast these stories to Australia and the World! Stay tuned and contact us with ideas, feedback etc.
A HUGE thanks to our project supporters: Australia Council for the Arts, Multicultural Arts Victoria, Victoria University Moondalli Bullak Indigenous Unit & our screening supporters: Footscray Community Arts Centre and Yarraville Community Centre.
Cheers, Amie Batalibasi.
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