A Cambridge qualified anthropologist and museum curator is eager to explore opportunities to collaborate with NAF. Katrina Talei Ingglesden of the Fijian Art Research Project (full name “The Fijian Arts, Social Transformation, and Political Power Collections since 1800s to the Present”) said there is scope to help each other to give the Fiji public more access to their heritage.
“I think in general we are trying to do the same thing. It is the preservation and dissemination of Fijian history, records held in the UK and records held here complement each other and yet they are slightly different so I can see various avenues for sharing and trying to work together. A lot of museums especially the ones we worked with in our project have a vast photographic collection as well.”
She also found a wealth of information in the NAF holdings
“I was pleasantly surprised coming here, I have always known about it, walked by, never came in and the resources you have here, it’s just amazing! I’ve been looking at the microfilm just now; I’ve had to stop myself from looking at everything else (Births Deaths and Marriages records) It’s amazing! The more people I can help with it I will, it is an invaluable resource, for the Fijian public here and anybody else.”
Can you give us a bit more information on the Fijian Art Research Project?
“The Fijian Art research project is technically officially over at the moment but we had an extension on it. So it was from 2011 to 2014. It was a three-year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK. It is a Government body that funds cultural, arts and humanities projects. It started off as a body that funded only local research but in the past two years they have taken on an internationally exposure, kind of platform where if you work locally and you have international partnership they encourage that more than just staying in the UK. We were really lucky with this project because it allowed us to partner with nine different institutions around the world. We had six in the UK. Being Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, British Museum, Maidstone Museum & Art Gallery they have a huge Fijian Collection from a local Maidstone man came to Fiji in the 19th century, Liverpool Museum and the National Museum of Scotland we also had the Smithsonian in Washington, DC and the Fiji Museum. We had associate museums in Australia and New Zealand, Auckland Museum, Aberdeen and anyone who wanted to work with us came on as a partner, and basically it was to find out where all the Fijian collections are in the world and the what bulk of each collection is. Within the UK every single regional museum has some kind of Fijian object it might be just be a club or just be a piece of masi but literally every museum has something.”
“Part of that project was to help very small museums who have no staff who special knowledge in Fijian collections to actually show their Fijian collections because none are on display. So we have these small museums do these pocket exhibitions to showcase their materials. So we did all the texts for them and they had money coming in to make educational resources. It was a very large interesting project with two exhibitions one was in Cambridge in 2013 – 2014 and we have this upcoming one in October of this year to February of next year and that will the final bit of the project and two books have come out of it. One specifically on the Cambridge collection which literally focuses on Sir Arthur Gordon, his tenure as Governor so from 1875 to 1880s and this upcoming book which will go for this exhibition from October to February will be the first encompassing art history of Fiji. It will be for 15 lending institutions for this upcoming exhibition whereas for the one in Cambridge was only Cambridge material.”
“We have Fiji Museum objects coming over. The first time Fiji Museum has ever loaned anything since their history of existence. We have 21 loaned objects coming in from Fiji. We are very very excited about that.”
Maybe the next step would be bringing bits of collections home so people could see?
“One of the wish lists that we had and we had many was having a Pacific version of the exhibition we had and possibly have the Australian Museum, Fiji Museum and Auckland Museum all working together to share the costs, because that is one thing people underestimate a lot and that is the costs, unfortunately Fiji Museum can’t afford the cost to build a base. As we were talking last week partnership, collaboration on the best way we can do everything so we are still hoping that can happen.”
“The title of the exhibition is Fiji: Art and Life in the Pacific it wasn’t the title of choice but the English public, we had a few titles out there but it is a general survey on Fijian culture, from early Lapita technology to contemporary manufactures so we had the Drua, 8 metre made here in Suva is being shipped over to the UK for exhibition and it is the first Drua built traditionally probably the one that’s sitting at the Fiji Museum now. It was built in 1913. It’s much smaller than the one on the Fiji Museum but we had to build for the confines of the UK Museum to be able to fit through the doors. If it could be bigger it could be. It is looking at a lot of aspects of Fijian culture and thanks to gender divisions in the institution I work in there are more women than men this time in this particular exhibition a lot of women’s work will be focused on which this doesn’t happen often because textiles and fibres are things don’t preserve especially well but also most of the collectors were men but there is an amazing collection of textile in the UK and we got some textiles coming from Fiji museum as well, collected in 1839 to 1854 by a particular missionary so the big focus on past historical textiles as well as contemporary mainly mats, masi and fashion pieces made out of traditional textiles Adi Litia Mara’s wedding dress that’s at the Fiji Museum is coming over for the exhibition.”
“It’s a lot of work; we’ve had a few years to get this done. The exhibition was meant to open sooner than October but we are just grateful.”
Find a way to bring it home for a period so people can see their heritage
“I am determined to come back so I can stay longer.”
So your time in Fiji is to organise these things?
“So I am basically helping the Museum with the loan and understanding the process, the loan procedures I am just taking them through all that, assisting them in any way.”