Connect : Connect Magazine July 2012 Edition
10 Above: Photograph by Charles Morris Woodford, ‘Brodie’, Aola Guadalcanal, reproduced with the permission of the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau Opposite Page: Photograph by John Beattie, Roas Boy, reproduced with the permission of the Anglican Church of Melanesia Top of opposite page: William discusses preparations with festival wood carvers This is a town of cool mornings, relentless midday heat and torrential evening downpours. The morning sun brings a kaleidoscope of blue dancing off the surface of the surrounding seas. Behind us, dense jungle greens scramble up towards hilly peaks that seem impossibly tall for a land dotted in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. These mountains meet the deep sea at Honiara in a standoff - each poised and ready to unsettle the other. Just across the way, the volcanic island of Savo quietly bubbles away with the promise of an almighty burst of flame and rock someday... sometime. You can’t help but feel the drama here. Actually, it’s a great setting for an arts festival. “Arts? How interesting! What have the arts got to do with development?” is an enquiry I often hear. Good question. Let me think about it for a while. And so it is that I find myself in the Solomon Islands volunteering with the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts – a huge cultural event held every four years in a different country in the region. There’s been no tentative ease into this assignment: two months in and it’s a whirlwind. During the festival some 2000 artists from over 20 countries, an army of visiting officials and innumerable tourists will cascade into this otherwise sleepy city. This is the land of things done last minute, and so this, and its sister trait - known as ‘Island Time’ - have left the preparations rather behind schedule. Yet the pace at which things are being completed now is nothing short of dizzying. Honiara is getting something of a facelift; pot-holes filled, signs erected, a coat of paint here, a road graded there and in the past few weeks the city has started laying down footpath faster than you can crack open a coconut. To see a large traditional village (complete with lake), a new national auditorium and a national art gallery appear in a few short months is truly remarkable. I’m here to assist with the film and photography exhibits. For me, co-ordinating the film program offers an opportunity to learn about the multitude of cultures present in the Pacific Islands. The festival will show films from all over the region. From short films for children to a range of documentaries on subjects as diverse as climate change and indigenous rights through to the rediscovery of ancient canoe navigation techniques. We will also screen a number of high profile feature films. All these will be shown in a new national auditorium whose architecture draws upon the traditional leaf-hut designs of the Pacific. I can’t wait! On a day to day level it’s about co-ordinating with delegations about the films they are bringing, arranging the schedule, overseeing the construction of exhibit spaces, arranging photographic prints and co-ordinating publicity and marketing. But the most rewarding aspect of this project has so far been in helping this community re-discover their audio-visual and photographic past. In a way this particular aspect has given me a greater insight into the importance of cultural heritage and the role that development assistance can play in this. It is an unfortunate truism that for a country like the Solomon Islands, most of their audio-visual and photographic history has been recorded by outsiders. This is still very much the case and is certainly an area where further assistance and training is necessary. An outsider’s perspective can be illuminating but it is a shame that Solomon Islanders have yet to really begin telling their own stories on screen. This means that much of its heritage and national record lies in the collections of other countries and almost never gets seen by the local population. And so I have been tracking down much of this material to show it to those who deserve to see it most. This investigative work has shown just how important Australia has been in documenting and preserving the history of its neighbour to the near north. By contacting the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau (PAMBU) based at Australian National University in Canberra, I have gained access the collection of Charles Woodford, an Australian naturalist who was the first commissioner of the British Protectorate of the Solomon Islands. He took a number of photographs of local people during the 1880s which in most cases have never been seen by William Head Country Solomon Islands Assignment Assistant Film and Documentary Curator Host Organisation National Organising Committee of Solomon Islands - Ministry of Culture and Tourism What Have the Arts Got to Do With Development?
Connect Magazine November 2012
Connect March 2012