With more and more opportunities for young aspiring artists to learn about their cultural heritage, the Pacific Heritage Arts Fono is off to a flying start.
Presentation’s, workshop’s and talanoa’s; the program is jam-packed to inform and inspire.
Whispers of rich tales passed from one generation to another are not only found in conversation, but through the importance of objects and significant creations right throughout the history of our Pacific.
Among the many stories that were shared, Lizzy Leckie and Kaetaeta Watson presented an extraordinary piece on ‘Te Otanga: Coconut Fibre Armour from Kiribati”.
“Our project has been an amazing journey. This is only the beginning of the research.” Lizzy says.
The duo, along with the support of the West Auckland Kiribati community began their study to re-awaken the skills and knowledge of their ancestors.
The full ensemble consists of a cap, back plate (to protect the warriors neck from stones thrown by his own women at the enemy), body armor, jerkin and leggings. All of which are made from dense coconut fiber matting.
“When it comes to the way it is woven we only know that it was done by knotting, otherwise we have no idea”. Recalled Kaetaeta.
To help the audience understand the dynamics of the armor, Lizzy and Kaetaeta had a prototype made out of paper for a clearer understanding.
Weapons that complimented the armour were prongs (taumangaria), edged with shark’s teeth, a porcupine fish helmet and sting ray skin cuirass on the top.
“The first time I came to New Zealand was the first time I saw a Kiribati armour. The people I stayed with here in Auckland, very kindly took me to the museum to see this and I was amazed.”
A defining characteristic of Kiribati armour is the significance of the geography that surrounds its shores. The low-lying coral atolls meant that there were very few raw materials historically available, which is why the armour is so unique and the drive to know more is still very present.
Kaeteata found the importance behind their “why” to discover more about this historical artifact.
“We’re very lucky to have something to be proud of, to know that we inherit a language of our own; customs that tie us together and that we depend on as part of our livelihood. Our future existence may well depend on the skills our ancestors had developed in order to live in their environment.”
The theme for this year’s Pacific Arts Fono is transmission, preserving, developing and passing on pacific heritage art forms. A large part of the good work Lizzy and Kaetaeta are doing.
For more information on the Pacific Heritage Arts Fono by creative New Zealand, head to http://www.creativenz.govt.nz/news/pacific-heritage-arts-fono-to-pass-on-knowledge-1