Tuesday, 13 May 2014 7:12 AM

"Blackbirding" to be Highlighted on National Museum Day

For the 4th year running, the Solomon Islands National Museum will celebrate International Museum Day on 16th May 2014, an annual event usually celebrated on 18th May by thousands of museums across the world.

This year’s International Museum Day program will run from 16th to 18th May 2014.

As part of the occasion the National Museum will host an exhibition entitled “Black Birding: The Queensland-Pacific Indentured Labour Trade and Australian South Sea Islanders”. The exhibition will be the highlight of this year’s International Museum Day celebration.

The theme for this year’s International Museum Day is “Museum collections make connections”. Since the theme “aims at renovating traditional methods of engagement adopted by museums in order to remain relevant to stakeholders”, the National Museum has decided to host this special exhibition in memory of the Australian South Sea Islanders.

These are people mostly from Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and other Pacific islands who were "black birded" to work in the sugar cane fields of Queensland and Northern New South Wales between 1863 and 1904. Over 62,000 people were taken from the islands via a labour trade that was widely known for its false promises and mistreatment of workers.
As story-tellers, the National Museum hopes to contribute to the development and education of society by connecting visitors and creating bonds between generations, and to exhibit a part of our recent history that has been poorly understood and not properly recognized by many.

As such the National Museum intends to provide a platform for (re)connection, recognition, dialogue, cultural exchange and strengthening of links between Australian South Sea Islanders and Solomon islanders.

This year’s International Museum Day will be a very historic moment indeed for Solomon islanders and particularly the National Museum since we will also commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the arrival of the first South Sea Islanders in Queensland, Australia.

The International Museum Day and the opening of the Australian South Sea Islanders exhibition program will be launched on Friday 16th May 2014 at the National Art Gallery grounds. The exhibition covers four (4) major themes – The Queensland-Pacific indentured labour trade, Pacific Islander migrants in colonial Queensland, Deportation of Pacific Islanders from 1901-1908, and Australian South Sea Islanders during the twentieth century.

Audiovisual shows, a panel discussion, traditional cultural and contemporary dances, and live band performances and a religious program are other activities that will support the exhibition over the 3-day celebrations.

As part of this important occasion, the National Museum is hosting a panel discussion on Saturday 17th May 2014 starting at 10am at the Museum’s Auditorium. Panel members include Professor Clive Moore of the University of Queensland, Australia; Clacy Fatnowna – Australian South Sea Islander and representative of the Fatowna Family; Emelda Davis – President of the Australian South Sea Islander (Port Jackson) and member of the National ASSI Governance Working Group; and Marcia Eves – Australian South Sea Islander and representative of the Fatnowna Family. The panel discussion will be on the theme of the exhibition –“Black birding: The Queensland-Pacific Indentured Labour Trade and Australian South Sea Islanders”.

A Band Laev concert is organized for Saturday afternoon to be held at the National Art Gallery. While the panel discussion is free for the public to attend, we will charge a minimal fee for the Band Laev concert. Funds raised during this event will go towards the recovery process after the recent April rains and flash floods.
On Sunday 18th May a religious service is organized and this will start at 2pm.

The lotu program will be organized and led by the South Sea Evangelical Church’s central church. The highlight of the lotu program will be the performance of a “marching band under the hurricane lamp”. This group is from a local church within the South Sea Evangelical Church based here in Honiara. There will also be drama, dance and song performances by various church youth groups and bands.

We are inviting various government and non-government officials to attend the launch of the International Museum Day and the opening of the Australian South Sea Islander exhibition on 16th May. While no fee is charged, we encourage visitors to the exhibition to donate in cash or kind towards assisting the survivors of the 2014 April rains and flash floods.

The Solomon Islands National Museum is very privileged and excited to host the Australian South Sea Islanders exhibition as part of this year’s International Museum Day celebrations.

“We look forward to the support of the public and we encourage students, especially, to visit the exhibition and be part of the panel discussions,” said Museum Director Tony Heorake.

The exhibition will be put on display from the month of May to September 2014. 

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