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‘Tungaru: the Kiribati Project’

Explore the Islands of Kiribati like Never Before in, ‘Tungaru: the Kiribati Project’, a New Exhibition at Auckland Museum And Mangere Arts Centre This July

‘Tungaru: The Kiribati Project’ is a collaboration between contemporary New Zealand artists, Chris Charteris (sculptor, carver and jewellery maker) and Jeff Smith (director, designer, filmmaker, 3D animator and musician), the Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tamaki Paenga Hira and Māngere Arts Centre - Ngā Tohu o Uenuku. The project, which has support from Creative New Zealand, will be displayed at Auckland Museum and Māngere Arts Centre from July this year. Tungaru is the pre-colonial name for Kiribati.

Timed with the 35th anniversary of Kiribati Independence Day, the exhibition at Auckland Museum will display traditional artefacts from the Museum’s Pacific collection alongside a selection of new works from Chris, an interactive Kiribati warrior created by Jeff, and archival film footage of Kiribati. Alongside the offering at the Museum, a six week exhibition is being held at Māngere Arts Centre, which includes items from the Museum’s collections as well as a selection of works by Chris and Jeff.

The project was born out of Chris’ desire to return to his ancestral homeland, Kiribati, to meet family and experience life on these tiny strips of atoll. “I was really taken by the simplicity of life on the outer islands. Their lifestyle now is much the same as it has been for centuries. They live in a completely sustainable way even with very few natural resources available” says Chris. Always with a camera in hand, Jeff was there to capture much of the journey and Chris’ interactions with family members. “We were welcomed with open arms throughout our journey; the generosity that we were met with was very humbling” says Jeff.

The upcoming exhibition is an artistic response to their time in Kiribati as well as the continued research they have both undertaken since. It is not only a personal story about family but one that also references the larger global issues of climate change, over-population and threats to traditional cultures.

Alongside the exhibitions there will be a number of public programmes at both venues including talks, workshops, and a Kiribati symposium at Auckland Museum on Saturday 11 October.

A book, ‘Tungaru: The Kiribati Project’, which includes contributions from arts writer Mark Amery, poet Teresia Teaiwa, NIWA scientist Doug Ramsay and Marion Melk Koch, as well as photos from the journey to Kiribati and the artworks, is due to be released in July.

‘Tungaru: The Kiribati Project’
Auckland Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira: 5 July – 23 November
Māngere Arts Centre - Ngā Tohu o Uenuku: 12 July – 24 August
Admission: Free with Museum entry/Free at Māngere Arts Centre


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