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Fiji Fieldschool press release

9 July, 2015
Photo by Suhad Hussain. 2015

Photo by Suhad Hussain. 2015

Macquarie University students in the unit, Anth 225 ‘Field school in anthropology: Fiji,’ are currently on Beqa Island in Fiji where they are working with artists from the Pacific to prepare a new exhibition (and the online exhibition that will accompany it). The following is the press release that USP is going to put out.

Cli-mat:
Weaving climate awareness through art.

The Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies of the University of the South Pacific is pleased to announce the launch of a new exhibition: Cli-mat: Weaving climate awareness through art. Cli-mat is a collaboration of Pacific artists, USP staff, primary school students, and a group from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.

The exhibition of original works includes sculptures, assemblages, and woven mat-based art that uses recycled rubbish, and other found materials, as well as photography and multimedia. The works explore the effects of climate change and environmental challenges faced by Fiji and other Pacific nations. The students, staff and artists, including master carver Paula Ligairua, travelled to Beqa Island for the project.

Visual Arts Coordinator Johanna Beasley explained:

The island environment on Beqa gives artists a unique opportunity to find inspiration. Leaving the urban environment produces a positive atmosphere that encourages, not just new work, but innovative techniques. With the students from Macquarie documenting the creative process, the artists can focus on their work – the students will take care of the online exhibition. Our artists can also learn from our visitors, especially IT and video production.

The exhibition includes art projects with school children on Beqa Island, who participated in an outreach program. These projects are a model curriculum that uses art to raise awareness of environmental issues, including rubbish disposal and sea level change.

The exhibition presents visual art and multi-media by students of Macquarie University, who are participating in the class, ‘Field school in anthropology: Fiji.’ The course is new to Macquarie’s ‘Professionalisation and Community Engagement’ (MQ-PACE) program. MQ-PACE encourages students to apply what they learn at university while working with diverse partners.

The ‘field school’ class is made possible by a grant from the Australian government under the New Colombo scheme. Macquarie and the Australian government want students to gain experience in Asia and the Pacific, so that Australia can better cooperate with the region in the future.

The ‘field school’ coordinator, Associate Professor Greg Downey, together with colleague Dr. Frank Siciliano, sought the collaboration with USP, the first of its kind for MQ-PACE. As Downey describes the ‘field school’:

Bringing together art with anthropology is a wonderful opportunity. Anthropologists study other cultures, trying to share insights into the way people live. Artists do the same — they communicate how they see the world and the concerns of their communities. This is true in both traditional and contemporary art. Producing videos and an online exhibition allows my students to use their anthropological skills to help the artists communicate broadly, even to a global audience. And these media make sure that the exhibition lives on, even after all the works are taken down from the gallery and replaced with something new.

The exhibition will open the 22nd of July and remain on display until September. The online exhibition will be launched at the same time (we’ll post information on the website as soon as it’s available).

Part of the Macquarie-USP fieldwork team visiting the local church on Beqa Island, Fiji.

Part of the Macquarie-USP fieldwork team visiting the local church on Beqa Island, Fiji.

 

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