Plantation Voices: Contemporary conversations with Australian South Sea Islanders is now open until 8 September. On 16 February with a special community event hosted by the State Library of Queensland to welcome the Australian South Sea Islander community and open the exhibition.
Over 210 people from communities all along the eastern coastline came together to celebrate Australian South Sea Islander history, heritage and culture for the opening of the new Plantation Voices exhibition. Some community members travelled from Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Sunshine Coast and the Tweed Heads region.
It was exciting to see so many Australian South Sea Islanders eager to see the new exhibition. People mingled and viewed the exhibition taking their time to look at the people in the photo albums and the names in some of the registers, and listening to the digital stories.
The new contemporary artworks by Australian South Sea Islander artists Jasmine Togo-Brisby, Dylan Mooney, Joella Warkill and LaVonne Bobongie were a huge attraction for everyone. A major highlight of the day was a powerful performance in the exhibition space by spoken word artist Joella Warkill who performed her piece, Cook My Hungi Like You Did My Ancestors.
The day began with more formal proceedings with speeches from Vicki McDonald, Chief Executive Officer and State Librarian, who welcomed the Australian South Sea Islander community into the State Library and introduced the exhibition. Mr Donald Fewquandie representative of the Australian South Sea Islander community responded with a heartfelt speech that was reflective of his time growing up as an Australian South Sea Islander in Mackay and the Sunshine Coast. Finally, Imelda Miller, Curator, Plantation Voices, presented a brief overview of the exhibition and the importance of exhibitions like Plantation Voices to enable communities to have agency over their own stories.
A VIP tour was given to the Vanuatu Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu, Richard Balkonan, Head of the Asia Pacific Division, Vanuatu Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Alickson Vira, Vanuatu Special Envoy for Labour Mobility and Trade and Cordell Ryan from the Australian High Commission, Vanuatu.
Make sure you make time to visit Plantation Voices. The exhibition is open until 8 September 2019. If you are not able to come to Brisbane to see the exhibition you can view the exhibition on the State Library’s Plantation Voices: Contemporary Conversations with Australian South Sea Islanders website.
Imelda Miller, Engagement Officer, State Library of Queensland