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A new home for Entangled Islands

A new home for Entangled Islands

BY TANYA WILKINSON
Wed, 5 Aug 2015

For New Zealand and Sāmoa the First World War began in August 1914, when a New Zealand Expeditionary Force party landed in Apia and claimed the islands from Germany. Just over a century later, a shipping container and two Auckland Museum staff arrived in Apia – this time to work with the Museum of Sāmoa to tell the stories of this 'entangled' relationship.

The Auckland War Memorial Museum exhibition, Entangled Islands: Sāmoa, New Zealand and the First World War, was the first in a series of exhibitions commemorating the centenary. Recognising the importance of this shared history, Auckland Museum gifted the exhibition to the Museum of Sāmoa. Project manager Tanya Wilkinson travelled to Apia to help set up the exhibition in its new home. This is her final post in a series from Sāmoa.

The opening event

Although many visitors have popped into the exhibition as we have been setting up, Entangled Islands officially opened at the Museum of Sāmoa on Monday evening.

Visitors to the exhibition were keen to learn about the complexity of the relationship between New Zealand and Sāmoa.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.
The opening event promptly got underway with an opening presentation by a local minister, Father Dan - a very appropriate choice as he had served in the New Zealand Army for a number of years.

The speakers included the Acting New Zealand High Commissioner Roger Cornforth, the Deputy Prime Minister of Sāmoa Fonotoe Nuafesili Pierre Lauofo and the Auckland Museum Director Roy Clare, who travelled from New Zealand for the event.

Following the formal part of the evening, the guests were invited upstairs to view the exhibition. The whole evening was very warm and positive, and seemed a fitting and appropriate way to launch the exhibition.

Special guests at the opening, from left to right, Father Dan, the Deputy Prime Minister of Sāmoa Fonotoe Nuafesili Pierre Lauofo, Auckland Museum Director Roy Clare and the Acting New Zealand High Commissioner Roger Cornforth.

Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

Siliga David Setoga's work is featured in the exhibition.

Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

A special guest at the opening event was Siliga David Setoga. He is featured in the exhibition talking about the influence of the orator chief and prominent leader of the Mau a Pule, Lauaki Namulau'ulu Māmoe. Setoga designed a t-shirt as a tribute to Lauaki, which features in the exhibition.

Setoga is currently in Sāmoa as part of a three-month artist residency exploring cultural identity, offered by Creative New Zealand and the University of Sāmoa.

A lasting connection

Lots of ideas were flowing about other projects that could be developed to foster the connections between the two museums.

There is a great deal of interest - from the Museum staff, New Zealand Embassy staff and members of the public - about the objects in Auckland Museum that have links to Sāmoa. It was good to be able to tell people they can search our collection on the Auckland Museum website, and this is available right now.

Saying goodbye

It feels good to have been able to give the exhibition another 'life' in a new venue, and extend all the hard work that went into putting the original show together, especially in such an appropriate venue with such a receptive audience.

There have been lots of visitors through the exhibition already, and the common theme is how little people knew about the complexity of the relationship between our two countries.

When I called in for the last, last time (found it hard to say goodbye), there was a group of students from University of Auckland's School of Architecture intently soaking up the exhibition. Feels like a small world!

Final farewells from Museum of Sāmoa staff Lumepa Apelu and Mainifo Viliamu.

Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

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