Robin Morrison: Road Trip
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To celebrate we will share Kiribati items from our collections, light up the museum
walls with the national colours of blue, red, yellow, white and share a video of
knowledge holders visiting our Kiribati collection at the Museum, as well as a
Zoom panel discussion.
Header image: Te iriba n bobai, ornamental fan. Kiribati. AWMM. 2002.95.1; 55961. More information
From Sunday 10 July we will light up the Museum for a week in the colours of the Kiribati flag.
What does sustainability and climate change mean to Kiribati as one of our sinking islands in the world?
Kia ora, Pacific greetings and ko na mauri!
My name is Charles Enoka Kiata, I hail from the sovereign Republic of Kiribati and migrated to New Zealand in 2002. I am married to a beautiful lady from Nikunau, Nei Teeren Tabuarorae and we have six children and five grandchildren. We live in Ranui the best in the west of Auckland. I have been a member of the Pacific Advisory Group of Auckland Museum since 2022.
When we speak about sustainability, we often look at the environment, economic and social aspects and we like to understand what to do and how to manage these areas the way we expect them to be.
In my perspective, it is significant that the environment, economic and social behaviour is not compromised neither being disturbed from external forces due to direct or indirect impacts of climate change.
Climate change affects every aspect of our lives on a global scale. It touches and impacts our environment, society and economy. It challenges our way of lives to a different level that needs a well-planned and coordinated approach with incredible solutions.
According to Kiribati cultural belief and history, our ancestors were great environmentalist and conversative people as being true to their wellbeing and survivals.
Our ancestors acknowledged and respected the atmosphere they breath and lived in, with the sun, moon, stars, clouds and sky to serve as great navigational tools and information. They also acknowledged and respected the lands that provided water and all living creatures to live. They were able to manage and control how much they needed from the ocean and marine resources to provide for human consumption and purposes over centuries and for many generations. Our peoples have been treating the environment with great respects and careful approach as their lives depend upon the airspace, the land and ocean.
In modern days, we see all kinds of problems, damages and pollutions to our environment and ocean depriving the lives our ancestors and peoples once enjoyed and protected. We see alarming evidence of marine lives being poisoned and contaminated. Peoples are now living in a contaminated ocean and air polluted environment and an overpopulated society with economic crisis. The impact of climate change on water sea rising are eminent and threatening. Many small low atoll islands are submerged under water, eroded and disappearing. Many water wells are not drinkable as saltwater seeps through water lenses. Many vegetations have been destroyed and no longer growing.
The future of our people, culture and language is uncertain and at stake due to the impacts of climate change on the lives of our people and wellbeing.
In our cultural context, Kiribati shall rise to protect the environment which includes the airspace (karawa), land (tarawa) and ocean (marawa). These are the three spheres that Nareau the creator of Tungaru (Kiribati) has bestowed upon an IKiribati to live upon in order to compliment his social and economic terms and aspirations.
Yes, we should ensure sustainability when we bring and maintain good balances to protect the livelihood of our economy, social life and of course our environmental wellbeing. In these efforts, we need a lot of people and all voices with all kinds of ideas coming to the table to talk about credible solutions to combat climate change with inspirations and hopes to protect our islands, people, culture, language and the planet we live in.
I like to leave you with one of the Kiribati famous composed songs (waiata) about the iconic bird of Kiribati, the frigate bird. The song is prophesying about the uncertainty of the future due to climate change, water sea rising.
Ko batin rabwa.
Ana bau Kiribati i aora ni kabane are te Mauri, te Raoi ao te Tabomoa
LISTEN TO THE SONG
Learn some Kiribati words
Kiribati knowledge holders visit
Last year we were fortunate to be joined by esteemed members of the Kiribati community in New Zealand, who came to Auckland Museum to discuss some of the Kiribati collection items, and share their knowledge about them. In this video, Auckland Musuem's Ma'ara Maeva was joined by Dr. Matikora Itonga Marea, Mr. Baitika Toum, Charles Enoka Kiata and Dr. Janet O’Connor.
Zoom Talanoa: Kiribati treasures
For Kiribati Language Week 2020, Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum held an online talanoa session titled "Kiribati treasures: Te Kun and taona n riri", and it highlighted a migratory bird from the Museum's collection, as well as a dance costume from the Natural History and Pacific collection.
Rebecca Bray (Collection Manager, Natural Sciences) and Fuli Pereira (Curator Pacific) were joined by Nei Kaetaeta Watson, Nei Louisa Humphry, Dr Janet O’Connor and Charles Enoka. Together the panelists and participants engaged in an inspiring discussion that included exploring the migratory habits of Te Kun, as well as the cultural and customary use of the taona n riri and its role in the identity of Kiribati dance worldwide.
For Kiribati Language Week, we spoke to artist Chris Charteris about studying Kiribati objects in Auckland Museum's collection to find out how they were made, how he plays with form, the utility of artworks, and making things the hard way.
Do you know of anyone from the Gilbert Islands (now known as Kiribati) who enlisted in the New Zealand Army during WWI? Our Online Cenotaph team have identified 25 i-Kiribati servicemen but would love to hear from you if you know of any others not represented on this list.
Discover the story of ‘Aia Karaki nikawai i-Tungaru. Myths and legends of the Gilbertese [Kiribati] people. 1942’, the first book on Kiribati culture published in Gilbertese [i-Kiribati].
On the move
Recently our Collection Care team very slowly and carefully maneuvered several large vaka between collection stores. The one shown here is from Kiribati, and is called Te Ang Ni Raoi (The Fair Wind).
Te tibuta is the Kiribati national top. Worn by a girl, this tibuta has been made from a pink cotton lawn fabric and a smocking technique has been used to gather the shoulders and chest area. Three crocheted rosettes have been embroidered across the chest area upon the smocked fabric, and the bottom edge has been left unseamed as the cloth has been cut along the fabrics selvedge.
You can watch the Zoom interview with Brian Sagala from 531PI, Mrs Terenga Tebwebwe and Andrea Low (Curator, Pacific) about i-Kiribati textiles and dance costumes here.
The Te Kun or Pacific golden plover is a truly amazing Pacific wanderer. These small shorebirds breed on the summer Arctic tundra of Alaska and Siberia which has an abundance of insect food and few predators to pose a risk to their nests.
However, as the weather grows colder in August and September the birds migrate southwards into the Pacific, to the islands of Kiribati, Oceania and even as far south as New Zealand. Here they feed on the shoreline of lagoons and estuaries on a broad diet of worms, crabs, insects, spiders and plant seeds and berries.
In March and April, the birds travel northwest to Japan or Hawaii, where they rest for a few weeks before making the final long journey back to their breeding grounds. Their remarkable annual journey ranges from 16,000 – 27,000 km with each leg made as a non-stop flight of 3–8 days.
Auckland Museum holds three specimens (LB2767-LB2769) of this species from Kiribati. All are study skins collected in 1937 from Canton Island by Major Geoffrey A Buddle (of Auckland) during the Total Solar Eclipse expedition. The specimens are held in our collections and cared for by our Land Vertebrates department. You can see images of the specimens on our collections online resource here.
The Auckland Museum holds a specimen (LB13) of Rattus exulans, the Kiore or Pacific rat, collected from the Phoenix Islands, Kiribati. This specimen is stored in alcohol in the Land Vertebrate wet collection and was collected August 17 1937 by Major Geoffrey A Buddle (of Auckland) during the Total Solar Eclipse expedition.
The Kiore is one of three rat species that have hitched a ride with humans across the globe. Recent molecular studies indicate that, in the Pacific, these rats first spread on the waka of voyagers from the Island of Flores in South East Asia, and subsequently became widely established across Polynesia approximately 2500 years BP. Kiore have had a profound impact on Pacific Island ecosystems. They consume plants and their seeds, impacting native forests but are also capable predators, consuming a broad variety of prey that is below their own body mass including invertebrates, reptiles, small birds and the eggs and chicks of larger species.
In 2008, the government of Kiribati established the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, one of the largest protected areas on Earth, to conserve the stunning land and sea biodiversity of this remote oceanic region. A feature of this project has been the eradication of Kiore, as well as other invasive mammals such as rabbits, from islands within the group to protect threatened biodiversity, such as the 19 species of tropical seabirds which breed there.
Matt Rayner (Curator, Land Vertebrates)
Te katau te nana. Waist ornament of coconut shell discs. This is made up of two components; te kora (sennit cord) and te nana (coconut shell discs). It is a double stranded piece. Te kora is constructed using the two-ply technique. These are used to thread numerous te nana, which are perforated in the centre. It is of various shades of its natural, dark brown colour. They have been drilled or cut from a larger piece, resulting in relatively large circumference and thin depth. The uniqueness of this piece is marked by the threading of miniature te nana.
Te katau te tumara. Waist ornament of nautilus shells. This is worn, by girls and young women, on top of the skirt as part of their dance attire. This is made up of two components; te tumara (nautilus shells) and te kora (cordage of sennit fibre). Te kora is made by first creating three sets of two-ply te kora. Subsequently, these are plaited together using three-ply technique, forming the basis of te katau. Off-white tumara, numbered in thirty-four, are worked into te kora by threading and lashing each tumara. Te tumara are perforated for this purpose. A missing shell is indicated by a gap within row of tumara. The remaining kora, without te tumara, are used for tying purposes. Women are tasked with making te katau te tumara, however the perforations are completed by men.
Te ikuiku. Pounder. This is a wooden pounder. It has been carved entirely out of one piece of wood. It is made from ngea (pemphis acidula). The handle is cylindrical with a carved node that tapers outwards on the end. Opposite, a larger cylindrical form makes up the mallet part of the pounder. The surface area of the base of the mallet segment is smooth and polished. The grain of the wood runs horizontal to the pounder. There are small circular cavities dappled over the surface area of te ikuiku. These portray where branches may have been present before te ngea became te ikuiku. The wood ranges in tone from mid to light brown. Hafted marks across te ikuiku surface areas portray the kind of tool used to carved its form.
Te reeree. Sword. This is an ornament the reeree. A length of kanni (coconut palm wood) has been cut, carved and filed into a cylindrical form to portray the purpose of a handle and barbed blade in one component. An exposed length with no attachments at its base shows a circular cross-section that is convex. This is the handle area. A width of ira (pandanus leaf has been wrapped around the area where the handle and barbed blade intersect. It has been bound off with irauea (cordage of human hair). Additionally the irauea has also be used to create a checkered weave pattern into the width of the ira. A fringed length has been left after one of the bindings. Two pairs of the noko (coconut midrib) line the sides of the blade area from beneath the width of the ira towards the pointed end of the reeree. Individual wii ni bakoa (sharks teeth) has been continuously inlayed between the pairs of the noko.
Colour in a Te Kun pacific golden plover, strolling along a Kiribati beach.