Kiribati’s Historical Artifacts Showcased for Independence

I would just like to follow-up with the last post regarding Kiribati’s Independence Day which occurred last week on July 12. Pacific journalist, Sara Vui-Talitu, wrote an article for Radio New Zealand (RNZ) about the showcasing of Kiribati’s historical artifacts to celebrate the country’s independence. I’d like to share the article below:

Kiribati ancestral artifacts dating back a century were put out on display as part of language week celebrations in New Zealand this week. A small crowd gathered at the Auckland Museum to remember the past on Thursday, as a vast collection of historical i-Kiribati items were wheeled out as part of the country’s independence celebrations.

About 1600 i-Kiribati live in New Zealand, and the idea behind the exhibition was to reconnect the community with their historical treasures, thousands of kilometers away from their scattered homelands.

This collection is one of the largest among the museum’s Pacific artifacts, largely due to a former administrator and his wife, who were both anthropologists in the colonial administration of the then-Gilbert Islands. Among the materials on display were also old newspapers and books, baskets, nets and finely woven traditional mats.

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Kiribati artifacts at the Auckland Museum- Photo: RNZ Pacific

A community leader, Charles Enoka Kiata, wore a vibrant, colorful traditional head dress to mark the event — which fell on the 39th anniversary of Kiribati independence. “What I have on me, we call it the temai, this is for the men and for the women. We wear this during occasions like this. So when we wear this, it has special meaning and marks the significance of the occasion,” he said.

Mr Enoka said he was happy to see so many taonga, or treasures, in excellent condition. “This is a very exciting time for us and our Kiribati community people have the opportunity to come and reconnect with ancestral artifacts. So the people are coming to this museum and we have more than 1000 [things] in our Kiribati collection at the moment.”

According to the Pacific Collection Access Project, the exchange is reciprocal in that finding the right language to describe and catalog things is a challenge. Fuli Pereira said this is how the community could help them out. He said, “The language has changed so much that even that language has evolved out of the vocab and we are working with the elders and trying to tease out what those older names actually meant.”

It is also Kiribati language week in New Zealand. The theme this year, Mr Kiata said, was to embrace the language and speak it at home. “They have to remind themselves of this all the time and encourage their children to speak it at home so it is really really meaningful for us. “

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