Four internationally acclaimed print and paper makers from the Solomon Islands are to demonstrate their skills at Pataka Museum from 24 to March to 7 April. Their public workshops will include day to day demonstrations at all levels from school groups, to Whitireia Polytech trainees and other New Zealand print and paper makers. The official opening will be at Pataka in the Blue Pacific Gallery on Thursday 25 March at 6 pm.
Their workshops also demonstrate ‘New Zealand aid that works’ since what began as an official NZODA project nearly 15 years ago is still continuing to raise revenue for villagers independently.
In 1994 New Zealand official assistance (NZODA) launched a pilot project in Balai in Malaita province. Working with the volunteer Solomon Island Development Trust, the project sought to provide villagers with a small scale revenue generating projects as alternatives to the selling of their prime forests to Asian logging companies.
Ms Chris Delany had previously been a VSA volunteer in the Solomons. On her return to Wellington, she helped refine ‘low tech’ paper making using an old twin tub washing machine ‘powered’ by a modified exer-cycle.Chris then launched an NZODA funded aid project at Balai in Malaita province which involved all the villagers ‘exer-cycling’ to make and sell top quality hand made paper from banana and other local fibers.
Chris returned to Balai in August 1994 with Michal Tuffery (now among New Zealand’s foremost artists) to help teach the villagers, who did not draw or carve traditionally, how to make woodblocks and how to print to add value to their excellent paper. Thereafter their profits were shared three ways between the artists, the community and for further marketing. High quality paper continued to be made at Balai until marketing was disrupted by the ethnic tensions around Honiara after 1997.
In 1996 NZODA funded a project replication in two villages, Bareho and Nazareth, in Marovo Lagoon in Western Province. Chris Delany, Michal Tuffery and trainers from Balai went to Bareho to assist and upskill local artists One art style famous far beyond the Solomons is a montage of traditional totem-like fish, bird and animal designs now known as ‘Spirit of Solomons.’
The printmakers who will be at Pataka are Mr and Mrs Aldio Pita and Mr Ralph Ako of Bareho village in Marovo in western Solomons, and Mr Joe Lindsay of Buala, Isabel Province, who is regarded as the Solomons’ top creative artist.The two men from Bareho have exhibited and sold internationally.Raelyn Pita has specialised in both the making of paper from banana and other fibres, and in the management and production of top quality art, including for commercial sales.
However because of the total disruption of social and economic activities in the Solomons following the ethnic tension, none of these artists have reliable incomes and none can rely on their art work alone. Life in the villages is not at all lucrative, and is getting harder, so any money making enterprises deserve support, especially where, as in this case, they encourage the retention of traditional cultural skills and values.
The workshops at Pataka Museum have been sponsored through a travel grant from Creative New Zealand's Pacific Arts Committee, while the accommodation and local expenses are to be provided independently through various friends of the Solomons in Porirua.