A tale of two museums

A photographic encounter between the Museum of Quai Branly in Paris and the National Museum in Suva by Isabelle Dina. Fiji National Museum, from July 11.

Since the 11th of July, Suva has witnessed a unique merging of two cultures with the opening of a photographic exhibition entitled “A Tale of Two Museums”, a joint effort between The Fiji Museum, the French Embassy and the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, France.

The exhibition, which will run until the 12th of August, is being funded by the French Embassy and is part of fundraising efforts aimed at granting the Fiji Museum its “Wish List” to repair and upgrade its facilities. Aiming to showcase “a museum into a museum”, the exhibition primarily features an Oceanic theme, however, it also displays the efforts of creative cooperation between various artists and capture the richness of both the French and Fijian cultures.

On the evening of the launch, Allan Alo and his troupe of dancers from Suva’s Oceanic Dance Theatre will in the Oceanic and African tradition “danced” 16 masks representing archetypes and elements of nature. Created by event organiser Ms Isabelle Meslet Dina, the masks, depicting fertility, water, the sun, the earth, the sorcerer, the Shaman and love to name a few, and were auctioned as a further means of income generation for the Museum.

In conjunction with the National Archives of Fiji, Ms Dina also launched a collection of postcards called “The Red Drua Collection”.
“The photographs are early 19th century Fiji and are in sepia color. Part of the photograph is tinted in red, symbolising the blood of the past and the influence it still has today in our lives. The Red Drua Collection aims to preserve our heritage for a better understanding of our social, economical and political identity today.” Ms Dina said.

The exhibit mainly showcases photos of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, its architecture, its Fijian and Oceanic Collections and the Parisian quarter where the Musée du Quai Branly is situated, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. The photographs and other artifacts are displayed using the whole surface of the verandah and the temporary exhibit room inside the museum.

“I am hoping that this exhibit will encourage funding for the Museum from local business houses and the private sector and that it will present the museum to the public from a different angle.”

“Museums are a window to our history and heritage. Our responsibility should be to preserve this as we would wish to preserve a sense of identity and not just depend on governments and institutions to do this for us. We can be an institution in ourselves.” Ms Dina said.

In addition to the array of photographs and artifacts, another main feature of the event are two large 2.8m x 3.6m wall of vertical gardening, a first in Fiji. Displayed on the verandah, it reflects the Parisian vegetal façade of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. The vegetal wall features a seemingly impossible layer of vegetation which includes tropical ground covers, ferns and various types of grass put together by Mrs Sophia Smith of Maroi Flowers Ltd.

“I came to live in the Pacific region 20 years ago feeling that to understand myself I had to understand others. In many ways, the Musée du Quai Branly is a sure attempt to come closer to other cultures, if not to understand them accurately, at least to entail a dialogue with an open mind,” Ms Dina said.

“A Tale of Two Museums” aims to reflect through the collection of photographs taken at the Musée du Quai Branly and the Parisian quarter where it is situated, an astonishing collection of human creation and creativity.”

Published on 04/08/2008

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