AROHA in Action: RA Oceania / by Ahilapalapa Rands

Creating gifts of aroha for our taonga and ancestral belongings at the Royal Academy

This year, Taonga and ancestral belongings from across Moana nui a Kiwa have been gathered in London's Royal Academy of Arts, on public display until December 10th, 2018. Aside from the few taonga brought over from Te Papa and the “contemporary” art pieces, many of these have been held in impoverished colonial archives here in Europe for many years.

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While the context that these Taonga and ancestral belongings have been brought out for is very problematic, we wanted to seize the opportunity for quality time with our belongings before they travel to Paris and are returned to the dark confines of storage.

We want our taonga to hear our voices, to let them know we are here, and that we are thinking about them always. Aroha in Action was an opportunity for us to gather as a whānau, supporting each other to make offerings and responses.

Over two days we went between the Royal Academy Oceania exhibition, to visit our belongings and taonga, and then return to MOKU to reflect together, while making offerings of our voices, movements and gifts. We presented our offerings as a group, standing shoulder to shoulder, in support of one another and our ancestors.

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For many of us the long term goal is to regain our autonomy and custody over our taonga and ancestral belongings and this moment, space and opportunity is the beginning of that journey.

NB: Aroha in Action was a community action and not a scheduled event in connection with the RA programme.

Words: Jo Walsh

Images: Ariana Davis