‘Blood technology’: Artist Taloi Havini on Bougainville’s ache | Arts and Tradition Information

The scene is epic, full of omens. A young woman in white poses enigmatically in the foreground of the photo. Behind her is a view of exposed mountainsides and below a blue pool of water at the bottom of a deep mining pit. Dark gray clouds hang low above. It is a picture of darkness and light, premonition and timelessness.

The photo is the work of Taloi Havini, an artist from Bougainville, Far East Papua New Guinea (PNG), who seeks to involve the viewer in the history of her people and the extraordinary events that catapulted the remote Pacific island into the headlines for 30 years in front.

In 1989, the Panguna copper mine, one of the largest in the world in the central mountains of Bougainville Island, became the center of a battle between David and Goliath.

Indigenous landowners, outraged by the destruction of their traditional land and the inequality associated with the mine, rose up against majority owner Rio Tinto and the PNG government, their greatest benefactors. The mining giant was forced to give up the lucrative venture and the long civil war (1989-1998) that ensued while it triumphed for the islanders left deep human scars.

The photo series Blood Generation (2009), a collaboration between Havini, born eight years before the outbreak of war, and the award-winning Australian photographer Stuart Miller, is a powerful portrait of young people in Bougainville whose lives have been severely damaged. but their defiant poses also signal survival and resilience.

Almost half of Bougainville’s population is under the age of 24, and many grew up without education and in communities ravaged by conflict and uncertainty.

Blood Generation (Sami and the Mine, 1-3), 2009, digital print [Courtesy of Taloi Havini and Stuart Miller]Havini’s family fled to Australia in 1990, where her father, Moses, a prominent independence advocate, gave her a cassette from a local Bougainville rock band when she was a young girl.

“They made music under the military blockade and one of the songs was called Blood Generation. I always listened to it and thought about what my younger relatives were experiencing, how they couldn’t go to school but had to live under the control of the army and how there was no contact with the outside world, ”Havini told Al Jazeera. “Nineteen years later, it is this generation whose vote contributed to the overwhelming response to full independence in last year’s referendum.”

Historical vote

Bougainville, an autonomous region of about 300,000 residents within PNG, has made headlines again for the past two years as the final stages of the 2001 peace agreement were implemented.

Last November, most of the islanders voted for independence in a referendum. Self-determination is a passionate issue that was underscored this year when parliamentary elections in the region resulted in former rebel leader Ishmael Toroama coming to power as the new president of Bougainville ahead of tough negotiations over the country’s future relationship with PNG.

For the artist, the political is also personal.

“Havini communicates and brings to the discussion table important and important issues that have influenced and continue to influence Bougainville and its people,” said Sana Balai, an Australia-based curator of Pacific Art.

People celebrate in the central city of Arawa, Bougainville in 1998 after rebels and the Papua New Guinea government signed a permanent ceasefire to end nine years of conflict on the territory [File: Reuters]A man in Buka raises his hands as he prepares to vote in the historic referendum on PNG independence in 2019 [Post Courier via AP Photo]Havini was born in Arawa, a town less than an hour’s drive from the Panguna Mine, although her father’s clan lives on Buka Island, north of Bougainville. Her mother Marilyn is Australian and Havini then studied art in Australia and now exhibits worldwide.

Earlier this year, her first Australian solo exhibition at the Sydney Artspace included the artwork Reclamation (2020), which covered the gallery floor with earth. On its undulating surface, dramatic light cast long shadows over Sentinel-like pipe sculptures.

“The main installation consisted of traditional Taluhu architecture (the local Hako word for protection and protection). The main concept was to take a bottom-up approach from the earth using natural temporal materials like sugar cane and betel nut palm, which we often use to create an arch-like support frame, ”explained Havini. “The complaint should honor the outcome of our struggle for self-determination and celebrate the historic arrival of the referendum for independence from Bougainville.”

The work examines notions of the “recapture” of land and culture, in this context of foreign control, which stem from the German colonization in the 19th century, the Australian government at the beginning of the 20th century and the rule of PNG after 1975. Behind this story of resistance lies the deep connection between the Melanesians and their usual land, which is above all the source of life and livelihood and the home of their ancestors.

Connection to the land

In accordance with her culture, Havini created reclamation in consultation with her clan.

“With the support of my village, my chiefs, my mother and my aunts, I created a space under my house … where we discussed art, our history and our culture by adding clan motifs and designs to the shelter and built in standing sculptures. “

Complaint, 2020, materials pipe, wood, steel, floor. Artspace, Sydney. Courtesy Taloi Havini [Photo: Zan Wimberley]The tension between this worldview and the for-profit corporate mission to extract the region’s rich mineral resources such as copper and gold is one aspect of Havini’s multi-channel video installation Habitat (2018-2019).

It’s compelling work of moving images taken from Australia’s national archives, civil war news, and Havini’s own family records showcasing local experiences from the Panguna mine’s controversial past.

“Because the Panguna mine threatened the existence of our healthy habitats and made large areas uninhabitable due to toxic residues and polluted freshwater river systems, locals continued to protest and shut down the mine after seeing that all of the wealth was benefiting foreign interests” Havini explained. “I was 10 years old at the time and witnessed the tireless work of my activist parents, who gathered during protests for international interventions for a peace process.”

Habitat is also resonating with art curator Balai, who previously worked as an environmental analyst with Bougainville Copper, the operating company of the mine, monitoring the impact of the mine’s waste.

Her father was working with the government at the time but, like many other people in Bougainville, was concerned about being dispossessed where the usual land is central to traditional Melanesian culture.

“When I saw Habitat, childhood memories of my father’s words came back. When he returned home after seeing protesting women or a woman chained to a machine, he held me tightly and tearfully said, “My daughter, I will never allow anyone, especially outsiders, to you and Takes your land away from your sisters. ” ” She said.

Recovery, 2020 (construction) materials pipe, wood, steel, soil. Buka, Bougainville [Photo courtesy of Taloi Havini]Most of the people of Bougainville believe the nation is the only way to completely own their islands and their destiny.

However, last year’s referendum was non-binding and the future of the region will be decided after high-level national talks, which are expected to begin in 2021.

Edward Wolfers, Professor Emeritus of Politics at the University of Wollongong, Australia, believes “The details and cost of transitioning from Bougainville to committed PNG nationalists, as well as advocates of separate independence for Bougainville and professionals in the field, The need for special training, resources and expertise are likely to be particularly controversial ”.

With low internal revenues and ongoing post-conflict reconstruction, any political transition could take years. But President Toroama remains optimistic. In his inaugural address on September 29th, he tried to rally the people of Bougainville.

“Independence has been our dream since the days of our ancestors,” he said. “We fought for it and we won the war, but we haven’t won the battle yet!”

Taloi Havini’s next big exhibition is The Soul Expanding Ocean # 1: Taloi Havini, hosted by the art and ocean agency TBA21-Academy at Ocean Space in Venice, Italy (March 20 – October 17, 2021)

Habitat, 2018 – 2019. Materials: HD, color, black and white, 5.1 surround sound, 10:33 minutes Artspace, Sydney. Courtesy Taloi Havini [Photo: Zan Wimberley]

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