Protection of the oceans at the heart of aborigines
Robert Calcagno, General Director of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, met the members of the Press on March 22, 2016 to unveil a new amazing contemporary native art exhibition entitled Taba Naba – Australia, Oceania, Arts of the people of the Sea, that will be open to the public during six months until September 30, 2106.
This monumental exhibition was made possible thanks to the collaborative work of: Patrick Piguet, Patrimony Director of the Oceanographic Institute (Monaco) and General Curator of the exhibition; Helene Lafont-Couturier, Director of the Confluences Museum (lyon) and General Curator Associate; scientific curators Stephane Jacob, Director of the Australian Arts Gallery in Paris, Erica Izett, researcher and teacher at the University of Occidental Australia, and Didier Zanette, Director of the DZ Galleries (Paris, Nice, Noumea); plus the invaluable support of H.E. Stephen Brady, Ambassador of Australia in France and Monaco.
Taba Naba is a children’s song originating in the Torres Strait Islands just north of the continent of Australia, usually accompanied by a sit-down dance where the dancers perform traditional movements corresponding to the lyrics. It is about going fishing out to the edge of the reef.
More than 150 artworks, around the theme of water and the oceans, occupy all the spaces of the Museum, from the forefront to the panoramic terrace. Indigenous people live in harmony with nature through painting, dancing and singing, as a way to celebrate spirituality and the world. The aborigines express a profound respect for their natural environment striving for balance, and their culture reminds us that our land and oceans should be protected for their beauty but most of all for our own survival.
The exhibition is grouped in three complementing major sections. The first part is consecrated to the defence of the oceans at the heart of the art from the aborigines and the islanders of detroit de Torres, by Stephane Jacob. The artworks in the second gathers ethnography pieces that form part of the daily life of Oceanians, that belong to the personal collection of Didier Zanette. The third entitled “”Eux Vivantes” (Living waters) by Erica Izett, present a selection of contemporary aborigine paintings.
On the Museum forecourt the Bagu welcome the visitors, an Installation by the Girrigun Aboriginal Art Center, Cardwell, Queensland. These are the largest Bagu sculptures created up to this date, made from recycled materials and recovered from the coasts. Each one of them has a special story relating to the environment.
On the façade of the Museum we discover the Malu Githalal by Brian Robinson from Creativemove. The artist explained that the fact of living in Detroit de Torres implies an intimate relationship with the sea. These are his childhood crab fishing souvenirs.
As you enter the museum you can appreciate the Kisay Dhangal by Alick Tipoti, in the entrance hall. Alick Tipoti is an artist from Detroit de Torres that created the sculpture of a dugong, a medium sized strictly marine herbivorous mammal. It is the only living representative of the once-diverse family Dugongidae, whose closest modern relative, Steller’s sea cow, was hunted to extinction in the 18th century. The motifs represent the marine world that the artist’s ancestors designed on their masks.
The Honor Salon is dedicated to Ocean Life, a collaborative Installation of Ghosts Nets, regrouping more than thirty pieces representing marine animals usually found trapped in abandoned fishing nets or lost: turtles, sharks, dugongs, crocodiles, whales. It is call for awareness of the terrible consequences of ocean pollution. They are the work of Erub Arts, Detroit de Torres, Queensland, Pormpuraaw Art and Culture Center, Cap York, Queensland, and Tjutjuna Arts and Culture Center, South Australia.
When going up both sides of the honor stairs Didier Zanette presents a series of colorful Photos and Portraits of Papous, representing both men and women wearing face paintings and ornaments of feathers and coquilles, symbols of their respective clans, reproducing the gestures and spirit of their ancestors.
On reaching the first floor landing you will be startled by three monumental sculptures, entitled Dhari, against bright red walls, representing the ceremonial headgears created for the dances and conjure the traditional fish traps. We find the Dhari on the flag of Detroit de Torres. The artist is Ken Thaiday Senior, famous for using the symbols of his native island, made in collaboration with Jason Christopher, Erub Eastern Island Dhari.
In the same area there is a collection of Pirogues and rudders of Papua and New Guinea, symbols of the importance navigation had for the population settlement in Oceania, that up to this this date remains at the center of their lives. They are decorated with ornamental motifs, representing a certain clan, and reflecting the skills and creativity of their inhabitants.
You find also Marine animals in Tapa Baining, suspended from the ceiling, representing animal figures created from natural materials, like tree bark, bamboo, feathers. The Baining people live in the peninsula of Gazelle, in the island of New Bretagne, North of Papua New Guinea, and they have developed a fascinating art making masks in extravagant formats using vulnerable materials, used in ancestral rituals.
There is an interesting collection of singular Prestige objects in fossil clam from the Solomon Islands, resistant to time degradation, that are coveted by powerful men in Melanesia.
In the Salle Albert 1er, located in the first floor, you find many interesting objects, among them a sensual bright red painting entitled Masters of the West Dessert from HSH Prince Albert II private collection.
But the exhibition does not finish on the first floor, as on the museum’s rooftop, there is another awesome installation of 600 m2 by Alick Tipoti entitled Sowlal, representing the body of a giant marine turtle, composed of dozens of sea creatures, animals and vegetables present around Detroit de Torres.
This installation is better appreciated from the air flying over the museum, where you can see the complete body of the turtle. Each year the museum honors a protected species, and in 2016 the marine turtle is the “ambassador of the seas”.
Bush Tucker dinner in support of Sea Turtles project
The Friends of the Oceanographic Museum in partnership with the Museum they support, organized a “Bush Tucker Dinner” on March 22, to launch the exhibition Taba Naba on Australia and its indigenous cultures, and present it in avant-premiere to HSH Prince Albert II, generous donors and partners.
This charitable event started with a Cocktail and guided tours by the artists, curators and partners to discover this incredible exhibition. Followed by dinner under a tent with typical outback staging, even a menu with insects, in an authentic Australian ambiance with performance by aboriginal artists, transporting the privileged guests to Oceania.
The main objective of this unique event was to raise awareness on the urgent the need to preserve the oceans, and to collect funds to support the Oceanographic Museum ambitious project for the construction of a new cutting edge center to rescue Mediterranean sea turtles. The museum is strongly committed to the protection of this ancient species as a member of the French Network for Mediterranean marine turtles. The project in question consists of creating an outdoor tank for observation to be located on the Saint Martin’s gardens, to raise public awareness, plus a rescue center to give care to wounded turtles before returning them to the sea.
The Oceanographic Museum is devoted to stop the dwindling of sea turtles and work for the recovery of the species. If you are interested in contributing to this project please contact Lisa Airasca at email@example.com
Why save the sea turtles?
Sea turtles are a keystone species and the barometers of the state of health of the oceans. They are part of two vital ecosystems, beaches and marine systems and demonstrate the ultimate lesson of ecology, that everything is connected. If sea turtles would become extinct, both ecosystems will suffer, with the consequent cascade of harmful effects on humans.
Even though these ancient animals have been living in the oceans for 150 million years, they are now in danger of disappearing mainly because of human activities that have tipped the scales against the survival of these ancient mariners. Nearly all species of sea turtle are classified as Endangered. Slaughtered for their eggs, meat, skin, and shells, sea turtles suffer from poaching and over-exploitation. They also face habitat destruction and accidental capture in fishing gear. Climate change has an impact on turtle nesting sites as it alters sand temperatures, which then affects the sex of hatchlings.
Museum’s director received special maritime distinction
On March 17, Robert Calcagno, General Director of the Oceanographic Institute, received the medal of Officer of the Order of Maritime Merit from H.E. Hadelin de La Tour du Pin, Ambassador of France to Monaco. This distinction recognizes his personal and professional involvement in the protection of the marine world.
General Director and spokesperson of the Oceanographic Institute since 2009, Robert Calcagno directs the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco and the House of the Oceans in Paris. His experience enabled him to organize and animate regularly international conferences with the goal to mobilize the political and socio-economic actors, thus creating synergies with the scientific communications. His favorite themes are the Protected Marine Areas, the preservation of large seabeds or still the safeguard of sharks and turtles. He is author of several books for the grand public dealing with marine life.
“The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.” Jacques Yves Cousteau