Throughout the Pacific, contemporary expressions of customary practice – from weaving and pottery to performance – are thriving alongside explorations of new media and technology. The Women’s Wealth project explores the significance of these practices in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, and the nearby islands of Choiseul Province and the Shortland Islands in the Solomon Archipelago. These areas share longstanding cultural and linguistic connections, in particular histories of matriarchal authority and environmental damage resulting from foreign-owned mining, logging and development.
For Women’s Wealth, a group of Australian artists worked with their Bougainville and Solomon counterparts in a workshop held at the Nazareth Rehabilitation Centre on Bougainville in September 2017 to reflect on their shared histories and to learn from each other. In the process, they established new creative relationships and strong understandings.
Developed especially for APT9 with co-curator Sana Balai, the Women’s Wealth project promotes a belief in the capacity of art as a sustainable and socially responsible practice. Focusing on vibrant cultural practices such as weaving, pottery and body adornment, alongside video and new media, the project celebrates these practices as forms of great aesthetic and cultural significance, which assert continuing connections to people and place, transfer knowledge and support livelihoods, while promoting collective agency and authority.