AUSTRALIAN CENTRE OF ASIAN AND PACIFIC ARTS, "COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PROJECT" (ACE)
"The Pacific Ocean defines Queensland’s shoreline borders, and the state’s geographic orientation, history and identity are intimately connected to the Oceania region. Queensland is also home to the largest group of Pasifika peoples in Australia;
For APT10, the desire to deepen community engagement has culminated in the ACAPA Community Engagement (ACE) Project. Its objectives include working closely with Pasifika peoples and communities in planning public programs and events; creating opportunities for artists to connect with local communities directly; strengthening the use of indigenous languages in the presentation of artworks; and exploring ways for exhibitions of Pacific art to contribute more decisively to social discourses such as mental health and environmental sustainability.
The ACE Project seeks to enrich Pasifika audiences’ engagement with works on display in APT10, while also expanding a wider audiences’ appreciation for and understanding of the cultural context of specific works by Pasifika artists. To this end, ACE has engaged with and contributed to several artist projects within the exhibition, as well as providing artwork labels in the languages of the artists across ten projects".
Reflecting on the Australian Centre of Asian and Pacific Art Community Engagement Project:
The funding graciously provided by the Australian Council of the Arts also supplemented my role in this project, which allowed me to be more involved than I originally would have been. In this project I worked as Project Assistant to a a fantastic Mentor and Project Co-ordinator, Ruha Fifita. For over two years we embarked on a journey we couldn't have anticipated.
Ruha and I brought together a group of Catalysts - Iree Chow, Timothy Harm , Sarai Tafa, Daniel Utiku-Roberts, Jori Etuale and myself included. The role of these Catalysts was to facilitate reflection spaces with all involved in this process. Alongside our team were Content Creators - Joella Warkill and Jaelyn Biumaiwai; and Writers Osanna Fa'ata'ape and again, I took up another role as a writer. This was our core team, a group of like-minded, creatives and individuals recognised by our Pacific Islander community as advocates for change, Pasifika wellbeing and success.
Using our connected networks we then reached out to local community groups and individuals to design a series of activation spaces that fostered intentional, reciprocal, honest and authentic relationships. We wanted the gallery to feel like an approachable and safe space for our communities to visit and engage with. We wanted to elevate our artwork, voices and ways of practicing and preserving culture to become apart of curatorial practice. And finally, we wanted to embed our cultural perspectives, language and ways of living into the exhibition development and public programs.
1/ How do we modify and value add to an existing contemporary art learning space, with a focus on creating a culturally-safe environment for intergenerational learning and exchange?
2 / How do we utilise existing relationships with members of the local Pacific communities and build new relationships – in order to collaborate and work together to present Public Programs for general audiences and Pacific audiences?
3 / How can we more effectively understand, incorporate, uphold, convey and celebrate Pacific values in the way that we engage with artists, communities and audiences? What role can Pasifika diaspora communities play in translating Pasifika values and knowledge frameworks to wider audiences?
How do I begin to explore and share all of what we have learned over these two-years? I can say for certainty that for all those involved we left with a lifetime of learning that - without this project - we could not have obtained. For the sake of this reflection I would like to explore the conversations and interactions I had during the core-team reflection day.