Always song in the water: an ode to Moana Oceania
by Gregory O’Brien
Always song in the water is an imaginative exploration of Aotearoa’s oceanic environment. This is the new, expanded edition of the now out-of-print 2019 book of the same title. The new exhibition and its accompanying book celebrates—in images, words and sound—our connectedness with the wider Pacific region, its peoples, flora, fauna and the expansive waters which both inspire and define us.
It is 11 years since the New Zealand Maritime Museum held the ground-breaking exhibition ‘Kermadec—Nine Artists in the South Pacific’, curated and co-ordinated by Gregory O’Brien, with Bronwen Golder of the Pew Environment Group. The new exhibition and this book Always song in the water returns to the themes, ongoing concerns and unresolved issues of the earlier project. In essence, the 2011 Kermadec voyage never ended. O’Brien and the other artists who voyaged to Rangitāhua Raoul Island on HMNZS Otago never really disembarked from the ship that took them north. They think of themselves as still out there, on the ocean, absorbing its energy, listening to its oceanic songs and confronting the environmental issues which have only increased in urgency over the ensuing decade.
Always song in the water— explores such topics as whale surveying, cultural connections across the Pacific, the need for ocean sanctuaries (such as the proposed Kermadec one) and the multi-layered history of Polynesian and European societies in Oceania. As well as including works and words by O’Brien and the other ‘Kermadec’ artists, this expanded edition features many new and commissioned works by leading artists including Chris Charteris, Shona Rapira Davies, Yuki Kihara, John Walsh and others. The book and the new exhibition celebrates Moana Oceania as a site of immense poetic and artistic potential. At the same time, it acknowledges that the region is facing issues of over-fishing, pollution and global warming. It returns to the originating theme of the need for ocean sanctuaries. ‘Always song in the water’ speaks of the need for better understanding, and a closer relationship with the ocean and everything it contains. It reminds us that the imagination and the arts have a crucial role to play in our evolving relationship with Moana Oceania.
Always song in the water – Art inspired by Moana Oceania, an exhibition at the New Zealand Maritime Museum Hui Te Ananui A Tangaroa, curated by Gregory O’Brien and Jaqui Knowles, is on from 24 August – 29 February 2024
Card-cover with flaps, section-sewn PUR glued | 296 pages 240mm x 175mm Portrait, numerous colour illustrations
Published by New Zealand Maritime Museum Hui Te Ananui a Tangaroa
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