It’s my great pleasure to welcome you all this evening to the Oceania exhibition at the Royal Academy of the Arts in London.
This exhibition provides is a unique opportunity to showcase the cultures from our corner of the world – the Pacific – with audiences in London, which will include many international visitors from across the globe.
The Oceania exhibition shares the significant cultural heritage of Māori and Pacific cultures and coincides with the 250th anniversary of the start of Captain Cook’s first voyage to the South Pacific.
Oceania showcases taonga – past and present. The Maori word ‘Taonga’ refers to a significant and sacred treasure, and the taonga entrusted to this exhibition, all have deep spiritual and cultural significance to Māori and the people from the Pacific.
During my tour of the exhibition this morning, I was impressed to learn that Oceania features more than 200 items, ranging from pounamu carvings to feather cloaks, from New Zealand, Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.It was exciting to see the contemporary works that tell our stories of today.
There is a whakatauki, or Māori proverb “haere whakamua titiro whakamuri ” – Walking into the future with our eyes open to the past. These artefacts from the past and present are a creative conversation about the Pacific of tomorrow.
One of my first engagements as Governor-General involved leading New Zealand’s delegation to the Venice Biennale in 2016.It was a highlight of my term as Governor-General to be able to celebrate Lisa Reihana’s work “Transit of Venus (Infected)” then – and it is a real joy to see it on display here in London.
This exhibition’s exploration of the themes of voyaging, place-making and encounter resonate for New Zealand and our Pacific counterparts as we discuss issues as diverse as regional security and climate change – and their impact on the Pacific and the rest of the world.
Tonight we warmly welcome representatives from the UK’s creative sector and hope you take away a deeper appreciation and understanding of our Māori and Pacific cultures.
We also acknowledge New Zealanders who are making a significant contribution to the creative and other sectors in the United Kingdom and acknowledge the contribution that you make to New Zealand’s bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom.It is the people that make the relationship special, and your work brings important colour to this relationship.I am pleased to be here to celebrate that.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the New Zealand-UK Link Foundation as it relaunches with a revised mandate for its future work.The New Zealand-UK Link Foundation was established in 1990, with the aim of promoting intellectual, professional and creative collaborations between New Zealand and the UK.
By celebrating and honouring our shared heritage, the Foundation does important work by ensuring that the exchanges that take place today mean the ideas which will define our relationship with the UK tomorrow, can flourish.I wish them well as they relaunch their Foundation tonight.