Closing speech, Pacific Arts Association 10th International Symposium, Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

Kia Orana!

I am Ben Bergman, Director of BCA Gallery, Taputapuatea, here at Rarotonga.

Your Symposium’s organizing committee kindly asked me to speak tonight, on their behalf.

I want to express the thanks of so very many people to Michael Gunn and to the Pacific Art Association Executive for bringing a remarkable gathering to the Cook Islands.

You chose our country after the ‘in person’ submission of local artist and educator Ian George and Cook Islands cultural historian Jean Mason at the PAA Symposium held in Paris during 2007. Thanks heaps for your incisive decision!

Also to be thanked are the PAA organizing group headed here by University of South Pacific (Rarotonga Campus) director Rod Dixon and his committee of Joan Rolls- Gragg, Jerome Shedden, Jean Mason and Ian George.

They were ably assisted by Teina Taulu, Joanna Rangi, Mii Manuela, Jim Brown and Akanoa William.

Also, I personally thank Luke Brown and Pacific Sister Ani O’Neil for assisting me with the airport ‘meet & greet’ for arriving PAA delegates.

We note some delegates did not avail themselves of our service, yes Fono, we saw you skive off with G-DUB so we gave your Ei Tiare to the wonderful Mei – Chen.

Special thanks are due to David Samuel of Crown Beach Resort and General Manager Rohan Ellis. They have done a fantastic job; I know everyone has enjoyed their service at this beautiful beachside venue.

I thank the sponsors of this event, in particular the major sponsor, the University of the South Pacific and extend a special Kia Orana to Professor Vilisoni Hereniko, the newly appointed professor of Pacific Studies at USP.

Ladies and gentlemen, we certainly hope that you have enjoyed this Pacific Symposium, we thank you for your attendance, we thank you for your presentations, and we cherish you for for your valued contribution.

To our Pacific Island neighbours, it is our sincere hope that we have demonstrated that Symposiums like this can be achieved and successfully hosted in a Pacific environment.

(Ask for Joan to come forward to assist)

At this time I warmly invite to come forward Michael Gunn, Phillipe Peltier, Christina Hellmich, Jean Marc Pambrun and Carol Ivory.



On behalf of the organizing Symposium committee, I present to each of you a Mangaian Reru – a traditional pounder fashioned from the renowned Mangaian Basalt as a gift from our hearts to commemorate the tenth PAA Symposium held here in Rarotonga.

I now conclude my remarks for the PAA Symposium committee and offer some personal observations.

I have lived in the Cook Islands since 1976 and have spent the last decade as a gallerist

and patron of contemporary art from here and New Zealand.

I reckon global interpretations of contemporary Pacific Art are simply mis-placed.

Some still champion the conservative argument that pacific art is only the right of the indigenous.

They ignore this question – what is Pacific Contemporary Art? What is its value in a global art context.

We all know that diaspora fuels issues of
Mis-Identity. How can it not when you migrate across Oceans.

Today, we live in new territory. Art’s bandwith of style and content has become gigantic. Global art is local art.

I want to see Contemporary Pacific Art speak to the world with its recognisable dialogue of a positive and outward vision.

Art is not a language of any particular culture, it is an expression of human experience at a given time.

We recognise the destructive elements that occurred in the pacific’s history. Many world cultures shared similar experiences of foreign colonisation. We were and are no different. We cannot, we must not, stand apart.

We must comment artistically, free of cultural expectations and national boundaries.

We need to eliminate historical stereotypes and the persistent distortions about the Pacific’s art.

We must eliminate the hyper confusion between Anthropology and Art.

They are distinct and they are separate.

Above all we must recognize that the term ‘pacific’ has solely one interpretation, it is a term of geography, used in a convenient manner to reference an artist’s point of origin.

But don’t we all know it means much more.

To all I say, we would do well to consider the examples of artists such as Ani O’Neil, Andy Leleisi’uao, Janet Lilo, John Pule and Michel Tuffery.

Their art is of Global relevance, their expressions of the human condition common to all peoples.

This is what makes art great; its point of origin is irrelevant.

Kia Orana E Kia Manuia.

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