The history of Banaba, an island in the Pacific Ocean, is the focus of a new exhibition at MTG Hawke’s Bay.
Project Banaba, by Banaban scholar and artist Katerina Teaiwa, explores how Banaba Island was destroyed by environmentally devastating phosphate mining during the 20th century, leading to the total relocation of its people on 15 December 1945.
Co-curated by MTG’s Art Curator Jess Mio and Yuki Kihara, this exhibition brings together rare historical archives and new work that sheds light on this little-known era of New Zealand’s history and its ongoing impact on contemporary Pacific communities.
From 1900 to 1980 a phosphate company that became the British Phosphate Commissioners (BPC) – owned collectively by Australia, New Zealand and Britain – mined Banaba, in what is now the Republic of Kiribati. The phosphate was manufactured into superphosphate fertilizer and applied to farms across Australia and New Zealand. As a result of the extensive mining operations, the island of Banaba was rendered uninhabitable and the Banabans relocated to the island of Rabi in Fiji.
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