Wantok Musik launches ‘A Bit na Ta’ exhibition at National Museum

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GEORGE TELEK, DAVID BRIDIE, GIDEON KAKABIN & MUSICIANS OF THE GUNANTUNA

Mangamangana kai ra umana tubui dat – “the way of our forebears….”

A Bit na Ta will be open to public viewing from 6th of September to 6th of December, 2019 at the PNG National Museum and Art gallery, Port Moresby. Created by the late Gideon Kakabin, David Bridie and George Telek MBE, the exhibition is presented as moving images on tapa cloth, featuring Gunantuna songs and soundscape.

A Bit na Ta is a project located in ples (place): Blanche Bay in East New Britain, PNG. Specially commissioned for the exhibition No 1 Neighbour: Art in Papua New Guinea 1966-2016 at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, the project engages with the enormous changes that have washed through this bay over the century 1875-1975 from the perspective of the Tolai peoples who inhabit the lands surrounding it.

Central to the Tolai community’s capacity to survive the disruptions of shifting colonial powers, war, volcanic eruptions and independence struggles, marking this period was the strength and importance of their Tubuan society. Perhaps best known to the uninitiated through the iconic dukduk masks, the highly secretive and complex Tubuan society continues to play a significant role in Tolai spiritual and everyday life; its edicts governing relationships to land, resources and people (ancestral and present).

Music is also essential to Tolai life and ceremony and the “a Bit na Ta” story is presented via new recordings of singsing tumbuna, string band, lotu choir style and contemporary soundscapes supported with archival, cultural and landscape film. Extending on a thirty year collaboration, celebrated Tolai musician George Telek and Australian musician, composer and producer David Bridie have drawn around them wantoks, as well as those of Tolai historian and cultural artist Gideon Kakabin, to tell the a Bit na Ta story. This story is as intricate    and rich as the Tubuan society, landscape, history, and people that inspires it.

In 2015, QAGOMA received a DFAT Australian Cultural Diplomacy Grant to commission the creation of “a Bit na Ta” as a key part of the No 1 Neighbour: Art in Papua New Guinea 1966-2016 exhibition. The high profile exhibition had over 200,000 visitors. Critical feedback about the a Bit na Ta installation highlighted the innovation, high levels of artistic and cultural integrity, and helped reinforce the reputation of QAGOMA and Wantok Musik as leaders in fostering and promoting contemporary culture in PNG. Wantok Musik now intends to take a Bit na Ta back to PNG and its origin – Rabaul.

Since the QAGOMA exhibition, the a Bit na Ta album has had critical acclaim, including live performances at the Walking With Spirits Festival (NT, Australia), support for the Midnight Oil tour in Queensland and exhibitions at Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts in Taiwan (October 2017) and at the Melbourne Museum (Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre), September 2017.

At the core of this work is the long-term partnership between Australian musician David Bridie and senior PNG musician Sir George Telek MBE, both of whom are well regarded authorities across the arts/culture and music sectors of Australia and PNG.

In 2019-2020, Wantok Musik intends to schedule live events and gallery residencies as part of a ‘return home’ program for a Bit na Ta in Rabaul and Port Moresby.

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