Opening of the Oceania Exhibition at the Royal Academy

Talofa lava, malo e lelei, kia orana, fakalofa lahi atu, taloha ni, ni sa bula vinaka, kam na mauri, halo olgeta tena koutou katoa – greetings in some of the many Pasifika languages

I’d like to start by acknowledging the:

  • Presence of Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex – what a great honour it is to have you attend this event as your first solo outing as a member of the royal family. The New Zealand Prime Minister the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern asked me to relay that we are looking forward to hosting you and His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex.

Can I acknowledge

  • Christopher Le Brun, President of the Royal Academy
  • Sir Charles Sumarez Smith, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy
  • Sir Jerry Mateparae, New Zealand High Commissioner
  • All Ministers, High Commissioners and government representatives 
  • Members and Staff of the Royal Academy
  • Maori and Pacific Leaders who are here as kaitiaki of Oceania’s taonga
  • The Patrons, funders, supporters and of course our artists 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

I’d like to thank the Royal Academy for this privilege to partner on, and be the principle sponsor of the Oceania exhibition. This is a wonderfully unique opportunity to showcase a small part of the rich tapestry of Pacific peoples’ cultures, languages, arts, stories and experiences on a global stage. And, as the Hon Minister Heremoana from Tahiti stated yesterday in reference to the Oceania exhibition our artworks are our greatest ambassadors.

Through this exhibition we are not only able to commemorate Captain Cook’s voyage to the Pacific but are able to acknowledge the 3500 year history of Pacific peoples in Oceania, our accomplishments and contributions past and present.

Yesterday’s blessing – from the procession, haka powhiri, to the karakia were all reminders that Oceania is a reflection of living people and cultures that remain connected even over vast time and space. Oceania is very much alive. 

This is an opportunity to build dialogue. It responds to the need to rebalance our history books. By sharing our knowledge, history and context the pathway is also paved to garner a better international understanding of who we are and our place in the world.

Ultimately, we need this to occur if we are going to grow the global duty of care to our Pacific region in relation to the challenges we all face- challenges that have profound implications for the Pacific region. In particular, pollution of our oceans and climate change.

The late Tongan academic Professor Epeli Hau’ofa stated “We should not be defined by the smallness of our islands but by the greatness of our oceans. We are the sea, we are the ocean, Oceania is us.”

May the Oceania exhibition be a platform to remember our inextricable connection and responsibilities to one another across the globe and through the vast moana that holds us all.

Fa’afetai lava, malo aupito