From 12–15 May 2016 in Home Park, Windsor Castle, a traditional hand-built Fijian canoe, specially commissioned for the major forthcoming exhibition Fiji: Art and Life in the Pacific, will be a dramatic feature of the Queen’s 90th Birthday Celebration pageant. The canoe has been shipped early to the UK at the behest of the pageant organisers in order to participate in the 90th Birthday Celebrations, before it is eventually displayed to the public at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, from 15 October 2016 to 12 February 2017.
The Birthday Celebration pageant takes place over four nights attended by members of the royal family including The Queen, who will be present on the final night of Sunday 15 May, when it will be televised by ITV. During the pageant, the canoe will be accompanied by 45 members of the Fijian Army Band and Dancers. The Queen’s 90th Birthday Celebration is a not-for-profit event and aims to create a significant surplus that will be donated to charities. It will feature many well-known performers and over 900 horses and 1,500 participants from around the World.
The canoe will then be transported to Norwich to become the centrepiece of Fiji: Art and Life in the Pacific which opens 15 October 2016 at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. The largest and most comprehensive exhibition about Fiji ever assembled, it will reveal stunning sculptures, textiles, ceramics and ivory and shell regalia, taking the visitor on a journey through the art and cultural history of Fiji since the late 18th century. Stunning paintings, drawings and photographs from the 19th and 20th century provide context for the Fijian artworks.
Double-hulled Fijian Canoe (drua), Suva Harbour, August 2015. Photo: Steven Hooper
The beautiful 8m-long double-hulled sailing canoe, or drua, built in Fiji in 2015, was funded by the German National Exhibition Centre in Bonn. It is made entirely of wood and coir cord, with no metal components, and results from a project to encourage traditional canoe-building skills in Fiji. It is a small version of the great 30m-long vessels of the 19th century, the biggest canoes ever built.
Over 270 works of art, including European paintings and historic photographs, are being loaned by exhibition partner the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology at Cambridge, and by Fiji Museum, the British Museum, the Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford) and museums in Aberdeen, Birmingham, Exeter, London, Maidstone, as well as Dresden and Leipzig in Germany.
Photo: Kit Houghton