Kiribati (pronounced Kiri-bas) is a small island country in the central Pacific Ocean, comprising of 33 atolls and reef islands — 21 of which are inhabited. The Republic of Kiribati celebrates its Independence Day on 12 July. Kiribati has a national holiday on this day to commemorate the Independence of Kiribati from the United Kingdom in 1979.
Independence Day is deeply important to I-Kiribati as it marks the day they reclaimed freedom and sovereignty over their people, lands and culture.
It also allowed for Kiribati to create rules that care for and look after the wellbeing of i-Kiribati, and keep traditional cultural values alive. The Australian Museum (AM) celebrates alongside Kiribati as they reach this milestone!
The Kiribati Minister for Internal Affairs Hon. Minister Boutu Bwateriki, Permanent Secretary for Internal Affairs, Toani Barao and Director for Kiribati Museum, Ms Marii Irata visited the AM in June. The dignitaries toured the AM’s Pasifika Collection, spending valuable time with the Kiribati objects, sharing cultural knowledge, traditional names, and use. The AM has over 700 objects from Kiribati, including mats, body armour, fishing equipment, weapons and more.
Director for Kiribati Museum Ms Marii Irata was in awe of the traditional Kiribati artefacts the AM holds, and impressed with the condition they are kept in. She shared that many of the Kiribati artefacts in the collection are rare and no longer being made in Kiribati today. Marii hopes to revive these traditional practices again through cultural programs.
The traditional Kiribati suit of armour is made from coconut fibre and often decorated with human hair, feathers and shells. Marii referred to what a full traditional armour consisted of in a photograph by George Hubert Eastman, held at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge. According to Marii, the armour was traditionally worn with a helmet, sleeved top, trousers, and other materials. The AM’s Kiribati collection holds all similar pieces to what the young man wears in this image.
The Kiribati dignitaries visit enabled AM’s Pasifika team to engage and have valuable dialogue and discussion, to help enhance current records AM holds.