Fijian art, music and kava for the Queen

Emma Knights – 
Norwich Evening News

Greeted by Fijian warriors and the sounds of traditional drumming, the Queen was taken on a cultural tour of the South Pacific island during a visit to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich on Friday, January 27, 2017.

Huge crowds turned out to watch the Queen’s arrival at the centre on the University of East Anglia (UEA) campus, and there were big cheers when her car drew up at the entrance and she stepped out onto the red carpet.

Excited pupils from West Earlham Infant and Nursery School and Bluebell Primary School were among those to give a warm welcome to the Queen who was dressed in a striking fuschia and black outfit for the occasion.

She was greeted by the UEA’s vice-chancellor, Professor David Richardson, the Fiji High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Jitoko Tikolevu.

Largest Show

Once inside the Sainsbury Centre, she enjoyed a tour of the exhibition Fiji: Art and Life in the Pacific, which is thought to be the world’s largest show about the island nation and takes visitors through more than 200 years of the country’s history from the late 18th century to the present day.

The Queen’s tour began with a Fijian choir performing for her next to one of the exhibition highlights – a specially-commissioned Fijian sailing canoe which featured in the Queen’s 90th birthday celebration pageant at Windsor Castle – before she was taken around the rest of the show by curators Professor Steven Hooper, Dr Karen Jacobs and Ms Katrina Igglesden.

Professor Hooper said it was a very special day and wonderful to see the Queen, who has visited Fiji many times, show such enthusiasm for the exhibition.

“We are really happy that she was able to come, and the Fijians who came here today were all happy and proud. They will never forget today and nor will I,” he said.

Brilliant visit

“After the President of Fiji opened the exhibition in October he had an audience with the Queen and gave her a copy of the catalogue, and she showed interest in wanting to see the exhibition when she was at Sandringham. Now it has happened, and it is brilliant.

“She knows Fiji, she was really engaged in the exhibition, really enjoyed the choir singing and looking at particular objects that have royal association.”

Among the exhibits the Queen paused to look at was a ceremonial whale tooth, or tabua, which she was presented with during her first visit to Fiji in December 1953, and she also watched black and white footage of the tour.

Interesting exhibits

There were many treasures in the exhibition which caught the Queen’s eye, including some which had special connections.

One of them was a wedding dress created using traditional Fijian barkcloth textiles which are made from paper mulberry trees.

Ms Igglesden, who showed the Queen the dress, said: “The dress is the wedding dress of (former Fijian President and Prime Minister) Ratu Kamisese Mara’s daughter and interestingly the Queen’s comment to me was that his daughter married Her Majesty’s Lady in Waiting’s son and so she knows the personal connection between this Fijian family and the British family. To be able to show her something that she actually knew the people it related to was really nice.”

Other items prompted the Queen to reminisce about her experiences while in Fiji.

Dr Jacobs said: “She was interested in a really big kava bowl and we actually spoke about the fact that she drank kava (a traditional Fijian drink) during a visit to Fiji.

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Photo Caption:

The Queen listens to Professor Steven Hooper, the exhibition curator at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich on Friday, January 27, 2017. Among the others in the picture are co-curators, Katrina Igglesden and Karen Jacobs.

Picture: Denise Bradley for Norwich Evening News

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