By Belinda Hungerford
On this day in 2006, ACP was exhibiting The Black Islands: Spirit and War in Melanesia by Australian-born photojournalist Ben Bohane. Ben’s commitment to breaking news from Melanesia was evident in this sensitive body of work that explored localised kastom practices and revealed an in-depth knowledge of the people, movements, traditions and politics that shaped everyday life. As Australia was adopting a more assertive diplomatic role in the region, the exhibition was very timely.
In the exhibition flyer, the exhibition curator Bec Dean wrote:
"The Black Islands is an exhibition that begins with photographs of the waters that connect Melanesia to its international trade and smuggling routes, moving in to explore the rugged landscapes, urban cities and jungle dwellings of the islands. Bohane’s images of traditional practices, rituals and Christian-influenced cults convey a sense of peace and occasional levity that are contrasted by photographs of armed troops, conflict, protest, urban disintegration and the aftermath of war."
A charismatic photographer, Ben drew a large and appreciative audience to the opening and his floortalk. The exhibition was open for a month and attracted almost 2000 visitors. People responded very positively to the exhibition, complimenting Ben not only on the images but also for covering such subject matter. Some of the visitor comments included:
“Incredibly fantastic, beautiful, moving, dark, mysterious, engaging, sincere, real, powerful, cool, warm hearted, REAL!”
“Informative, spellbinding insight into pacific cultures. Thank you Ben.”
“Dear Ben, Beautiful photos that tell many different stories. Thank you for bringing these forgotten people and lands to my attention.”
In 2013 Ben produced a beautifully crafted publication on the body of work, which can be viewed at ACP
Image 1: Exhibition flyer of The Black Islands by Ben Bohane.
Image 2: Ben Bohane talking to a captive audience © ACP
Image 3, 4, 5: Installation view of The Black Islands at the Australian Centre for Photography © ACP