"Treasured heirlooms must be protected" - Kiribati President

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The President of Kiribati Taneti Mamau says that in Kiribati, cultural heirlooms are considered as their natural wealth. He paid a special visit the Pacific Collection Access Project at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

The President of Kiribati says treasured heirlooms must be protected.

“We've lost some of our treasures, cultural values but they are here, and they are sacred in a way we value them because they are the legends and the values of our people,” says President Taneti Mamau.

Kiribati treasures within the Pacific Collection Acess Project - Photo / File

Community project leader Charles Enoka Kiata (ONZM) says the heirlooms date back to the 18th century.

“We have the opportunity as younger generations to come and visit them and learn their stories, their purpose and what it means to us,” Charles Enoka Kiata.

There are up to 6000 pieces in the Pacific Collection Access Project, 1200 of them are from Kiribati.

Now in its second year, the project enables Pacific Island communities in Aotearoa to connect with and learn about their cultural heirlooms. 

“As Kiribati people in New Zealand, we need to see these items to be preserved and continue their life, we need to engage and participate and celebrate them,” says Charles Enoka Kiata.

Facing rising sea levels, the Kiribati Vision 20 (KV20) strategy aims to secure the survival of Kiribati people and culture.

President Taneti Mamau says, “We are similar in NZ, it's an island in the Pacific, climate change is a global phenomenon, and it’s a real threat for all of us.”

President Mamau says preserving heirlooms is crucial to cultural longevity.