The Mariwai Project at its core is an artistic collaboration with the painters, sculpters, weavers and musicians of remote Papua New Guinea. We have the rare privilege of engaging with and being engaged by traditional artists considering contemporary forms and influences.
Shiva Lynn Burgos is the first international contemporary artist to work in Mariwai, a small Kwoma village located in the Upper Sepik River, Papua New Guinea. Although it is not part of Kwoma custom for women to paint and carve she was accepted as an artist. She was taught traditional styles and contributed carvings and paintings to the new ceremonial house being built in Mariwai. She has returned annually since 2013 and created The Mariwai Project, a wide-ranging and long-term arts project and cultural exchange with the indigenous artists which includes philanthropic support for art, culture, health, education and development in the region.
Work from The Mariwai Project is currently on view in the permanent collection of The Ethnologisches Museum, Humboldt Forum, Berlin. Recent exhibitions include at Singapore Art Week; Spring Break Art Fair, Los Angeles; The Bath House of the Winds, Museum of Modern Greek Culture, Athens GR; Manifesta 13 Biennial, Marseille, Les Parallèles du Sud, FR; Les Recontres d’Arles, Arles, FR; Le109, Nice; Centre d’Art Gallifet, Aix-en Provence; AORAspace.com
Since its inception in 2013 we have embarked on an extensive research project at the Goldwater Library, MMA archives, MPA archives, the Douglas Newton Archives as well as our own field research in the Kwoma community. We have worked with several distinguished experts in the fields of anthropology, art anthropology, ethnography, museum curators and art dealers both in Papua New Guinea and internationally and since have received a great deal of support for our project from the academic, artistic and diplomatic communities. Additionally, we have taken photographic copies of Kwoma objects for identification by village elders on behalf of several major ethnographic museums.
The Mariwai Project has hosted diverse international visitors including United States Embassy representatives, the former European Union Representative, senior academics at UPNG and leaders in the field of contemporary art and sustainability. In 2018 we are proud to have aided the Boram Hospital outreach program which performed more than 200 eye surgeries to those living in remote river communities. The new school for primary education was built in 2019. We hosted the first Kwoma Culture Show in Mariwai Village in August 2019.
The Mariwai Project has a number of diverse aims:
- To encourage and assist the Kwoma in keeping their culture alive in a changing world.
- To inspire museums to engage with and encourage the living cultures and communities represented in their collections and to bring a new audience and purpose to the museum collections.
- To encourage a live dialogue with ethnographers, anthropologists, museum personnel, collectors and dealers and a new engagement with the region
- To tell the story of the Kwoma Ceiling panels at The Metropolitan Museum, New York and the people that made them and in doing so to reveal a wider story about the value of myths and culture.
- To provide artists materials and support for The Women’s Tapestry Initiative and to maintain the new ceremonial house in Mariwai
- To take artists and others (linguists, dancers, musicians, architects, scientific community, etc.) to Mariwai to engage with and be inspired by Kwoma culture and traditions. We currently have a discreet search and selection process in progress and have been working with the village to ensure a welcome and enable guests to have a deep and meaningful engagement with the community.
- To give to the people of Mariwai the opportunity to study their own history and culture as it has been recorded, analyzed and presented by outsiders. We have presented them with copies of the available books on Kwoma art and history along with other relevant historical documents and photographs to form a small library.
- To research historic museum collections and their relation to current practices in the region
- To encourage and facilitate responsible cultural tourism in the region
- To work with other agencies to provide support for healthcare, education and development in the region.
- To work with local communities and other organizations to ensure the continued awareness and preservation of the natural environment and ecosystem of the Sepik River.
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