Volunteering with Moana

Moana blog Byre sign photo

Today’s blog has been written especially by Jess Meagher, our Visitor Services Facilitator. Jess writes about her experience volunteering with Moana; kids’ activities, symposium and performances.

Moana: The Rising of the Sea was a music-dance-drama performance shown at the Byre last week, as part of a collaboration between MUSA, the Byre Theatre, and the University of St Andrews’ Centre for Pacific Studies (CPS). The show featured 32 Pacific performers expressing cultural tradition and displacement from rising Pacific sea levels, part of an ongoing tour aiming to express the personal, human element of climate change.

Senior Curator Alison Hadfield was among the University’s welcome party presented with kava, a Polynesian narcotic drink used in traditional Pacific ceremonies.

Senior Curator Alison Hadfield was among the University’s welcome party presented with kava, a Polynesian narcotic drink used in traditional Pacific ceremonies.

MUSA itself hosted the welcome reception for the Moana cast and production team, which was super fun. Even the Scottish sun appeared for the evening to welcome the Moana cast – the viewing terrace was practically (sort of) balmy!

Lorna, Rebecca, and I joined Rowan last week amongst her team of Moana volunteers. Rowan was responsible for the temporary Pacific anthropology exhibit throughout the Byre theatre, which is free and continues through early July – go check it out! Be sure not to miss the top floor, representing the spirit-ancestral realm, with Fijian objects on loan from the University of Aberdeen and a neat reconstructed spirit hut!

Different volunteers were stationed on different floors, supervising the children’s crafts tables there – we had paper plate shark jaws and fish, sea-life origami, a make-your-own outrigger canoe and colour-in masks. Activities had extra information about, say, the history and use of canoes in the Pacific. Two anthropology PhD students even led popular workshops with kids “writing” messages by tying knots into long strands of grass or fern leaves! Us volunteers all had a hand at making demo-versions of all of these to help inspire the kids to join in. Making a paper-plate fish is surprisingly meditative/soothing.

Here’s Rowan teaching Madras students about culture in the Pacific islands and discussing their feelings towards the show.

Here’s Rowan teaching Madras students about culture in the Pacific islands and discussing their feelings towards the show.

We were on hand in the lead-up to all of the Moana performances at the Byre, but our crafts-tables were most popular on the Wednesday matinee performance attended by local senior school classes from Madras, and further afield from Wormit. They seemed to enjoy the performance and the really cool aquarium touch tank installed for the occasion, where children could interact with sealife – including the fattest starfish any of us volunteers had ever seen.

We also got to chat with audience-members as we directed them to different parts of the exhibition. Lorna, Rebecca and I – experienced invigilators that we are now due to MUSA’s current Recording Britain exhibition – invigilated a little bit too

The Moana performance itself was AMAZING and moving. So full of energy and sound, it was just excellent. It really demonstrated the sense of loss of Pacific cultural identity their islands are lost to the sea. On a lighter note it featured such catchy music and dynamic dancing, I’m pretty sure most of the audience wanted to join in! There was even one performer who danced/swooped above the stage as he clung from ribbon-like curtains attached to the ceiling… The two main lessons I drew were: 1) climate change is an immediate and serious issue to deal with; 2) I should really work out more, or at all.

Lorna and Rebecca enjoying the wine reception before the final Moana performance at the Byre. MUSA staff galore went to this show on Friday, making it extra fun!

Lorna and Rebecca enjoying the wine reception before the final Moana performance at the Byre. MUSA staff galore went to this show on Friday, making it extra fun!

Volunteering with Moana was a really great opportunity to glimpse the behind-the-scenes work that goes on in the lead up to an exhibition centred around a particular theatrical event – where plans and logistics constantly somewhat in flux – and hosted in a building not normally used for displaying objects.

The research and information throughout the Byre exhibition (go see!) gave us volunteers insight into parts of the world we previously may have had trouble even finding on a map. It was a cool, dynamic atmosphere to get to be a part of! 🙂

Me, Lorna and Rebecca at the Byre after volunteering!

Me, Lorna and Rebecca at the Byre after volunteering!

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