a Bit na Ta is a project located in ples (place): Rabaul, East New Britain, PNG. Specially commissioned for the exhibition No 1 Neighbour: Art in Papua New Guinea 1966-2016 at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, the project engages with the enormous changes that have washed over the century 1875-1975 from the perspective of the Tolai peoples who inhabit the lands surrounding it. Central to the Tolai community’s capacity to survive the disruptions of shifting colonial powers, war, volcanic eruptions and independence struggles, marking this period was the strength and importance of their Tubuan society. Perhaps best known to the uninitiated through the iconic birdlike Dukduk and Tubuans, the highly secretive and complex Tubuan society continues to play a significant role in Tolai spiritual and everyday life; its edicts governing relationships to land, resources and people (ancestral and present).
Music is also essential to Tolai life and ceremony and the a Bit na Ta story is presented via new recordings of Singsing Tumbuna (ceremonial song), String band, Lotu church choir style and Contemporary soundscapes supported with archival, cultural and landscape film. Extending on a thirty year collaboration, celebrated Tolai musician George Telek and Australian musician, composer and producer David Bridie have drawn around them friends and family as well as those of Tolai historian and cultural artist Gideon Kakabin, to tell the a Bit na Ta story. This story is as intricate and rich as the Tubuan society, landscape, history, and people that inspires it.
Accompanying the installation will be a CD release featuring a rich interweave of stringband, choirs, atmospheric soundscapes and contemporary PNG sounds that are central to the a Bit na Ta story. A natural extension of Not Drowning, Waving’s seminal 1990 release Tabaran, the CD touches upon the decades-long artistic relationship between David Bridie and George Telek, whilst featuring both established artists and rising stars of Melanesian music, including Anslom, Gilnata and Amidal stringbands, Pius Wasi (Sanguma, Tambaran Culure), and John Phillips (Not Drowning, Waving).