Norfolk island cultural centre


The building of a Cultural Centre for the Norfolk Island people has been a long-term dream of many who call Norfolk home.  In 2007 the Cultural Development Association of Norfolk Island (CDANI) was formed with the mission to “preserve, promote and protect the traditional knowledge and expressions of culture of the people of Norfolk Island for the people of Norfolk Island.”  The centre would house, have on display, and enable the performance of, all aspects of those things that define the way of life of Norfolk Islanders. 

Some don’t believe in culture, and are quite derogatory when the word culture is mentioned in relation to Norfolk.  But every community has a culture.  This is true because it is what and how things happen in a community that defines a culture over time.  And a lot of amazing things have happened since the Mutiny on the Bounty in 1789 by people from many places that have defined the modern Norfolk Island.

In Norfolk’s case, we do practice the Norf’k language that is one of the most endangered in the world according to UNESCO.  We do practice weaving/plaiting, patchwork quilting, dance, music, poetry, cooking and art.  Some aspects of these are uniquely ours, and are based in our Pitcairn and Polynesian heritage, and that is well worth protecting and celebrating.  But there is far more.  Our contemporary methods of building and design that will be on show at the Cultural Centre define (in part) who we are as a people.  Our love of verandas and fireplaces shape our way of life.  So does our love of sport.  The children of our school who practice drama and art, and participate in the annual language camp and merit assemblies, also define who we are.  Those of us from other places who live here bring their cuisine that delights all of us.  These food and taste influences might, over time, enrich the food experiences for us and visitors, just like the food and taste blessings left by the American whalers have done.  The Cultural Centre will be for all of these and more, but you surely get the idea that this will be a place for all who call Norfolk Island home.

To cater for this diverse range of needs, the Cultural Centre will: have permanent displays of our culture and history, in audio, film, photograph, and demonstration forms; showcase local artists’ work, and present our artists at work; exhibit things of local historical relevance, as well those from around the Pacific region; and educate visitors, artists (local and visiting), the community and especially school children in elements of our culture and history.

To fulfil its role the building will have: flexible exhibition and working spaces that can easily integrate with the outdoors; a stage with auditorium space for up to 200 persons; state-of-the-art audio and visual display technology; good acoustics; space for a reference library and archives; and space for administrative functions.  The building environment would also include interpretative displays.  For example, we would tell the story of our weaving in a garden where the flax for weaving is grown.

What is more, the centres’ very presence will be a permanent reminder of that essence of our character that makes Norfolk the remarkable place it is – the spontaneous generosity of its people.  They will have donated so much of their time and money, offered up their skills, land and materials, and so much of themselves, to achieve something grand indeed.  Who would not wish to be part of such a journey?