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On View: September 26 – October 28
Gallery 1401 of Photography
Terra Hall, 14th floor
The University of the Arts Presents Photographer Ben Bohane: The Black Islands – Spirit and War in Melanesia (1994-2012)
Since 1994, Vanuatu-based photojournalist Ben Bohane has lived and reported on the under-reported Pacific region. In his exhibition The Black Islands – Spirit and War in Melanesia (1994-2012), Bohane traces a photographic journey through these beautiful but sometimes dangerous islands. He dwells on a variety of kastom, cult and cargo cult movements, documenting their rituals and the hidden role they have sometimes played in island society. At times, they have sparked, and later help end, the wars of this region. In his new book The Black Islands – Spirit and War in Melanesia, he celebrates the joy of daily life in the islands too, from gardening to drinking kava, as well as intimate portraits and sweeping landscapes. This is a region rich in culture and ritual, a 24/7 spirit world. Bohane’s classic black and white reportage offers a deeper narrative to the picture postcard version of the South Pacific we think we know.
After several years in Sydney working on alternative lifestyle magazines, Bohane’s first foreign reportage assignment was covering the Vietnamese army withdrawal from Cambodia in 1989. He then spent the next four years based in South and South East Asia covering the wars of Cambodia, Burma and Afghanistan. He secured the first interview with Golden Triangle opium warlord General Khun Sa in 1991 after he was indicted by the U.S. In 1992, he was reportedly the first western traveler to go overland from Kabul to Moscow in decades, as the Soviet Union was collapsing. In 1992, he was based in London covering Northern Ireland and Europe. In 1994 he moved back to Australia to begin covering the much under-reported Pacific region, covering every major conflict in the South Pacific – East Timor, West Papua, Maluku, PNG, Solomon Islands, Bougainville, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Time, Newsweek, Stern (Germany), Monocle, The Guardian (UK), French Geo, Asahi Shimbun (Japan) and many publications in Australia. His news stories and documentaries have been shown on ABC & SBS TV Australia, BBC, F24 (France), ARD (Germany) and NHK (Japan). He is on the advisory council for the Pacific Institute of Public Policy, and is one of the founders of the Australian photo collective Degree South together with Tim Page. He is the founder of wakaphotos.com and has the largest contemporary photo archive of the South Pacific in the world. His photographs are in the collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum and the Australian War Memorial, as well as numerous private collections. Bohane holds an MA in Journalism through Wollongong University, New South Wales, Australia. Bohane lives and works in Port Vila, Vanuatu.
Ben Bohane’s exhibition The Black Islands – Spirit and War in Melanesia (1994-2012) was generously supported by in-kind support of fine art photo paper from Innova Art Ltd (USA), manufacturer of digital photo paper.