Islands and atolls only comprise a tiny part of the total area of Oceania; the rest is made up of ocean. The peoples of the Pacific were able to keep in contact thanks to the sophisticated boatbuilding techniques in the region. The boats from Oceania, which were moved to the Humboldt Forum from Dahlem’s ethnological museum last spring, will bear eloquent witness to this. A new passable Fijian double-hulled boat will make the perfect addition to the collection.
The Humboldt Forum is to feature a true experience: a double-hulled boat from Fiji. The sailing vessel, known as a drua, is currently being built on the islands of Viti Levu and Ogea Levu in cooperation with Fiji National University and Fijian boatbuilders using traditional techniques. Next year the individual components will be shipped to Berlin and assembled in the Humboldt Forum. Along with the other boats from Oceania, like the Luf Boat, the drua will allow visitors to experience the relationship between the inhabitants of the Pacific region and the sea.
The Polynesians used to explore the eastern Pacific with double-hulled boats, heading for and settling on distant islands. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the more manoeuvrable Fijian boats with hulls of different lengths replaced their predecessors with same-sized hulls. In Fiji, double-hulled boats used to be an important means of transport between the islands for conducting trade and maintaining social relationships.
The drua which is soon to be acquired is a reproduction of a thirteen-metre double-hulled boat dating from 1913, now on display in the maritime exhibition of the Fiji Museum in the capital city Suva, located on the main island of Viti Levu. It was there that Hans-Dieter Hegner, chair of the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss, and Joji Marau Misaele of the Fiji National University’s college of engineering signed the contract a few weeks ago to construct and purchase the boat. Lars-Christian Koch, director of the collections of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in the Humboldt Forum, was also in attendance.
Hans-Dieter Hegner views it as a stroke of luck that Joji Marau Misaele and his team agreed to reconstruct the drua: “In the Humboldt Forum we will be presenting a boat built using traditional techniques, and we will accompany and document the entire construction process.” Lars-Christian Koch is also delighted at the acquisition of the boat and added: “We will use this traditionally constructed double-hulled boat for educational purposes in particular.”
In Fiji work on the boat has already begun. Until the end of January, local artisans will be on the small rainforest island of Ogea Levu, felling the required kinds of wood – damanu (Callophyllum vitiense) and vesi (Intsia bijuga) – under the keen eye of Joji Marau Misaele. The wood will be used to build the two hulls and the planks, which will then be transported 300 kilometres to the island of Viti Levu, where the rest of the boat’s components will be manufactured by the end of April 2019, and the entire drua will be assembled as a test run. Then the boat will be taken apart again and transported to Berlin in a shipping container.
In June and July 2019 the Fijians will be assembling the drua in the Humboldt Forum. The individual parts will be bound together with magimagi, a type of rope made from coconut fibre. Once the Humboldt Forum has opened, visitors can admire the drua, measuring around 2.70 metres wide and 10 metres long, in the foyer of the southern exhibition hall. As part of the junior spaces, children and teenagers will even be able to explore and clamber over the boat via a wave-shaped access point and explore the drua. Virtual reality headsets will help the young adventurers to immerse themselves in the world of navigation.