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Join 2023 Creative Arts Fellow Dr Christina Thompson for an exploration of what happened when writing arrived on the islands of the Pacific. Introduced as part of a “guns, germs, and steel” package of influences that swept the Pacific in the 19th century, the technology of writing attracted the immediate attention of Islanders throughout Polynesia. Some saw the political and strategic advantages of writing in their dealings with the European world. Some became fascinated by writing’s association with the new religion of Christianity. Still others grasped the significance of writing as a tool for safeguarding ancestral knowledge in a world of rapid and dramatic change. Originally promulgated as a pathway to salvation, literacy was taken up in the islands as a tool that, perhaps like all new technologies, opened some doors even as it shut others. This is the story of some of the people who lived through this momentous transition and of the many remarkable uses they made of writing, reading, writing, and books.

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Theatre, National Library of Australia

Parkes Place West Canberra ACT 2600, Australia

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National Library of Australia

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