The Tjibaou Centre A Tribute to the Man

Fri 13 Sep 2019 19:47

The Tjibaou Centre – A Tribute to the Man

A pleasant cooling draught wafted by us as we sat on one of the open veranda areas that straddle the main hallway of the centre, sipping our microwaved coffee, hot at the top and cold at the bottom, from its paper cup. This airy aspect of the majestic building was fully designed in by the respected Italian architect Renzo Piano (architect of the Pompidou Centre in Paris) and is intended to take the traditional trade wind resistant design of Kanak houses forward to a more open accommodating future. Just as Jean-Marie Tjibaou believed the Kanak future must embrace change while retaining usable tradition.

The corridor itself which links all three ‘villages’ of the centre and runs behind the ten stylised Kanak Great Houses is curved as you can see in the photos, just as the main pathway is through Kanak villages.

Each of the Melanesian huts contains its own exhibition and along the linking corridor are angled images of contemporary cultural stage performances illustrating the Kanak way of life.

Outside is barely distinguished from inside and the slender columnar pines (Araucaria), which were brought to the sight and planted around the construction period of 1996 – 1998 have now grown sufficiently as if they are striving to top the highest House which stands at 28 metres tall. They are complimentary though, natural and Renzo designs working together, even to the fact that numerous pines are not so straight, but take on the curve of the House walls. That’s a happy coincidence though as pines growing in the wild do curve also I have noticed.

The atmosphere of the location is calm, almost sleepy and the people working there are relaxed and good humoured. So relaxed in fact that in the late opening shop, where we found some fine prints of a Cagou and a Turtle the young lady didn’t have a clue how much they were, and when after a few phone calls she told us their price the pictures were duly returned to the shelf.

We wandered around the outside in the gentle warmth of the subtropical day looking for a spot where we could sit and have our snack lunch. The beach was a little too windy so we found a bench on the edge of a car park where the stage was being set up for a musical performance at the weekend and provided us with something to watch.

Children from a local school like us had been enjoying the centre and were now ‘housed’ in an open sided meeting hut having their lunch. Once consumed they entertained us with a loud game of tag to burn off some of those energy beans.

Robert, our New York friend from the Blue River trip with Francois, had told us about a performance that is given at 2.15pm along the Kanak Pathway and we had checked with Reception to confirm and found we were in luck, so that would be our next treat.


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