Canoe from Fiji travels from Coltishall to Norwich for Sainsbury Centre exhibition

A traditional Fijian double hull canoe being meticulously cleaned before it is installed inside the

A traditional Fijian double hull canoe being meticulously cleaned before it is installed inside the Sainsbury Centre for a new exhibition Fiji: Art and Life in the Pacific which opens later this year.Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

After journeying 10,000 miles from the Pacific, a final 10-mile hop from Coltishall may seem small beer.

But for this canoe from Fiji, it was a delicate operation that will allow it to take pride of place in one of the most eye-catching exhibitions held at the Sainsbury Centre.

Fiji: Art and Life in the Pacific will open on October 15, and yesterday the venue took delivery of the 26ft-long double-hulled canoe - known as a 'drua' - after it left its temporary home at the Scottow Enterprise Park, the former RAF Coltishall, where it had been stored since May.

Calvin Winner, acting deputy director and head of collections at the centre, said: 'This canoe is the largest object to be exhibited at the Sainsbury Centre.

'It was built according to traditional methods in Fiji. It was racing just a year before it was brought to England in the Hibiscus festival races in Fiji.'


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It also made an appearance in the Queen's 90th birthday pageant in the grounds of Windsor Castle before coming to Norfolk.

Steven Hooper, of the Sainsbury Research Unit, and who is curating the exhibition with Katrina Igglesden and Karen Jacobs, said the vessel was 'big, it's extremely heavy, but it's so handsome', and added: 'The German government actually funded the creation of the canoe but ran out of money to be able to exhibit it. They then negotiated transfer of ownership to us and the National Maritime Museum.

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'We have fine objects from the Pacific, including ones from Fiji, in our exhibit. We wanted to study Fiji and its art forms.'

After the exhibit ends, the canoe will be transported to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, where it will be displayed indefinitely.

Prof Hooper added: 'When the canoe gets to London, they may even sail it on the Thames before showcasing it, who knows? They would have to debug it and go through the whole process before presenting it, but they might show it off.

'The white shells tied to the canoe are decorative but also a symbol of power. In Fiji they have specialness associated with the sea and are used for decorating things of power like churches.'

The exhibition, which will include more than 270 works of art, opens October 15 and runs until February 12, 2017.

Do you have a story about Fiji? Email amanda.ulrich@archant.co.uk

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