News | 25 February 2016

Shine bright like a diamond – reinterpreting Rihanna

Wellington based Artist Jhana Millers’ new project is turning a smash-hit pop song into a multilingual anthem for Wellington.

Taking place in the Performance Arcade – a series of shipping containers along the waterfront – Shine asks visitors to record translations of the first verse of popular Rihanna single Diamonds. The translations of “Shine bright like a diamond” will be re-recorded on site to create new audio versions of the song.

Instantly recognisable with a catchy chorus, Diamonds topped music charts in more than 20 countries and amassed 630 million views on YouTube. The track’s widespread popularity, along with the positive message of the lyrics, makes it an ideal selection for what Jhana calls the commodification process in reverse – taking a highly produced, mass-marketed pop tune and turning it into a non-commercial, community focused project.

According to the artist, Shine grew out of a desire to recognise the sometimes marginalised voices that help make up our communities – indigenous and second-language speakers, migrants, refugees, and tourists.

“Individuals not fluent in English often face language barriers, sometimes resulting in miscommunication or segregation. Even understanding basic words can be difficult as sometimes no direct translation exists”, says Jhana, “As a monolingual person raised in New Zealand I hadn’t really understood or appreciated this.”

Performance Arcade visitors and passers-by can hear the local versions of Diamonds on listening posts inside the Shine container or on outdoor speakers set up along the waterfront.

“It’s fantastic to see young artists with a community focus, says Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer, Portfolio Leader for Economic Growth and Arts, “Works like Shine can bring people together and engage people who don’t usually consider themselves art fans. These projects really add to the vibrancy that makes Wellington a great place to live.”

Shine also references the artist’s background, which includes a Masters of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Applied Arts in contemporary Jewellery. Many of her previous projects explore consumption, commodification, how we assign value to objects and the ways we connect within society. Jhana hopes Shine will generate discussion, promote collaboration and fun, and bring the multicultural nature of Wellington to the forefront. She is hoping to get children, schools and community groups involved with the project.

Shine is supported by the Wellington City Council Public Art Fund and runs from Wednesday 2 March to Sunday 6 March 2016.