Building Unity through Indigenous Stories: Regina Lepping's Vision

Building Unity through Indigenous Stories: Regina Lepping's Vision

Our Ambassador, Regina Lepping, is spearheading a revolution in the film landscape of the Solomon Islands. What began as a small dream has propelled her to launch Solomon Island’s first-ever film festival with a growing network of 155 filmmakers and five local storytellers.


Regina and her sister, Jojo Lepping, grew up amidst tales of peace during the ethnic conflict in the Solomon Islands between settlers from Malaita province and people from Guadalcanal Island from 1989 to 2003.


Like many other families at that time, Regina and her sister fled from Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands, with their mother to another province called Malaita while their father was working in the capital city. "It was quite a traumatising time for us growing up during that period, knowing that people were being killed," she says. 


During her brief time in Malaita, eight-year-old Regina would lie beside her grandmother in their bedroom, listening to the tales of great warriors and ancestors of their land.


"When you listen to these stories from an elderly woman, and you see the sacred tattoos on her body representing wisdom and calm in adversity, you start to envision what peace would look like in your community," says Regina. "It was in that moment that we began to feel comfort in the art of storytelling, especially during a time when the Solomon Islands were facing a significant crisis."


Empowering Communities through Art: Regina's Journey into Filmmaking


One of Regina’s initial films is called ‘Sky Aelan’, which centres on the dialogue about conserving forests amidst logging practices in the region. The film was shown at Melbourne International Film Festival in Australia. 

Following the film’s success Regina launched Solomon Islands’ first-ever film festival. Armed with only a projector, a white cloth, and a vibrant community of storytellers, the Native Lens Film Festival was born.


"We always wanted to create a venue where we could come together, have communal events, and watch our films from our islands, reshaping the narrative and seeing through our own indigenous eyes," says Regina.


Today, Native Lens stands tall, showcasing films not only from its home islands but also from diverse corners of the Pacific, including Fiji, Vanuatu, New Zealand, and beyond. Evolving into a robust network of filmmakers, the festival is dedicated to bringing Indigenous narratives to the fore. The event's influence has expanded internationally, with submissions pouring in from as far as Canada and Brazil in the previous year.


Access to Justice: A multimedia project tackling gender-based violence 


Regina is currently working on a podcast, a short training film and a booklet called Access to Justice. This project is geared towards training local police officers in rural communities to offer assistance to women and girls facing issues of gender-based violence, sexual harassment, or abuse.


The Solomon Islands has one of the highest documented rates of violence against women and girls, with a staggering 64 percent of women reported to have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Given the geographical dispersion of the island across an archipelago, women residing in rural communities encounter challenges in accessing the central police station to report incidents of violence or rape.


The Access to Justice project strives to close this gap by conveying a message to designated officers stationed in rural areas, encouraging them to assist women in reporting cases of violence and seeking justice. “Working with the women in these communities, getting them to access justice, being part of that line of work is very important to me,” says Regina. 


Fostering Unity Through Storytelling


The ongoing influence of colonialism still impacts the Solomon Islands even after gaining independence in 1978, resulting in ongoing conflicts. “It is still kind of hard to see the Solomon Islands together because there’s always very different views, and people are always looking at our differences, but no one is seeing how unique we are when we come together.” 


The Native Lens Film Festival is a unifying force, bridging divides and catalysing change through storytelling. “That's how people can express themselves peacefully and not really go out and do damage,” says Regina. “We want to continue to grow our network and connections with indigenous storytellers and communities out there.” 


Her recent film spotlights the traditional weaving practices of women in Vanuatu. “It's amazing because these women come from different areas. But what connects them together is how they weave mats, bags, and essentials that families need in the villages,” she adds. The film is set to be showcased at Kagoma Gallery in Queensland, Australia, in the upcoming year.


If you are passionate about promoting peace through storytelling, you can connect with Regina Lepping via her LinkedIn profile and learn more about her work on her IMDB page.

Published on 14/08/2023