Palatavake Flag (2013) by Benjamin Work

Benjamin Work

Title: Palatavake Flag
Date: 2013
Medium: Acrylic on Board
Dimensions: 790x1190mm

Artist Statement

On Captain Cook’s third voyage to the Kingdom of Tonga, he was gifted by the then ruling king, the Tui Tonga, the royal headdress, the Palatavake, decorated with prized red parrot feathers. The motif of the Tui Tonga then went on to be engraved into history by Tufunga Akau (master carver of war clubs).

Discovered in the thesis of Dr Andrew Mills, the motif is central in this weathered wooden flag – a comment on nationhood, kingship and Tongan society.


Benjamin Work is a South Auckland-based visual artist of Tongan heritage. With a strong foundation in aerosol painting and graffiti, Work is a core member of the Auckland art collective, TMD. He has worked on diverse projects including large scale public mural commissions, limited edition wine boxes and postage stamps, and recently, his practice has also expanded to photography and performance. Work travels to Tonga frequently and is an active member of the Auckland-based Tongan art collective, No’o Fakataha. He maintains a strong interest in ngatu (Tongan bark cloth) making, design and motifs.

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