I’ve made a series of paper collages to sell at #Tattoo4Tonga this weekend.

I was inspired after a visit to the Auckland Museum storeroom where I spied some exquisite Fijian breastplates kept in dark little drawers. Being so close to them without a glass cabinet between us, I felt attached and energised by them; I’ve been intrigued with Fijian breastplate design for a long time. Although I was able to photograph them, I was asked not to share the imagery. I loved encountering these beautiful objects and wanted to tell the world! As a social media creature, I found this proposition quite challenging… so, this series came about.

A paper entitled, Uncharted Histories of Ivory Carving Canoe Builders and Canoe Building Ivory Carvers in Western Polynesia, delivered by Steven Hooper at the Pacific Arts Association International Symposium in Vancouver last year gave me a deeper appreciation for the construction of Fijian breastplates. The Chiefs & Governors: Art and Power in Fiji exhibition catalogue published by the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge (UK) has also inspired me. I long-term borrowed it from my parents on a recent trip to Suva, where I also made a quick visit to the Fiji Museum. I love observing the ways in which Fijian objects are kept, discussed, displayed and valued in these very different contexts.

Civavonovono - Breastplate, Fiji Museum

These paper breastplates were created thinking about where these beautiful objects live, in the Auckland War Memorial Museum in New Zealand, thousands of miles from where they came from. I was thinking about value and values, Fijian value and non-Fijian value. And imagining what repatriation would feel like, and in an ideal world, what the Fiji Museum could house and display if they had the resources and leadership of larger international museums.

The works I made use pages of magazines and journals about Auckland, Renaissance art, American muscle cars, contemporary art, oceans, Fijian arts and culture and the Bible.

This series, made specifically for the #Tattoo4Tonga event, measure approximately 250x250mm. They’ll be framed and sold for NZD100 each. All proceeds go towards Cyclone Ian relief in Ha’apai, Tonga.

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