“Mātua” (2015) by Pati Solomona Tyrell

Pati Solomona Tyrell is in the midst of a surge of interest in his work and ideas; his practice as an emerging lens-based artist is evolving with every opportunity to perform, present and articulate his position. For Lovers Rock, the final show of the 2017 PIMPI Winter Series, Pati has contributed a work that speaks to things that keep him grounded…

Congratulations on so many great achievements in your practice – a mega solo show at ST PAUL St Gallery, work in the 2017 Pacific Dance Festival, performances in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and an upcoming season of your solo work, Fa’aafa at Basement Theatre! How do you stay grounded and what keeps you well?

I like to get away from Auckland for a weekend and spend time with my family in Hamilton. I am always at peace when I am at home, something about sharing space/time with my family is healing, it refuels my energy and silences the business of big shows. There is nothing like talks from your parents to remind you what is important in life and bring your mind to a focus. Also a good feed of mum’s Sunday To’onai cooking keeps me well. LOL.

Your portraiture practice is a collaborative act with the subject of your photographs; as the photographer, what does that process feel like, to create an image, a representation, and what is considered in selecting a final image?

Collaboration is a sacred space for me. Images have power and #RepresentationMatters. When photographing others I understand that I am capturing more than a just portrait, I am capturing their identity, stories and mana. I think it’s important to give time to sit with people to ask what they are comfortable with and what would make the environment an unsafe place for them to practice.

Collaboration for me is about reciprocity, a constant sharing of energy, ideas and trust. I know this is an uncommon practice for photographers but for me it is important that the people I photograph are involved in each stage of image making, from the birth of the concept, the production process to the selection of the final image.

In terms of the kaupapa of Lovers Rock as the observance of unapologetic, radical self love, what does self love mean for you and where does it sit within your practice?

I’m a fat, hairy, femme, queer Sāmoan. Unapologetic, radical self love is me reminding myself on the daily that these descriptions are not negative. We are constantly fed images of what we should look like, what is beautiful, what is desirable, it’s fucking toxic. Unapologetic and radical self love is protection, and rejecting these media constructed ideas of existing. Being unapologetic is an important part of my practice, I am always putting myself in front of the camera, using my body to portray and challenge ideas, opening myself up to be critiqued not only by others but from myself as well. 

Your work “Mātua” in Lovers Rock features your parents, and as a relatively new parent myself, I feel like that environment of love and nurturing we create for our children, particularly in the early years, is such a vital foundation for life and for self love. Tell me about this work…

Mātua for me was an exploration of my identity. I was learning about living in the space between in my gender, culture, geography and time. This is a celebration of starting to be comfortable with myself and where I sit in the world. Understanding that I navigate a space that isn’t traditionally male or female. Understanding that I am a gift of my mother and father. Understanding that learning about my Sāmoan culture is a life journey and to not give myself so much shit about it. This work for me represents a lot of learning I am doing which I do with the full support of my parents who love me.


Mātua has been produced as a limited edition of A1 size (594x841mm) poster prints for Lovers Rock. The edition of 25 are priced at NZ$100 each. The exhibition is on at Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery, 507 Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland until 19 August.

Interested in purchasing a copy? Get in touch with Ema Tavola (Curator) here:

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