Posts from the ‘The Veiqia Project’ category

IMG_2696

Whilst I was in Suva last month, project managing / co-curating The Veiqia Project and the important process of embedding and grounding the project in Fiji, I started to tune into how many people were asking for meaning, as in digestible translations of the visual vocabulary of Fijian qia or tattoo markings.

The Veiqia Project is a creative research project that has engaged seven Fijian artists to uncover, encounter and respond to the practice of Fijian female tattooing through museum visits, dialogue and literature. Four of the seven artists were able to travel to Fiji to undertake research, talks and meetings and spend time with Melanesian tatu practitioner Julia Mage’au Gray (Papua New Guinea – Australia), who has been researching and reviving tatu practice from Central Province, Papua New Guinea, and developing understanding of its wider relationship to tattoo practice across Oceania.

We came across some fascinating illustrations of qia motifs and designs in the Fiji Museum library. They were recorded in the late 1800s and said to be from the province of Ra. Whilst some notes were made on what the motifs represented (from the perspective of the non-Fijian author), it feels as if meaning associated with this visual language is not something we will ever fully understand.

The artists are working hard, excavating the social, cultural, artistic contexts of the practice of veiqia / Fijian tattooing. And it’s here, meaning is made; they will each interpret their experience of uncovering  knowledge about our cultural heritage as Fijian women into new work, and it’s hoped that the exhibition will tour, evolving to include more Fijian artists and communities.

I was tattooed over the weekend by Julia in Auckland at Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio. She marked both my arms and hands with qia motifs and symbols we encountered in Fiji. For me, the meaning of these marks is related to revival and memory, Fijian art history and the power and prestige of an artform reserved exclusively for women and girls. These tattoos are part of my identity as a Fijian woman, as an artist, as a Melanesian. The meaning of my marks in 2015 is mine; they sit between you and me, perception and reality, art and context…

I woke up yesterday thinking, of all my tattoos, these are my most important marks. They challenge ideas about beauty and aesthetics, history and colonisation, gender and power; they visualise my position, and galvanise my love and loyalty for Fiji.

Back in Suva stomping old ground, learning a lot and feeling so excited for The Veiqia Project! So gloriously un-academic, and safe from territorialism, this trip has been deeply inspiring…

The Veiqia Project is a creative research project investigating the practice of Fijian female tattooing; it will culminate in an exhibition due to open at Auckland’s St Paul St Gallery 3 in March 2016, timed to coincide with the Pacific Arts Association XII International Symposium and Auckland Arts Festival. The exhibition will feature new work by seven contemporary artists from Australia and New Zealand. Through a shared online research forum and time spent with Fijian collections at museums in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand, the artists have generated an indigenous research archive driven by personal, artistic and relational connections.

A significant Creative New Zealand grant enabled New Zealand-based artists Margaret Aull, Joana Monolagi, Luisa Tora and myself to travel to Suva to meet Australia-based artist Dulcie Stewart and co-curator, Tarisi Vunidilo, to conduct research at Fiji Museum, host two public events, meet and hear stories from a broad range of artists, experts and academics. A special invitation was extended to Darwin-based tatu artist / film maker / choreographer, Julia Mage’au Gray, who contributed knowledge and insights on tattoo design, protocols, inspiration and the wider globalised challenges of appropriation and intellectual property protection.

This week, we all start to trace the well-worn paths back to our diasporic other-lands. The Veiqia Project has been grounded and expanded, it has become a catalyst and a trigger, a call to action and a gentle reminder that this particular approach to creative research is tangible and social, genuine and emotional, intersectional and multidimensional… and not at all academic.

Thank you to our project partners: Creative New Zealand, Fiji Museum, Fiji National University School of Creative Art, Sangeeta Singh Photography. Thank you to our friends and families who have fed and watered us, driven us around and lent us cars, cameras, drawing skills. Thank you to the staff at the Fiji Museum, especially Mere, Mereia, Prakashni, Ratu Sela, William, Raijeli and Elenoa. Vinaka Jane Ricketts and the resident artists at Tagimoucia Gallery. Thank you Twitter fams, @gurumi, @sharky_fj and @fijiandiva104! We are all truly grateful!

v i n a k a   v a k a l e v u

%d bloggers like this: