Posts tagged ‘Fiji Museum’

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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.

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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

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Visiting Auckland Museum store room, photograph by Sangeeta Singh11 September, 2015 – Suva, FIJI – Four Fijian New Zealand and Australian based women artists will congregate in Suva, Fiji next week for a creative research project inspired by the practice of Fijian female tattooing. This is the first time a research project is being undertaken to delve into the lost tradition of Fijian female tattooing of veiqia.

The Veiqia Project has gathered seven contemporary Fijian women artists engaged in Australia and New Zealand to participate in shared research activities and Museum visits to inform the development of new artwork for an exhibition due to take place in Auckland, New Zealand in March 2016. At its heart, The Veiqia Project involves nine Fijian women – seven artists and two curators – on a journey of artistic and cultural enquiry.

Four of the seven artists will travel to Suva from the 14th to 28th September to undertake research, meetings and participate in events.

New Zealand-based artists Margaret Aull, Joana Monolagi and Luisa Tora will join Australian-based Dulcie Stewart on the trip. Project and exhibition curators Tarisi Vunidilo and Ema Tavola, both proud i-taukei women from the province of Kadavu are excited about the prospects of their research in Fiji.

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. The project has drawn significant support from Auckland Museum, Fiji Museum, the Fijian Art Project, practitioners, supporters, friends and family engaged both on and offline.

“Fijian women used to have a very proud ancient tradition of veiqia, where girl children were tattooed when they reached puberty. This tradition has been lost over time due to colonization and other factors. Veiqia has intrigued many of us for a long time and we are very excited to come back home to Fiji to research more about this ancient art and to discuss and share with other Fijians their views and stories about this once practiced art”, Ms. Tavola said.

“We are grateful to Creative New Zealand for significant funding towards this research enabling us to bring our Fijian women artists together to collaborate on this project”, she added.

“We are inviting everyone to come to our organised events to share with us in story- telling and talanoa about our traditions and research that we hope one day will be revived. Come and take ownership of discussions surrounding this ancient female artform”, she said.

The artists will hold a Veiqia panel discussion at the FNU campus on Thursday, 17th September and an open day on Saturday, 19th September at the Fiji Museum Veranda and will include visitations to artists at Tagimoucia Gallery, Fiji Corrections Unit, Suva and dialogue with Fijian tattooist Billy Blaze.

Please see below for more details on the exhibition, visit https://pimpiknows.com/theveiqiaproject/ or contact Tarisi Vunidilo 7517241 for more information.

The Veiqia Project: Panel Discussion

Hear from the curators and artists behind a creative project that connects artists, Museum collections and Fijian tattoo.
Speakers: Margaret Aull, Joana Monolagi, Dulcie Stewart, Ema Tavola, Luisa Tora, Tarisi Vunidilo with guest speaker Julia Maga’au Gray

Date: Thursday 17 September, 2015
Time: 6 – 8pm
Venue: FNU Campus Raiwai, Carpenter Street
Enquiries: Theresa Koroi, ph: 9987150, email: Theresa.Koroi@fnu.ac.fj

The Veiqia Project: Investigating our tattooed histories

Come and learn about the research The Veiqia Project has uncovered, watch Melanesian tatu artist Julia Mage’au Gray demonstrate traditional hand-poke tattoo style, get involved with fun art activities, hear from The Veiqia Project artists and the ways Museum collections can inspire new understandings of our Pacific art histories.

Date: Saturday 19 September, 2015
Time: 10am – 3pm
Venue: Fiji Museum Veranda

Image credit: Sangeeta Singh, with permission from Auckland Museum
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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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I’m currently writing about Fijian-Māori visual artist, Margaret Aull’s new work for her upcoming exhibition, Concealed Ancestors.

I met Margaret in 2008 in Suva, Fiji – we were both part of the Vasu: Pacific Women of Power project at the Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture at the University of the South Pacific. Since then, we’ve worked together on a number of projects and I’ve enjoyed seeing her work shift and change.

Margaret’s work is intentionally and unintentionally a declaration of her cultural position as a Fijian-Māori / Māori-Fijian. She has made work exploring flags, identity and ownership, as in the work Kiwi mate (2011) [above] and explored political similarities and colonial struggle of both Fiji and Aotearoa.

In a review in Eyeline magazine (Issue 73), Tessa Laird describes Margaret’s work, Tino Rangatiratanga and Coups (2010)as, “a broken composition that is part flag, part museum display case, with fragmented artifacts subjected to colonial categorisation and branding”. The work was created for the exhibition Native Coconut at Fresh Gallery Otara featuring three artists who share both Māori and Pacific Island ancestry.

Last year, Margaret trialled collaborating with a graphic designer to develop the work Fiji ki Aotearoa (2011) which was shown in the exhibition diasporadic679 at various venues in Ōtāhuhu in acknowledgment of Fiji Independence Day.

The work in Concealed Ancestors is a further shift in thinking and aesthetic consideration. The exhibition showcases a series of works on paper and a sculptural installation. Produced as part of Margaret’s post-graduate studies, the work is an in-depth visual enquiry into the concept of taputabu or sacredness informed in part by a recent trip to Fiji and time spent at the Fiji Museum.

Concealed Ancestors runs from 12 January – 23 February 2013 at Papakura Art Gallery, 10 Averill Street, Papakura, South Auckland

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“E Moemoea” (2012) by Margaret Aull, acrylic, ink, collage on paper.

Concealed Ancestors is the upcoming solo exhibition by Waikato-based visual artist, Margaret Aull, co-curated by Nigel Borell and Ema Tavola for Papakura Art Gallery, South Auckland.

In this new body of work, Aull investigates the concept of tapu / tabu within both Maori and Fijian cultural frameworks. Inspired by research at the Fiji Museum, she explores visual representations of ancestors and deities, spiritual lore, mana and life force.

Utlising ochre used in the making of masi (traditional Fijian bark cloth), Aull incorporates the whenua / vanua within her work. Juxtaposed with imagery from Museum collections, she reclaims and re-activates meaning, creating visual mediations of her blurred genetic code.

Margaret Aull (Te Rarawa, Tuwharetoa, Fiji) has exhibited extensively in New Zealand since 2005 and is currently completing a Master of Fine Arts at Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design.

Check out Concealed Ancestors at Papakura Art Gallery from 12 January – 23 February 2013.

Concealed Ancestors is produced with support from the Pacific Arts Committee, Creative New Zealand and Toi o Manukau.

Click here to read more about Concealed Ancestors

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