In the first of three two-week exhibitions that make up the inaugural PIMPI Winter Series, U Can’t Touch This is a site-specific group show that acknowledges the head, the hair and the selfie. In many parts of Oceania, the head is the most sacred part of the body, and in the words of Stanley Kirk Burrell, U Can’t Touch This!

Situated in and around the barber shop floor, four Pacific artists have created new work about the head (literally), and the most important and sacred parts of life. Alongside Mt Eden local, Samoan new media artist Siliga David Setoga, this show features the work of three first-time exhibitors, Talafungani Finau, Sione Monu and Daisy Tavilione. Each artist responds to the exhibition’s themes and context with custom pieces ranging from adornment to illustration, photography and print.

Canberra-based Tongan visual artist Sione Monu has established a keen following for his photography, painting and illustration work on Instagram. Beyond the indulgence of selfie-representation, he explores the potential of digital self-portraiture using apps, props, environments and people in his life, offering gentle insights into Tongan experience in Australia’s capital city. Monu’s whimsical illustrations are part fashion, part colonial sketchbook, suggestive of the loaded spaces between self and other, what is seen and who is looking.

West Papua and the work of Auckland-based collective, Oceania Interrupted, has informed and inspired South Auckland-based Tongan maker Talafungani Finau. Her custom-made garland is an ode to the past and future of the embattled Melanesian territory currently occupied by Indonesia. Commonly used to celebrate achievement and meaningful moments, the work acknowledges the surge of awareness and support amongst the Pacific community for the plight of West Papua and the ongoing fight for independence.

Daisy Tavilione‘s playfully reworked family portraits capture the influence of African American popular culture, hair and style on urban Polynesian experience in Aotearoa. Her series of fluro hand-pulled screen prints is based on illustrations of her family’s abundant photographic portrait collection; studio-based, classically posed and controlled reminders of familial bonds and pictorial genealogy. In the adding and subtracting of features and patterns, Tavilione’s new portraits speak to a wider blended experience of Poly-global history and fiction.

In Siliga David Setoga‘s new work he addresses the cultural expectations and binaries of long versus short hair. His noted performance practice is reflected in two new photographic and print works that focus on the process and stages  of having his own hair cut. With a background in the T-shirt trade, Setoga has a keen interest in accessing new audiences with his trademark visual style and pointed cultural commentary.

U Can’t Touch This is the first exhibition in the inaugural PIMPI Winter Series. Over eight weeks, three site specific exhibitions open back-to-back showcasing the work of 12 visual artists of Asian-Pacific heritage at Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio. The initiative is a collaboration between Ema Tavola (Curator) and Stan Lolohea (Owner-Operator) to celebrate new ways to consider Pacific art, ideas and experience in Aotearoa New Zealand. As a collaboration between two Pacific business entities, the PIMPI Winter Series also aims to enable Pacific artists to show and sell new work to support their professional development and audience exposure.

U Can’t Touch This
16 July – 1 August
Private View
6-8pm, Thursday 16 July
Talafungani Finau, Sione Monu, Siliga David Setoga, Daisy Tavilione

Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio is located at 159 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland.
Open Mondays from 9am-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-7pm.
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