Posts tagged ‘Steven Hooper’

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.


I’ve spent quite a bit of time this past week at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The building is quite gorgeous and reminds me of Selasar Sunaryo Art Space in Bandung, Indonesia. The juxtaposition of old and new artifacts is intriguing and feels as if the past is activated in the present.

We spent some time on our last day in the Multiversity Galleries, where thousands of objects from around the world are on display in busy display cabinets and conservation drawers. The entire collection is browsable online here. It’s a bit overwhelming; the histories and cultures that surround you create such a mass/mess of energy.

The Fijian collection objects are grouped in relation to a consideration of gender, status and ceremony. In just a couple of meters and few drawers, Fiji and Fijians are summerised. These collections generally represent more about the collector than the collected; the Multiversity Galleries are a fascinating reflection of culture collecting, and the culture of collecting.

I’ve been interested recently in Fijian breastplate design; I made an impromptu appliqued hoody before leaving for Vancouver and I’m developing drawings at the moment for a new work in an upcoming exhibition.

At the Pacific Arts Association International Symposium, members of the Fijian Art Research Project delivered some fascinating papers about collecting, breastplates, Fijian liku, tattooing and weaponry. Professor Steven Hooper’s paper, Uncharted Histories of Ivory-Carving Canoe Builders and Canoe-Building Ivory Carvers in Western Polynesia, included some beautiful examples of breastplate design and construction, many of which I had never seen before. I kept thinking about the way in which a breastplate protects the heart.

The lone civavonovono (Fijian breastplate) on display in the MOA Multiversity Galleries collection is beautiful but maybe a bit lonely, so far away from home.

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