Posts tagged ‘TeamFiji’

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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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Luisa Tora has been busy finishing her Bachelor of Creative Arts at Manukau Institute of Technology in South Auckland. But in the past 18 months she has also shown at St Paul St Gallery, Fresh Gallery Otara and OTARAwindow (which was also featured in the NZ Herald here), at Nathan Homestead, in a pop-up exhibition for the Auckland Pride Festival at Pitt Street Methodist Church, in a poster exhibition for IDAHOT, undertaken an internship with Auckland Museum AND had her work purchased for the Te Papa Tongarewa permanent collection!

Whilst developing on a new work for Between Wind and Water, Luisa slipped in another exhibition: The Drowned World curated by Daniel Michael Satele for Tautai Trust. As part of her enquiry into her village’s origin story and totemic relationship with the shark, Luisa worked with Fijian artist, Joana Monolagi, to create a salusalu [garland; lei] from laser cut Perspex. Read more here.

For Between Wind and Water, Luisa has developed a new and experimental installation entitled, Naqalotu: Na qalo tu.

‘Na qalo tu’ celebrates the central role of vasu and the ocean in my life. It profiles the strong, beautiful females who sustain, influence and inspire me. This offering merges the narratives of my village, Naqalotu’s origin story; our ika, the shark; and my vasu support system.

Luisa will discuss her work as part of a special panel discussion on Wednesday 21 January at Enjoy Public Art Gallery. Guest speakers Kaliopate Tavola (Fiji) and Milena Palka (WWF New Zealand), will speak to the wider themes of Fijian identity and totemic relationships, and the protection and state of shark populations in the Pacific.

When

Naqalotu: Na qalo tu – A panel discussion on new work by Luisa Tora
5.30pm, Wednesday 21 January

The residency of Between Wind and Water artists will take place from 10-24 January; the exhibition will be on show until 31 January.

Where

Enjoy Public Art Gallery is located on the First Floor, 147 Cuba Street, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand.

 Between Wind and Water has been produced with support from

BWAW sponsors1

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Install detail, "Rules of Engagement" (2014) by Margaret Aull

Waikato-based visual artist Margaret Aull (Te Rarawa, Tūwharetoa, Fiji) presented her Master of Fine Arts graduating work at Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design in central Auckland this week. I wrote a short comment for her exhibition catalogue…

Margaret Aull’s work over the past two years has traced the formation of a pan-cultural understanding of the notion of tapu, drawing from both Fijian and Māori frameworks. From the pictorial to the physical, her paintings have become sculpturally realised in installations that need to be physically negotiated. Throughout this process, the notion of tapu has been researched, discussed and experienced; the idea of sacredness considered in relation to objects and history, gender and power, time and space.

The interface of non-Fijian and non-Māori critical audiences has influenced and evolved her visual vocabulary; her work carries the sense of a deeply significant personal enquiry that is both protected and powerful. There are things that cannot be deconstructed for the purpose of intercultural understanding; there are senses of balance and belonging which cannot be translated into English. It is because of this cultural interface that I see Aull’s installation works as constructed environments for audiences to experience the role of observer.

Engaging with her work is to enact the manner in which protocol and presence is adjusted naturally to accommodate for unseen forces of socio-cultural mores. Such forces are embedded in epistemologies and ontologies, in land, sea and soil, in hearts, minds and memories.

Using imagery of her own body, Margaret confronts audiences with a further dimension of two-way self-reflection. Larger than life, her detached skin, eyes and teeth are loaded in political and emotional codes of race and beauty, sexuality and power.

At the culmination of her postgraduate enquiry, this work maps Aull’s personal and intercultural journey of understanding the notion of sacredness, of safety and of self.

I’ve loved watching the developments of Margaret’s work and I’m excited to see what’s to come!

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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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