Posts tagged ‘Tuwharetoa’

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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Margaret Aull

Margaret Aull

Title: Mata nui
Date: 2012
Series: Concealed Ancestors
Medium: Acrylic, Gold Leaf, Ochre and Paper on Board
Dimensions: 800x800mm [circular]

Artist Statement

My work is an investigation of the notion of Tapu / Tabu, a cultural construct embedded in most indigenous frameworks. For both Māori and Fijians, objects and personal items were often created as visual representations of ancestors and gods often imbued with mana and fear, a spiritual governing law / lore that could transform the mundane into veneration. Imagery and meaning could be transferred or transported through its reproduced format.

I am interested in the type of reverence applied to such objects, and the relationships that existed with their owners and communities during their “life” time. In Museum collections, the value and context of the objects have shifted and changed over time. Its ‘life force’ subdued and dormant as if defunct from the life and intent it emerged from.

The images I have referenced and adopted, as visual representations, aim to reclaim and re-activate meaning as personal cultural signifiers. Traditional ochre/oil for masi (Fijian bark cloth) is a way of locating my identity, bringing forth whenua / vanua (land) within my work. The traditional nature of the pigment challenges the way I work; its natural form resisting synthetic composites destabilizing surfaces… a response perhaps to my blurred genetic code as Māori, Fijian and other.

Concealed Ancestors becomes a way to test boundaries and explore tensions between what is culturally prohibited and what is respectable. These ancestors are concealed within museums, within display cabinets, representatives of a people or a provenance. I am interested in the value of such objects, the cultural negotiations / obligations of collectors and the space between the physical and spiritual.


Margaret Aull (Te Rarawa, Tūwharetoa, Fiji) completed undergraduate studies at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and Waikato Institute of Technology where she completed a Bachelor of Media Arts winning the Waikato Museum ArtsPost Award for excellence in Academic Record in 2006.

Aull has exhibited extensively in New Zealand since 2005 with a solo exhibition entitled Na Kena Yali (Loss) at the Chartwell Gallery, Hamilton in 2008 and Concealed Ancestors at Papakura Art Gallery, Auckland in 2013. She is currently studying to complete a Master of Fine Arts degree at Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design and is employed as the Art Collection Curator for Te Wananga o Aotearoa in Te Awamutu.

Aull’s work reflects the tensions of culture and identity between her Fijian and Māori ancestry. Her work is the ongoing effort to  find equilibrium between the two cultural powerhouses by investigating the relationships of whakapapa, faith and politics. She is a noted painter but currently expanding her practice into sculpture and installation. Aull has works in private and public collections including Auckland Council, The Barry Hopkins Art Collection, Fiji Museum, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and Open Wānanga Collections, Waikato Institute of Technology and Waikato Museum of Art and History.

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