Colour Me Fiji: A Customised Sulu Project (2005)
This body of work was completed as the final for my Bachelor of Visual Arts degree in Sculpture. Having spent a year experimenting with curatorship, art placement and audiences, I realised I needed to conceive a more sculptural outcome to actually pass the course.
The base of the Fijian sulu vakataga (formal Fijian wrap-around garment) enabled me to combine my concerns with accessability for Pacific audiences, textiles and portability. I enjoyed working on the two-dimensional designs and the textile process, influenced by artists such as Tracy Emin and Yinka Shonibare and Tivaevae making from the Cook Islands. Investigating Pacific Art and audiences, components of heritage artforms like socio-political purpose and function, were important to me. I wanted to create work that was functional, had purpose, and referenced the importance and role of [Pacific] people, which is emphasised in the application of the work to the body, which is also a sculptural/interactive/performative component of the work.
The work here is photographed on Tongan artist, Samiu Napa’a in the context of 1960s New Zealand suburban architecture, referencing the diasporic nature of their making. The symbolism and references of the sulu designs are very much rooted in a diasporic Pacific experience in New Zealand.
Displayed here at Aronui, Manukau School of Visual Arts, November 2005.
Although I feel the turtle is an over-used symbol in the Pacific, it also the totem fish of my father’s village (Dravuni, Kadavu) and is located in this sulu in the midst of a canoe marked with the word ‘Kadavu’, as in the Air Pacific plane markings, and the plane that I often catch between Auckland and Suva named “The Island of Kadavu”.