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'Amui 'i Mu'a - Ancient Futures Exhibition at the Wallace Arts Centre

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Wallace Arts Centre, Pah Homestead is proud to present, as part of the Auckland Arts Festival Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki, ‘Amui ‘I Mu‘a - Ancient Futures: Dagmar Vaikalafi Dyck, Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi.

This major exhibition, opened on 16 March, is the artistic culmination of a research project into Tongan artefacts in museums around the world. It includes works from Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira and Canterbury Museum Te Whare Taonga o Ngā Pākihi Whakatekateka o Waitaha alongside contemporary responses in the form of paintings, digital prints, and sculptural works by Dyck and Tohi - two of Aotearoa New Zealand’s leading Tongan artists.

The project

The exhibition, supported by Creative New Zealand, is one outcome of a project funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund. Tohi and Dyck as artist-scholars collaborated with art historian and anthropologist Billie Lythberg, historian and anthropologist Phyllis Herda and linguist Melenaite Taumoefolau (all based at The University of Auckland) as well as art historian Hilary L. Scothorn and international colleagues.

For the last five years this team has examined art objects of exchange and encounters between Europeans and Tongan islanders in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, now held in museum collections worldwide.

Central to the aims and praxis of this project has been the bringing together of different knowledge bases to provide opportunities for the interpretation of ancient items in contemporary works as creative legacies for the future.

The exhibition

The historic Pah Homestead (1877) is the first venue for ‘Amui ‘i Mu‘a in Aotearoa New Zealand. Architecturally, the Homestead belongs to an era in which ideas contributing to the development of the modern western museum were being extended into the colonial far-reaches of Empire. It stands as an artifact of British colonial economic and cultural practice. Showing ‘Amui ‘i Mu‘a at this venue is fitting in as much as the building itself echoes the Royal Palace of the Kingdom of Tonga, built some ten years earlier.

Dyck is a Tongan-German multimedia artist. Born and raised in Auckland, where she continues to live, practice and teach art, Dyck has a strong connection with Tonga.

Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi was born in Ngele‘ia on Tongatapu, Tonga and emigrated to Aotearoa New Zealand in 1978.

Both artists have long drawn from Tongan tradition, materialised in lalava lashing patterns, kali headrests, ngatu barkcloth motifs; or kiekie waist adornments. Their tours abroad with their academic colleagues during this project prompted new apprehensions, new vision. Back in their studios, their new work became a reconsideration of linkages with earlier works and museum collection pieces.

Tohi has extended his life-time investigation into lalava patterns as well as the finely incised carving of late-18th-century Tongan clubs to uncover what he refers to as a ‘fibre system’ of knowledge, with rules, orders and schema. He has also analysed 18th-century kali, recovering the methods of their construction as well as the relationships between their dimensions that encode sophisticated mathematical logic.

Tohi’s new works draw out the repeating motifs and ways of knowing that he has seen in these objects and reveal profound connections to navigation practices. His recent introduction into the complexity and sophistication of screen-printing processes has introduced interesting possibilities into his practice.

Known for her dynamic prints and paintings that often draw from the kupesi on ngatu, Dyck has drawn new and significant inspiration from the garments worn by her ancestors. She has continued her exploration of ngatu motifs and closely woven kato alu and kato mosikaka baskets, as well as elaborately feathered sisi fale waist garments and kiekie, fala mats, and helu combs. Her works explicate these in woven, painted and stratified formats.

A skilled printmaker, Dyck has created a series of limited-edition screen prints intricately layered with historical and contemporary references. Directly acknowledging the communal making of many Tongan women’s arts, she has led the creation of a multimedia installation with her sister, Luana Dyck, and photo-filmic artists and sisters Emily and Vea Mafile‘o.

These contemporary works, made for the gallery, are complemented by and exhibited in conversation with a selection of historical Tongan artefacts from public collections.

Public programme

The exhibition includes a rich public programme for all ages to learn more about the exhibition and research project and experience to Tongan culture.

On Thursday 8 April at 7pm, ‘10 x ten - Celebrating Tongan Artists’ brings together Tongan artists for a fun social art get-together with ten x 10-minute lively informative discussions. This event is designed to create an avenue for the wider public to learn more about the artists’ practices and inspiration behind their work. Participating artists include Dyck, Tohi, TK Hards, Kalisolaite ‘Uhila, and Tui Gillies.

Accompanying the exhibition is an informative catalogue and this will be launched 1pm, Saturday 10 April. This event includes talks by Dyck and Tohi.

Community Day at the Wallace Arts Centre, Pah Homestead takes place on Saturday 24 April - 10am to 3pm. It is an interactive event, offering children and adults hands-on creative experiences and featuring activities with a Tongan flavour, including a chance to learn some lashing techniques with Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi.

There is a celebration of modern Tongan cuisine with a three-course seated dinner at 7pm on Wednesday 28 April in the drawing room of the Pah Homestead where the exhibition is shown. This will be a unique experience where Tongan art and culture collides with culinary originality by chef Beau Louis Takapu.

Tertiary students will be given an opportunity to experience the exhibition with Dyck and Tohi. They will learn about the research process behind the art works and gain a deeper insight into their works through a journey around the galleries where they will talk about their art and the inspiration behind each piece. The date is to be confirmed.

For information on the exhibition in both English and Tongan please go to: https://www.wallaceartstrust.org.nz/exhibitions/amui-i-mua

For information about the public programme events please go to: https://www.wallaceartstrust.org.nz/ancient-futures-public-programme

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