25-metre long tapa features in NZ exhibition
A 25-metre long tapa features in a New Zealand artist's latest exhibition, which is on display in Wellington.
A 25-metre long ngatu or painted tapa features in a New Zealand artist's latest exhibition, which is on display in Wellington.
Robin White's exhibition is titled Koe Hala Hangatonu, which means The Straight Path in Tongan.
As part of the two-year project, Dame Robin travelled to Europe and Israel, collaborated with Tongan artist Ruha Fifita, and worked with a group of Tongan women in the village of Haveluloto near Nuku 'alofa.
She spoke to Amelia Langford about her work and began by describing the 25-metre tapa.
ROBIN WHITE: The exhibition is in a long rectangular room so the launima drops down from one end onto the floor and then runs along the floor so you can actually walk along it, rather like walking along the edge of a pathway and you can sort of follow the images as you go. On one side of that room is the garden, another long piece which depicts the terraces above Ben Gurion Avenue, that's the garden. And on the other side, the opposing side to that is a piece called the Crimson Sea which is ngatu ta'uli which means a black painted tapa. And then on the opposing wall to where the launima drops down is a piece called 'in my father's house' and that again depicts terraces and gardens and it runs in a sort of vertical pattern.
AMELIA LANGFORD: Now these pieces of work, they sound quite large for a start, how long did it take you to complete them?
RW: Well it depends, you know, you don't make works these large without working with groups of people. A lot of people have input into works like this including a large number of women who would have been beating out the tapa and creating the pieces of tapa or feta'aki which then get assembled for these works. So I wouldn't know in the end exactly how many women were involved with that but it takes time, except that you know back in Tonga this is an activity which goes on all the time so there's always, that's always available so it's hard to tell how long that took. And then the actual assembling of the pieces to paste them and do the rubbing, for each piece, for the very large one, it might have been say three hours, and then two weeks to do the painting, again that's in reference to the very large one.
AL: Now what was some of the ideas behind this, is there are certain message you want to get across or nothing like that?
RW: Yeah I mean there are symbols in there which will have some meaning to I guess those who are familiar with the hala paini pattern, will recognise some of the imagery there. It's really that idea of the straight path, is also that idea of you know, this is the path that we are meant to follow and it's the right path, it's the right way to behave, it's the right way to go about your life and so the whole idea of working collaboratively was part of that message as well.
Robin White's work is currently on display at Wellington's Pataka Gallery.
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