Photo documentary of Samoa village over 20yrs to be shown
A photography project which documented a Samoan village over a twenty year period will soon be exhibited in New Zealand and Samoa.
Auckland-based Samoan photographer Evotia Tamua has received an artist residency at the National University of Samoa, which she'll use to complete her project on Salelesi village.
Her artist residency is in partnership with Creative New Zealand and will begin next month.
She spoke to Indira Stewart about when she started the project.
EVOTIA TAMUA: I say officially around 1994 but I started taking photographs of my village back in the late eighties when I got my first proper SLR 35ml camera.
INDIRA STEWART: Right, and did you start it with the intention of carrying it on to a twenty year journey documenting the village and its changes?
ET: Heck no! (laughs) No, I started it because I just wanted to record what people look like. I'm the same as my father, he was really interested in my family history. So, he would write things down and interview certain family members and for me, it was really about recording what people looked like before people died or moved away or became old.
IS: So this journey documents things like the generational change in the village, young kids being born, young kids back then who are possibly now adults with families of their own, older people who have passed on, new life - so just that cycle of life in the village?
ET: Yeah, absolutely absolutely. I've actually seen children pretty much grow up. And I've seen their parents as young - like, when they were teenagers, and parents get together and they have their own children. So I've seen children grow up in my photographs and they're married themselves. They've got their own children and are living somewhere else. A lot of my photographs, well I say they're not snapshots but they're kind of everyday life photographs, at the time that I took them it was - they weren't that important. Compound that by five, ten, fifteen, twenty years later, I've got a lot of requests from like great grandchildren of people that I've photographed. And I'm like, oh man, I don't even know who these people are.
IS: Wow and in terms of some of those significant changes in the village community over the past two decades, what are some other kind of village-life changes that have really come out in your photos?
ET: Motorvehicles, televisions where people didn't have televisions. Like electricity pretty much, I remember when our village had it's first street lamp and the youth were so against it. They didn't like it because they said it was weird to have light at night time. And so they smashed the lightbulb. They said 'the only light we want to see at night, is moonlight.' Eventually people got over that because everyone has electricity in their houses now. So where cooking used to happen mainly outdoors, then little kerosene ovens were being bought and used inside the house. So yeah, things like television, people who had cars were really wealthy but now, people have got one or two cars in their home, everybody's got pretty much a cellphone, they're connected via facebook or some sort of social media.
IS: Are there any things that surprisingly haven't changed in those photos over the years?
ET: It still looks the same. Like the houses fundamentally are still the same. It's just little things like a flat screen TV that's in there now. The village meetings are still the same. And the Sunday, after church committee lunches that would happen with the Matai lunches and the Matai's wives and then the young men and the other young women in the village, that still looks the same. Going to church in the morning service and the afternoon service still looks the same except there are people who are being driven to church now instead of walking. There are things that are missing in my photographs - things like funerals, weddings, birthdays. Some major celebrations that I just haven't had time to be around there to capture. So, given that I've got three months - a lot can happen in three months in Samoa. I mean, anything happens in Samoa.
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