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Talanoa: Ancient Futures Project

  • MOKU | Pacific HQ Raven Row London, England, E1 United Kingdom (map)

The Ancient Futures Research Team comprises of Tongan Artists and specialists in Tongan history, material culture and museum collections. Join us to talk art, history and possible futures. This event is hosted by the University of Auckland and the In*ter*is*land Collective

The Ancient Futures Research Team:

Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi was born in Ngele‘ia, Nuku‘alofa, Tonga, and immigrated to New Zealand in 1978. His contemporary paintings and sculptures are imbued with his Pacific island heritage. The incorporated Pacific and Maori iconography in his work goes deeper than the immediate visual reaction. Filipe is a master craftsman of the traditional art of lalava - the Pan-Pacific technology used on houses, canoes, and tools before the introduction of Western materials. He has studied the construction of lalava to understand the patterns and language hidden inside the layers of sennit, which he recreates in his own contemporary art of ‘lalavaometry'. During a 2004 project for the Samoan Head of State, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese, Filipe lashed a Fale Maota at Nofo‛ali‛i near Apia with a theme of the intertwined history of Tonga and Samoa. Tamasese bestowed the title Sopolemalama (bringer of light) in appreciation for his efforts. Filipe's art brings attention to the fine designs and precision of lashing paying homage to his predecessors yet he integrates a contemporary twist whether through the designs, forms, or layering material which might be sennit, colored wool, or even made two-dimensional with paint on canvas. While he has used sennit or kafa in its traditional sense at the Pasifika Fale at the Pacific Studies Department at the University of Auckland, he also lashes individual objects transforming technology of the past into a modern representation of identity and experience.

Dagmar Dyck is a well-known painter and printmaker of Tongan German descent. As a first-generation New Zealander, she has been brought up to respect and acknowledge her unique ancestry. Dyck's work continues to explore within the realm of Tongan culture koloa, a general term that encompasses Tonga's tangible and intangible heritage of textile and material wealth. Her work is held in many collections (NZ Parliamentary Collection, MFAT, MPIA and Auckland and Manukau Councils,) corporate places – hotels, (Auckland Hospital, Heritage Hotel and Sky City Hotel) and private homes. Dagmar was the first Tongan female to graduate from Elam School of Fine Arts in 1995 with a Post Graduate Diploma in Fine Arts. Since then she has exhibited extensively in group shows and held numerous solos both nationally and internationally including Australia, New Caledonia, Samoa, Tonga, the United States, Norway, Germany and China. Known for the clean controlled lines of her early works – perhaps her German ancestry more to the fore then, she has now developed a more abstract Pacific style in her current paintings. However in both 'styles' the influence of ngatu or tapa design/format is evident.

Dr Phyllis Herda, Senior Lecturer
Anthropology, University of Auckland

Dr Arne Perminow, Associate Professor
Museum of Cultural History
University of Oslo

Dr Billie Lythberg, Senior Research Fellow
University of Auckland

Dr Andy Mills, Research Associate
History of Art, University of Glasgow

This TALANOA event is the conclusion of a three-week tour of European and UK based collections—Weltmuseum Wien, Vienna; Grassi Museum, Leipzig; The Forster Collection in Dessau-Woerlitz; Etnografiska Museet, Stockholm; Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris; Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge; British Museum, London; Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford; and the Oceania exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.