THE MELBOURNE TAPA
This is a brief article I wrote for another publication to promote an upcoming art exhibition in the Craft Cubed Festival. If you are in Melbourne, be sure to check it out, ‘The Melbourne Tapa’. I will return with a new post soon – still getting through my pile.
Traditionally in cultures across the Pacific Ocean, tapa cloth has been made for bedding, clothing, and ceremonial purposes. For people of rank, tapa was often highly decorated, featuring significant designs bestowed from the cultural lineages from which these traditions emerged. The special place that tapa has in our Pacific cultures made it the perfect artistic medium for 13 Pacific Islander women, who have collaborated to create the central curatorial project of this years Craft Cubed Festival in Melbourne, The Melbourne Tapa.
Led over ten months by guest curator Loketi Niua Latu (Tonga) the women –who hail from Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and Aotearoa, and live across the north-western suburbs of Melbourne – have created a striking, elegant, and deeply personal artwork. Made from the inner bark of the paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera), the tapa is decorated in acrylic paint with unique designs created by Meleane Saliba, Margaret Pulepule, Ali’itasi T. Trood, Lana Lalagofa’atasi Sila-La’asia, Frances Masina Trood, Frances Tua, Nikki Fong, ‘Epenisa Liku Finefeuiaki, Lata-‘i-Falesiu Taipaleti Siu, Andrea Fong, Sesilia Veamatahau Wardell, Ma’ata Palavi-Makasini, and Lavinia Taipaleti-Valu.
The Melbourne Tapa is the first of its kind to be made here in Melbourne. Each woman worked on a 1.5m x 1.5m panel, taking responsibility for the design and careful painting of their segment of tapa. The completed Tapa work joins together all 13 panels, creating a stunning kaleidoscope of colour and design, embedded with meaning. As curator Loketi Niua Latu explains, the completed work speaks to the “blend of cultural traditions and experiences of living between cultures, balancing family values and cultural expectations in the high-pressured world we live where quality demands to be par excellence.”
Craft CEO & Artistic Director Joe Pascoe notes that as an artwork, The Melbourne Tapa “both preserves and informs us of how a culture stays strong and yet adapts.” In creating this ambitious work, sharing such intimate stories and persevering through the difficulties that often accompany such a large-scale community collaboration, Niua Latu and the women of the tapa group have created a vibrant contribution to Melbourne’s art culture, and opened yet another way through which the general public can be helped to understand Pacific cultural experiences in Australia.
Just as importantly, the artistic journey these women took together has solidified ties between their individual homelands and the migrant Samoan, Tongan, Fijian and Maori communities in Melbourne. And it has unearthed some incredibly gifted artists, with a wealth of cultural stories to share – the individual artistic development of each woman involved in the project is beautifully represented in their moving artist statements. Niua Latu hopes that these creative relationships and journeys will continue, and that “we as Pacific people celebrate openly who we are as individuals within a local, national and global community.”
The Melbourne Tapa will be launched on August 2, 2012, 6pm, by Her Royal Highness Princess Angelika Latufuipeka Hala’evalu Mata’aho Napua’o-ka-lani Tuku’aho, the VIP Guest of Honour.
LAUNCH: 2 August, 6pm.
SHOWING DATES: 3 August — 1 September 2012
VENUE: Craft, 31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
ARTIST TALK: 12 noon, Saturday 25 August 2012
Seemingly unrelated, but not… SOL3 MIO are 3 young NZ opera singers, including Pene Pati (winner 2010 CNZ Iosefa Enari Memorial Award). All three have been accepted into the Welsh International Academy of Voice to complete their Masters. This is them, being brilliant and rather endearing: