Living in a world where the term 'Endangered' has sadly become all too familiar. Our habitat is endangered, the oceans are under threat and many species are facing extinction. We too as a species have become 'Endangered', not in numbers, but in our essence. I feel the greatest threat to humanity is loss of culture, tradition and our connection with the earth. Something that is still very present in the world's remaining indigenous cultures.
It is perhaps this 'loss' of connection that has created the 'Endangered' world we live in today.
With this exhibition I have placed my focus on the Tahitian culture, people and a way of life that has long been under threat.
The piece titled 'HA’AMANA’ORA’A I TE MAU TUPUNA’ (In Memory of the Ancestors) is intended as a tribute to the ancestors. The background is an assemblage of vintage post colonial photography of female Tahitian ancestors. It is with great respect I use this vintage imagery of Tahitian Vahine Tupuna. They represent an exploited innocence, and in many, a sense of vulnerability and shame ..... the confusion of colonial rule. The portrait I painted over this background is of the contemporary Vahine, proud and strong. Her translucence and sepia tone symbolise the link to her Tupuna. A memory and tribute to her ancestry, culture and Fenua.... these background images were captured at the cusp of colonial influence and exploitation, a mark in time that changed their world forever.
In the other paintings I have used Tahitian fabrics as the background. In many I have set up my models to mimic the poses of those post colonial images. One in particular, ‘Birds of Paradise’ , shows one model mimic the pose of an ancestor. An image which I have felt to be the most disturbing I have come across. She is completely naked, except for the ‘pareu’ she grasps between her legs. Her face is hidden, in shame, in her hands...such a poignant and painful image. In the photograph she is alone, vulnerable. In my painting I placed her next to a Vahine of today who stands in sisterhood beside her ancestor. She stands in simple confidence, gazing directly at the viewer as if to confront the post colonial voyeur that once gazed at her sister from the past. A power, perhaps this vulnerable young woman felt she no longer possessed. This painting is a response to these post colonial images and is intended to somehow give the ‘Vahine Tupuna’ their power back.