‘Amui ‘i Mu‘a: Ancient Futures – Book Launch and talk at The Wallace Art Centre, Pah Homestead. Saturday 10 April 2021, 1pm
‘Amui ‘i Mu‘a – Ancient Futures is the significant creative outcome of recent ‘hands-on’ research by Dagmar Vaikalafi Dyck and Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi in historic collections at museums in Australasia, across Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States. Tohi and Dyck are investigator artists attached to a research and art development project titled Ancient Futures: Late 18th and Early 19th Century Tongan Arts and their Legacies, funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund, 1 March 2017–1 March 2021. This outstanding opportunity has afforded insights from the holders of historic Tongan artefacts, and included opportunities to share and exchange with Tongan knowledge holders and artists in Tonga during the project’s week-long symposium in Nuku‘alofa in 2019. The exhibition at The Wallace Arts Centre, Pah Homestead, weaves together their creative processes and knowledge exchanges, and extends and disperses their experiences in diverse formats.
The project personnel also include Dr Phyllis Herda, Dr Melenaite Taumoefolau and Dr Billie Lythberg (all University of Auckland), and Hilary L. Scothorn (Independent Scholar). Working together with further Tongan artists and experts in Tonga and the extensive Tongan diaspora, and academic colleagues in New Zealand, Europe and the United States, the Ancient Futures team has brought together previously disparate research findings, and sought to recover Tongan knowledge inherent in 18th and 19th century artefacts.
The research direction has been both historically and futuristically referenced and directed.
The team has worked through artefacts of early encounters between European and Tongan islanders, to explore the transformations – both immediate and long-term – that they engendered. It has construed as ‘artefacts’ not only objects of exchange but also the multilingual discourses, vocabularies and artistic traditions that are their legacies. The research has pivoted on close examination of artefacts and the records made of them, often described in manuscripts and old and obscure publications, to reinstate their genealogies and intrinsic cultural and historical values, and to develop new conceptual frameworks for their consideration.
The research project and its extensive collaborations have provided opportunities for Tohi and Dyck to interpret ancient artefacts in contemporary works as creative legacies for the future. They acknowledge the privilege and extraordinary responsibility of this work. ‘Amui ‘i Mu‘a seeks to showcase exceptional new artwork and set a benchmark of community involvement and practice documentation for established Pacific Artists.
About the artists
Dagmar Vaikalafi Dyck
Dagmar Vaikalafi Dyck (born 1972) is a New Zealand artist and art educator. Majoring in printmaking, she graduated from Elam School of Fine Arts with a Post-Graduate Diploma of Fine Arts in 1995. She was the first woman of Tongan descent to do so. Dagmar has exhibited work in New Zealand galleries and internationally since 1995 and her work is held in significant national collections across the country. In 2014 Dagmar received the Contemporary Artist Award at the Creative New Zealand Arts Pasifika Awards. Completing her Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Primary) in 2009 she is currently Senior Leader, art teacher and Inquiry Lead Teacher at Sylvia Park School, Auckland. In 2019 she received a Teacher Study Award and completed her Masters in Professional Studies – Education (Hons), focusing on culturally sustaining pedagogies within Visual Arts. She holds critical practitioner and sector knowledge across arts and education.
Dagmar’s maternal lineage hails from the Wolfgramm and Hemaloto kainga from the village of ‘Utungake, Vava’u, Tonga. Her paternal lineage includes Dutch, Polish and German ancestry and links to her father’s birthplace in Gdansk, Poland.
Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi
Filipe Tohi was born in Ngele‘ia, Tongatapu, Tonga, and emigrated to New Zealand in 1978 with the goal of becoming an artist. In the early 1980s he taught at Rangimarie Arts and Crafts in Taranaki and left to become a full time artist in 1990. His practice has two levels. One is based in a traditional Tongan cultural practice of lalava, sennit lashing. Forms of lalava lashings were functional and decorative and used in the construction of houses around the Pacific. Before the arrival of metal, lashings bound a wide variety of items including houses, tools, and canoes. An example of Tohi’s lalava is at the Fale Pasifika at Auckland University.
The second aspect of his practice is more contemporary and includes working in a large variety of media: painting on canvas, carving in wood and stone, and designing abstract sculptural patterns in metal and other media. These patterns are based on lalava and their application in other dimensional forms moves the traditional to a contemporary setting. Tohi regularly participates in stone symposia around the world and his work is held in collections around the world. He is a featured artist in the Tangata O Le Moana permanent exhibition at Te Papa Tongarewa and has held residencies in Japan, Cook Islands, Fiji, England and the USA. Tohi was awarded his Samoan title, Sopolemalama, by Tupua Tamasese Tupuola Tufuga Efi in 2004 for lashing his Fale Maota in Nofuali‘i, Samoa.