My art practice has been a journey of reflection and investigation into Tongan traditional arts by working with natural materials used regularly in daily life. “Existing” aims to celebrate and honor my cultural heritage. It is inspired by the traditional Tongan craft techniques, skill, and knowledge that I was raised with. Using materials such as coconuts and flax which are abundant in Tonga, I have engraved and woven patterns derived from common motifs drawn to tapa cloths and tattoos in the Pacific cultures such as Manulua, Mata’u, spearhead patterns, Raranga, Shark teeth and the Ocean and the sea life.
As the work has developed its own language, it questions the extent to which we can alter or add to traditional processes before they lose their cultural significance. While it is admirable for contemporary Pacific artists to acknowledge the past in their artwork, I wonder if it is too easy for them to lose their sense of originality to cultural identity in the process? For instance, if I continue to make tapa cloths based on history and legacy, how can I incorporate my own creativity into this work, no matter how drastic the changes may be, in a way can that still be culturally acceptable as Pacifika tradition? This art practice questions how far we can alter or add to a traditional process before it is considered taboo. By using my platform, I wish to share this question with the rest of the world.