In tagatanuʻu, I create an alofisā [ceremonial circle] dedicated to Sāmoan ancestors that is founded on vā [spatial, multidirectional relationships] with all kin. I use sand from Al Hamriyah in local recognition of the Great Ocean. During the Sharjah Biennial 14 opening week, the performance introduces the tala [history] of the eel Tuna, who becomes the young coconut tree in order to provide for his human lover Sina. The artist beckons ancestral time to question the exoticisation of history and the commodification of bodies, plants and medicines. Bodies have been exploited; hidden by shaming, spiritualities and sexualities; and extracted as labour for purposes of agriculture, tourism, the military and nuclear testing. In speaking these lines in ganana Sāmoa, ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, Tałtan, Woi Wurrung, Secwépemc, French and English, I seek to assert multilingual futures beyond a Western consumptive gaze.
During the performance, walls surrounding the alofisā are marked in two lines of lega [turmeric], uliuli [charcoal] and sina [ochre]. Wrapped in emergency blankets, I explore social taboo and embodied shame, while offering a recitation as I handles saline seawater, electrolyte-rich coconut water, thick coconut milk and ceremonial turmeric water. These flowing waters of life conjure political, corporeal and militaristic references in coded and non-English language to reframe decolonial efforts through consideration of ecological balance and the genealogical reconnection of humanity through the eel-coconut tree ancestor Tuna and the maker ancestor Sina, who is connected by measina [fine weaving, literary works and the colour white] to ceremonial Sāmoan practice.
This work has been developed with Rosanna Raymond, Paradise Cove collective, Ricky Tagaban, Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada, Peter Morin, Tania Willard, Sone Lunaʻi Eshrāghi, Yara El-Ghabdan, Louis-Karl Sioui-Picard, Angela Tiatia, Tyson Campbell, Julia Packard, Doug Jarvis, France Trépanier, Lee Sum Yi, Qu Chang and Zoe Butt. Performance with installation: sand, coconuts, coconut water, coconut milk, turmeric-infused water, charcoal, ochre, macadamia nuts, mylar emergency blankets, coconut scraping stool, metal bowls, books, digital images as slide presentation, cushions, rugs, plants, dimensions variable. Installation view: Sharjah Biennial 14: ‘Leaving the Echo Chamber’. Partially commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation.
IMAGES courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation, Zoe Butt and Laura Metzler
4-19 October 2019, Watch This Space Artist Run Initiative, Mparntwe/Alice Springs, Australia
Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber, platform exhibition Journey Beyond the Arrow curated by Zoe Butt
7 March-10 June 2019, Al Hamriyah Studios, Sharjah Art Foundation, United Arab Emirates
Deconstructing Comfort, curated by Michelle Jacques, Doug Jarvis and France Trépanier
8 September–14 October 2017, Open Space, Victoria, Canada