My Samoan accent: An investigation discussing issues that emanate out of my identity as a New Zealand born Samoan artist
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This exegesis investigates my identity as a contemporary New Zealand-born Samoan artist. It is my intention to discuss studio practice, and associated issues. Using an autobiographical approach, I will discuss my works of art from 1995 until the present, this account dates from my first solo exhibition to the current MA (Art and Design) submissions. These projects lie within a context which encompasses issues relevant to my identity as a contemporary New Zealand-born Samoan artist. I will also discuss other artists who have a parallel cultural heritage. I have experienced both my cultures from a unique perspective. I have inhabited fa’a Samoa (Samoan way of life) through my family and cultural experiences. My Samoan side was developed in the secure surroundings of my family home and wider community. My New Zealand side has been learnt and understood in a public sphere, where English is the dominant language and culture. As my art practice has developed in the public sphere, so my sharing of fa’a Samoa and Samoan language have also increased publicly. Many children born in New Zealand, to Pacific Island-born parents, are caught between two cultures. They find themselves in a position which forces them to negotiate between two diverse identities. These identities are frequently defined by the private and public spheres: an obvious example is language use, they speak or are spoken to in Samoan at home then employ English in school or at work. It is not my intention to explore every issue that relates to being a New Zealand-born Samoan, but I do intend to discuss influential issues such as fa’a Samoa, language and identity. Chapter One outlines circumstances surrounding migration to New Zealand. I will discuss my parents’ experience as their story is similar to many other Tagata Pasifika (People of the Pacific)i and provide an explanation on why they migrated to New Zealand. This discussion will form a relevant background to iconography choices in studio practice. Chapter Two investigates fa’a Samoa, and its’ often ambiguous relationship between Island-born parents and their descendants in New Zealand. I intend to use examples to both support and critique the continued use of fa’a Samoa in a Western dominated society. Chapter Three will explore how the Samoan language can be used to support New Zealand-born Samoans in solidifying their identity, and subsequently how it is used to keep fa’a Samoa alive in New Zealand. The notion of the gaps experienced in language becomes important to the composition and grid like systems used in these paintings. Chapter Four will give an overview of my studio practice. I will examine issues that emanate out of my identity and discuss the decisions I made when creating the practical aspect of this exegesis. Chapter Five will discuss contemporary artists who often negotiate their Samoan heritage through their art. This heritage, based in New Zealand, differs from that found in Samoa, instead there is a combination of both. I seek to raise issues from a position of authority in relation to the exotic popular myth of Samoa (the Orient) and a consequent ‘tug of war’ between cultures which my practice seeks to discuss. The methodology is deliberately one of auto narrative. While Chapters One, Two and Three rely on historical and social commentary, they form important backgrounds to the narrative structure in the studio project and choices in iconography and style. As with traditional Samoan protocol, I invite you to listen to my tala’aga (history) before detailing the influences in my studio practice.