Moana Cosmopolitan Imaginaries: Toward an Emerging Theory of Moana Art
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This thesis uses a theoretical approach to examine the way a digital native generation of Moana artists with connections to Aotearoa, and part of global worlds today, imagine their subjectivities, their cultures and their places in the world through contemporary art. Using the methodology of su'ifefiloi, which allows for the combination of many parts, this research works toward the emerging theory of Moana Cosmopolitan Imaginaries to consider today’s global condition of overwhelming interconnectivity as experienced by Moana people. Moana Cosmopolitan Imaginaries offers an analytical framework to understand how these lived realities have impacted art made between 2012 and 2020 by a generation of Moana artists, between the last significant exhibition of contemporary Moana art in Aotearoa— Home AKL (Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2012)—and the Covid-19 Pandemic, which has shifted today’s global condition in ways we are yet to fully understand. In this thesis, I argue that a digital native generation of Moana artists have positioned themselves away from the narratives of displacement and nonbelonging featured in the Moana art of previous generations, imagining their subjectivity in globally routed, yet locally rooted, ways. Diasporic subjectivities are those which require constant reproduction and rearticulation. Most recently diasporic subjectivities can be understood through the acceptance of the cosmopolitan character of Moana life today, or Moana Cosmopolitanism, which empowers a complex sense of place. Thus, these artists engage in another kind of work, which employs radical imagination to imagine other ways of being and making concerned with the decolonial, deep time, Vā Moana, mau and su'ifefiloi as part of Moana Cosmopolitan Imaginaries. By closely analysing this period of art making, common concerns and artistic strategies are revealed. Pairing these commonalities with a cosmopolitan character of Moana life allows this research to work toward an emerging theory of Moana art, which centres the work and experiences of Moana artists.