The potential of Vā: an investigation of how ‘Ie Tōga activate the spatial relationships of the Vā, for a Samoan diaspora community

Simati, Benita Kumar
Engels-Schwarzpaul, Tina
L. Refiti, Albert
Palmer, Fleur
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Master of Art and Design
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Auckland University of Technology

The Vā is our past, present, and future. As much as we might want to define the Vā – it certainly defines us. It does not appear as a physical form. It is never vacant. The Vā connects us all through our relationships as a space that always already exists, whether we think about it or not, and even when we feel disconnected. It appears most strongly when we meet and practice Samoan ceremonial exchange.

The Samoan dictionary defines Vā as “separated, be divided, estranged – on bad terms, space, distance between, and relationship” (Milner, 2003). For my thesis, Vā is a relational space whose potential for the creation of spaces of display I will test. My project seeks to discover ways of creating communities, which nurture fa’asamoa (Samoan ways) in the diaspora. The Vā has the potential to create spaces of display – not necessarily lasting buildings: in Samoan culture, and Oceanic culture more generally, “space is indissolubly linked to time” (Tcherkézoff, 2008, p. 136). It is in these contexts that the project seeks to discover ways of creating communities, nurturing fa’asamoa, Samoan ways, in the diaspora.

The project examines the associations and ancestral connections of ‘Ie Tōga (Samoan fine mats) within their communities. It explores the relationships created through the exchange of historical ‘Ie Tōga, making visible their place in the Vā and how they activate it by presenting to us our past, present, and future. The design proposal is the creation of a space of display arising from the processes of Lalaga (weaving) and Lalava (according to Albert Reftiti in personal communication (2010), “stirring the Vā” is a literal translation of, Lala-Vā, lashing). In this case, the combination lead to a stirring and re-connecting of the relationships within diasporic space. The thesis will test the potential of Vā through various methods of experimentation, such as archival research, participation, documentation of images and mapping.

, ‘Ie Tōga
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