'Asi - The presence of the Unseen

Faumuina, Cecelia Pepe
Ings, Welby
Wilson, Jani
Refiti, Albert L.
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

In 1993, Wolfgramm referred to the climax in faiva as ‘asi (the presence of the unseen). This spirit of artistic expression is an agent sometimes identified when Oceanic people work together to bring artistic works to their apotheosis.

Building on the idea of the unseen spirit that energises and gives agency to artistic work, this thesis asks, “What occurs when young Oceanic people work together creatively in a group, drawing on values from their cultural heritage to create meaningful faiva?” In posing this question, the study seeks to understand how, within this process, ‘asi might bring forward a powerful spirit of belonging that resources artistic practice. As such, it proposes that the ‘asi identifiable at the peak of a performance, may be also discernible before and after such an event, and resource the energy of artistic practice as a whole.

As an artistic inquiry the research considers two bodies of work.

The first is a co-created project called Lila. This was developed by a team of research participants2 who combined talents and experiences to produce a contemporary faiva for presentation in 2019. This case study is used in conjunction with interviews from contemporary Oceanic youth leaders who reflect on the nature and agency of ‘asi as a phenomenon that resources artistic practice.

The second body of work is the development and performance of the researcher’s experience and synthesis of thinking in a contemporary faiva called FAIVA | FAI VĀ. This is presented as part of the examination of this thesis. Emanating from the perspective of a teacher who has worked with students for over 20 years, the piece employs spoken word poetry, sound, drawing, video design and performance. These elements interweave autobiographical reflection and poetic portraits to reflect on the nature and agency of ‘asi.

The significance of the research lies in its contribution to a distinctive understanding of ‘asi, such that we might identify and consider its potential agency for resourcing creativity and belonging inside the development and performance of contemporary faiva among Oceanic youth.

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