City Gallery

Past exhibition

Cerisse Palalagi: Motunei

18 June–12 September 2010

Niuean hiapo (bark cloth) painting shares some stylistic features with other forms of tapa from the Pacific, but it’s also distinctive for its diverse motifs, irregular patterns, and use of freehand painting. Hiapo painting provides the cultural foundation for Auckland painter Cerisse Palalagi, as it did for John Pule before her. Palalagi merges hiapo with a wide array of processes, including silkscreening, embroidery, and photography. She explains, ‘The patterns I use are a reflection of my identity. I like the juxtaposition of cultural symbols and people combined in my portraits. They are usually of people in my family, including myself. This is my way of reviving the culture, and showing people that our culture and language is not dead.’ Motunai, a Niuean word referring to ‘people of the land’, can also be translated as motu nei, meaning ‘this land’ in Māori. However, Palalagi’s show is more than just a nod to her Niuean/Māori heritage. It also acknowledges the fact that, in our digital age, Pacific communities now look beyond their home shores, to seek a sense of belonging within a global community.