The former Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Taisi Efi, kicked off the Pacific Arts Association Conference at the National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) with a sharp reminder about why art is important.
In delivering his keynote address, he reminded that art is about “making the invisible visible,” which was fitting of the theme for the five-day conference.
The man widely considered as the Patron of Arts in Samoa, he focused on people and values, offering his own interpretations of the 2017 conference motto.
“First, arts can help us to say, without actually saying it, the unsayable,” he said.
“To say out loud something pointed about those too-hard-to-talk about topics (such as abuse and corruption). These topics often get put to the side for fear of offending or traumatizing ourselves or others. These topics make us uncomfortable.
“Sometimes we simply don’t know or have never been taught to know how to talk about them peacefully so we give up.
“Art gives us an easy out. Art, especially good art, allows us space to ‘talk without talking’ about hard to talk about things. It gives us time to reflect on both meaning and our humanity.
“It gives us an open invitation to find out our own meaning, indeed to find multiple meanings, in what we see. Here is both critical conscience and therapy.”
His Highness Tui Atua emphasized the importance of nurturing artistic talent in our people and mature leadership was required where there was balance between human desires for advancement and peaceful community belonging.
“Art makes visible, at least in a felt way, the divinity and sublime mystery of creation. Talent is God-given. The origins of talent, the kind that takes our breath away, the kind that leaves us mesmerized and in awe, is beyond full explanation.
“In order for such talent to fully shine, however, it must be nurtured, it must be allowed to breathe and grow, to be respected and cherished and as well as challenged and critique.”
In attendance were many young Pacific academics and artists from abroad who had been looking forward to hearing his Highness Tui Atua speak.
Mitiana Arbon of Australia National University was one of them.
“As an academic I loved his writings, he has such a beautiful way of molding academic writing with the poetry of Samoan oratory,” Mr. Arbon said.
“It just flows and his ideas seem quite seamless. He himself makes the invisible visible.
“He wrote a really beautiful collection of essays called ‘in search of Fragrance’ and it’s all about identity and how it’s like a fragrance, one can see things but it’s another thing to internalize it as a fragrance.”
Visual art student of N.U.S. Carolynn Krieg told the Samoa Observer that she was looking forward to the workshops by artists and hearing from academics that they had only heard about in class.
“For me, the art programme here has expanded my knowledge in visual arts,” said Ms. Krieg.
“This is my first time and I’m looking forward to a lot of artists talking about their art and it’s important for me to know their point of views in order to expand on my knowledge especially when it comes to teaching. To me everything is art, without art, the world would be black and white – there would be nothing.”
His Highness Tui Atua dedicated his paper to two of his favourite indigenous souls – the late Seiuli Tuilagi Allan Alo Alapati Vaai and the late Father Paul Ojibway.
Yesterday was focused on the art of performance with various papers presented as well as a workshop co-ordinated by Eterei Salele.
Performance day concluded with a theatre performance “AloFA tu” at the N.U.S. Fale and is written/directed by local performing artist Fiona Collins.
Read His Highness Tui Atua’s paper in full on the Sunday Samoan.