Passions - Paintings & Prints by Vanya Taule’alo

08 February 2016, 12:00AM

Todays article was to have been entirely different as this week I was lucky to have attended the Le Moana Dance Company performance of 1918 at the National University of Samoa, and I had also had the pleasure to be able to interview the company Director Tupe Lualua.

Unfortunately today as I was transcribing the interview I got distracted by my small kitten Spice, who jumped on my laptop and to protect the keyboard and my phone I pressed the wrong button and deleted my hour long conversation. I hope to have an additional article on the Le Moana Dance Company during the week. Sorry Tupe! 

In place of this I will present an exhibition essay I worked on yesterday about my own works that now grace the walls of The Vanya Taule’alo Gallery at Taumeasina, with an exhibition “Passions – Paintings and Prints.” As an Observer Arts columnist I don’t often talk about my own work although I do feature artists exhibiting in the gallery.

So this week is an exception and a bit of a personal expose. “Passions – Paintings and Prints” offers the visitor to the gallery an insight to my artistic and personal passions that have driven my art for the last 22 years. 

My passions as an artist can be simply summed up as – Samoa and the Environment. More broadly Samoan legends, ceremonies and rituals, covenants and the environment fascinate me. These concepts are intrinsically interwoven with the Samoan sense of belonging and identity that we carry around with us to every corner of the globe.

Over the last 40 years I have researched and observed changes in Samoan society and I am as much driven by the elements that seek to slowly erode our guiding principles, and that impact on our fragile and small island environment, with the inevitable catastrophic impact that Climate Change has on our land.

Climate change has health and food security concerns we are that we are feeling already as our food supplies dwindle because of drought and the warming of the ocean.

Over the period of twenty one years I embarked on research and artworks that examined Samoan Tattooing through “Eternal Symbols”, (MVA exhibition), Aiga, 1998, Va Tapuia (Samoan Covenants) 2001, Samoan lineage and gafa in “Feataiai I Gafa, Aiga, (PhD exhibition) 2006; The Togo Series based on Climate Change, 20011 and ongoing, “Nua Nua arc en cie” (a tribute to the Tsunami and earthquake of 2009) 2011 and the legend “Nafanua” 2013. 

I beckon the viewer to reflect on Samoan society at a deeper more spiritual level and to appreciate how culture, history, traditions and change are shaping our relationship with the world in which we live. All societies are shaped by their legends; the history and moral values of each community being imbedded in this ancient folklore. 

All societies are shaped through the uniqueness of their environment and their spiritual and physical relationship with their environment. In Samoa we have a unique situation where the bones of our ancestors are beside us buried in the ground we have trodden over for hundreds if years.

It is our birthright and we all know where our land is, who is custodian of it and where we belong. Yet when these lands are lost to earthquakes, flooding, tsunamis and our families are overcome with mountainous waves and lost forever - we are lost. Not only do we have to overcome our personal grief but we also have to move from the land in which we grew up and restart inland and re-establish our lives; away from the bones of our ancestors. 

Here is a brief summary of series on display at the Vanya Taule’alo Gallery opening this week. The gallery is open 6 days a week 9-3 pm. Phone 20011 & 7772993.  



Fetaia’i i Gafa we shall meet in our children, is about the relationships and connections that exist between my family on our Celtic side and my husbands and Samoan lineage. I examine threads that connect me over the centuries to my ancestors and link me to the future through my children and grandchildren and their descendants. Through my kinship ties, I develop my identity through knowing not only who I am but also where I come from and where I have ended up. For my three sons their mixed heritage is apparent through image, photographs, letters objects and a wide range of memorabilia.  



This body of work Togo Samoa is based on the Saanapu Mangrove Forest. The rapid destruction and degradation of the mangrove forests and estuaries should be of major concern to the Samoan people. The effects of climate change, sea level rise, erosion, salinity changes and sand mining continue to destroy the mangroves. Humans dump rubbish; reclaim land by filling in the swamps; hotels and developments destroy mangroves; factories pollute the mangroves with chemical pollutants; destroying the habitats. These impacts have serious and irreparable on our small island coastal communities and also on the marine breeding grounds and species that live in these areas. 



Arc en Ciel

In this exhibition Nua Nua – Arc en Ciel I recall the day the Tsunami and earth quake hot Samoa on 29/09/2009. It was a tough series of works to create, as people do not want to see images of death and destruction. I used the white rainbow of hope as a link in all the works to show that through pain, loss death and environmental devastation life does go on, there is hope, people are resilient, new births help make up for losses in families and that with unity of purpose people can re-build their lives. 


SERIES – NAFANUA - This series is created as visual narrative based on the Samoan legend of Nafanua the Goddess of War. This image depicts Nafanua’s origins, her parents, and the battle to win back the west of Savaii from the oppressive warriors of the south. I have long been fascinated by myths and legends and what they tell us about the social customs, behaviour and social and political organisation of Samoa. Through these oral stories carried down through the generations we learn about gender roles, rank and service, marriage alliances, chiefly hierarchy, power and politics. The legend of Nafanua abounds with many rich deeds and events and makes for fascinating interpretation.

08 February 2016, 12:00AM

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