May 10, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Exploring Indigenous Tradition and New Media via the Artist’s Canvas

2 min read

Cerisse Palalagi explores the ties between contemporary art, traditional customs and new communication technologies at City Gallery Wellington.

Pacific Island cultures have a long tradition of using bark cloth painting as a way of telling stories and recording events in a visual way that can be understood across time and language. Auckland artist Cerisse Palalagi argues that in today’s urban environment, texting, tagging and digital media have taken on this role. She explores these ideas in her new exhibition at.

Motunei, which runs from 19 June to 12 September in the Deane Gallery, showcases new works inspired by the resurgence in interest in Niuean hiapo (bark cloth painting), and has been developed in response to John Pule’s exhibition John Pule: Hauaga (Arrivals) also showing at City Gallery.

Palalagi explores the idea that in the age of fibre-optic telecommunications, cell phones and social networking websites, ‘text’ language is now a valid form of code, which she says “is increasingly becoming the choice of a new generation”. Utilising the traditional grid system of Niuean hiapo Palalagi investigates how young Pacific people use this language to communicate with their friends and family, both in New Zealand and across the world.

While hiapo traditions remain at the core of these works, Palalagi says “I feel comfortable with putting my own sway on things, changing them around, bringing them into the contemporary world. Like printing an image of a ‘b-boy’ taniwha for instance.”

Cerisse Palalagi is of Niuean and Maori (Te Arawa) descent. She was born in 1978 and lives in Auckland. She works predominantly in the mediums of printing, painting and drawing and more recently photography. Palalagi graduated from Auckland University’s Elam School of Fine Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2000, and is currently studying towards a Masters of Visual Arts and Design at Auckland University of Technology.

Palalagi is an active member of Toi Whakataa Press, the Maori Print Collective and exhibits regularly in Aotearoa New Zealand and abroad. Recent exhibitions include Native Coconut (2010), Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland, Taa Moemoea (2009), Solander Gallery, Wellington, Strengthening Sennit (2008), St Paul St Gallery, Auckland, Red Thread (2008), Okaioceanikart Gallery, Auckland, Ranea (2008), Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland, Pocahontas meets Hello Kitty (2007), Richard F Brush Art Gallery, St Lawrence University, New York, and Squeak Toy Animals (2006), Wisconsin, USA.

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