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Pacific art of lashing explored in Vitu – Pacific Arts Festival

22 January 2007

The science and art of Polynesian lashing is being explored in Filipe Tohi’s Lalavaometry - Lalavaology exhibition at Our City O-Tautahi, Christchurch, corner of Oxford Terrace and Worcester Boulevard as part of the Vitu – Pacific Arts Festival, starting 23 January.

"I have identified a visual language within the lalava that was not only used by our ancestors for voyaging but has communicated principles of cultural knowledge and history,” says Tongan artist and sculptor Filipe Tohi, who will be demonstrate and discuss his artwork at 10am, tomorrow (23 January) at Our City O-Tautahi.

Inspired by the principles and practice of lalava, Tohi creates contemporary artworks that speak across the cultural boundaries of time and space.

Lalava is the Tongan term for lashing techniques used throughout the Pacific to bind canoes, adzes, fishhooks, houses and accessories. While the lashing patterns serve a practical function they are also decorative and culturally meaningful.

Relating to lalava patterning as a way of remembering a science and life philosophy based on balance, Tohi says: “For me the sennit patterns of the Pacific convey our memories and experiences as well as carry us from place to place."

The Our City O-Tautahi exhibition is part of Vitu – Pacific Arts, which presents examples of Tohi’s work influenced by his knowledge of lalava, and reflecting his ongoing study into the hidden and potential meanings of these patterns and techniques today.

Tohi is one of the few Tongan master practitioners of lalava and is a significant figure in the revival and maintenance of this ancient art form.  Born in Ngeleia, Nukualofa, Tonga, Tohi emigrated to New Zealand in 1978 and settled in the Taranaki area where he developed his artistic skills and became well respected as a tutor and artist throughout the region.

A celebrated artist with an international profile, Tohi is Auckland-based but spends much of his time travelling and working outside New Zealand.

The exhibition also helps mark the 10th anniversary of the University of Canterbury’s Macmillan Brown Creative NZ Artist in Residence programme. Tohi was resident artist in 2001. During his tenure, Tohi frequently visited the anthropology storeroom at Canterbury Museum to explore the detail of many 19th and 20th century cultural treasures from the Pacific.

Some of these historic pieces will also be displayed at Our City O-Tautahi - assembled at the artist’s request. These pieces intend to provide insight into the inspiration and resonance that these older works possess.

Vitu - Pacific Arts is the only festival in the South Island that gives Christchurch citizens and visitors a taste of the Pacific through traditional and contemporary art forms. It has a commitment to fostering local artistic talent by supporting established and emerging artists and performers. The festival reflects the pride, commitment, and energy of the Pacific community and contributes to building a sense of place. 

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