Movie: Niwhai Tupaea

Niwhai Tupaea speaks about her arts practice and the objects from the Pacific Collection that she referenced in artwork made for Body Pacifica, a collaboration between the Australian Museum, Casula Powerhouse Arts Center and several contemporary Pacific artists.

© Australian Museum and Niwhai Tupaea
Finton Mahony
Niwhai Tupaea
Other Contributions:
Part of the Body Pacifica exhibition at Casula Powerhouse Arts Center


Kia Ora. My name is Niwhai Tupaea. I am from New Zealand. I am a body adornment artist. I have been residing in Australia for 11 years and directly from Hawke's Bay in New Zealand. My artist works involves in Pacific Oceanic arts, mainly with jewellery.

This piece here is a hei-tiki. I chose this because a lot of my work is integrated. I don't just stick to the traditional way of making things; I incorporate my stuff with other materials from around the Pacific and also by this country here in Australia.
So to me this is such a basic form, when I look at it's a cross culture from another influence, so this is why I chose it. For the simplicity of the - and it was just beautiful.

Here we have a fish hook. The reason why I chose this is because I do a lot of weaving and the weave in the cord here, and I'm just looking at it now, it could be an, I don't know, an eight to 10 plait.

So it goes in line with my work with the weaving techniques and how most of my work is done on quite a massive scale, so this is the reason why I chose this.

I went around to each drawer and kind of like stuck my hand around each piece, so I sort of made myself feel what energy comes out of this and so it kind of called to me, these two pieces. So these are the reasons why I chose these pieces.

I don't see many people making body adornments especially when it comes to stuff what I make. I'm here in the year 2010, you know the influences here I have no choice but to gather influences and to have that involved in my work. So there is - really it is part of living.

Making body adornment is like a dying work because you don't see much - unless I am over on an island somewhere that they - you know you get taught. But I'm not I'm in an urban culture.
To tell you the truth it's my hands that talk, like I collect the pieces, I go out and collect the resources of the materials. I lay them out - I don't actually have an idea where it is going to sit. So my hands actually speak with the objects and I start weaving. It goes into - it's almost like I go into a trance when I weave.

I look at the pieces and I say okay this will obviously be for a chest or for the arms, or for whatever, but I don't necessarily have a direct idea where it's going to fit.

I think when the object is created and finished that's when it speaks to me and that's when it's going to tell me where it is placed.

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Tags finton, intangible, niwhai, tupaea, body, adornment, artefact, new zealand, casula, fish, whale, pendant, hook, coconut, hei, tiki,