The Queensland Art Gallery commissioned a significant 22 metre long Tongan ngatu tā’uli (black barkcloth) as one of several major new collection acquisitions to mark the 5th anniversary of the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMa).
Last week Friday, the Kulupu Falehanga ‘i Teleiloa – a New Zealand Tonga art based group, presented the ngatu tā’uli at the Mangere Arts Centre in South Auckland, to representatives of the Queensland Art Gallery, which included the Gallery’s Director Tony Ellwood and the Queensland Government’s Minister for The Arts, Rachel Nolan MP.
The commission acknowledges the importance of ngatu ta’uli as a creative process and an artwork of great significance.
The spectacular bark cloth has been created by the Kulupu Falehanga ‘i Teleiloa, in collaboration with a women’s art group from Tatakamotonga, Tonga.
There are two main types of Tongan ngatu – ngatu tahini (white-marked barkcloth) and ngatu tā’uli (black-marked barkcloth). Ngatu tā’uli are regarded as ‘female’.
The ngatu tā’uli are considered more chiefly and therefore reserved for the use of Tongan royalty and aristocracy, especially for funeral rites.
The completion of the Queensland Art Gallery ngatu tā’uli coincided with the death of the father-in-law of one of the group‟s members, the late Tēvita Tofavaha Tuai.
He passed away on 3 June 2011 and was distantly related to the aristocracy of the now uninhabited island of ‘Ata, Tonga. The ngatu tā’uli was used in Tēvita’s funeral ceremony as one of five ngatu folded to create a toka’anga (platform) on which the casket was placed. The casket lay on the ngatu platform for two days and two nights.
Completed in around three months, the ngatu tā’uli was made using a combination of both old and new materials and techniques.
There are four main kupesi (designs) featured in the work. They include fakafo’ihea (hea fruits), amoamokofe (caressing bamboo), muimoa (chicken tail) and vakatou (double-hulled canoe). The designs are abstractions of the male and female reproductive organs, the bamboo healing device, the chicken tail and double-hulled canoe, respectively.
The ngatu tā’uli will command the centre of the Threads: Contemporary Textiles & the Social Fabric exhibition space which starts next month at GoMa in Brisbane (Australia) . The exhibition will feature more than 30 other examples of contemporary textiles ranging from batiks, bags and bark-cloths to quilts and garments.
Malo ‘aupito and Vinaka vaka levu to Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai for information about the commission of the ngatu tā’uli, Sangeeta Singh for the photographs and Luisa Tora for being Pinky.
More photographs from handing over by Sangeeta Singh on Flickr
Urban Viti blog post: Falehanga ‘i Teleiloa presesnts a Ngatu tā’uli to the Queensland Art Gallery
Threads: Contemporary Textiles & the Social Fabric exhibition at GoMa, 1 October 2011 – 5 February 2012.