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Pacific Arts is the journal of the Pacific Arts Association, an international organization devoted to the study of the arts of Oceania (Aboriginal Australia and the Pacific Islands). The journal was established in 1990 and is currently issued as an annual volume in a new series that began in 2006. In 2020, the journal moved to eScholarship, the open access scholarly publishing program of the University of California/California Digital Library.

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Front Matter

Pacific Arts N.S. Vol. 22 No. 2 (2022)

Grounded in Place: Dialogues between First Nations Artists from Australia, Taiwan, and Aotearoa


Grounded in Place: Dialogues between First Nations Artists from Australia, Taiwan, and Aotearoa

This paper introduces “Grounded in Place: Dialogues between First Nations Artists from Australia, Taiwan and, Aotearoa,” a special issue of Pacific Arts. It provides background information about the October 2021 online symposium of the same name, which brought together nineteen First Nations artists, filmmakers, and curators, along with non-Indigenous scholars and museum professionals, from Australia, Taiwan, Aotearoa New Zealand, and the Philippines. The symposium explored the relationships that First Nations creative practitioners in the Indo-Pacific region have to the land and sea. Each symposium speaker discussed their creative practice in relation to their panel’s theme: history and sovereignty, land and community, site and materials, or place and space.

The journal issue comprises written and visual essays, an interview, poetry, and reflective pieces from symposium participants. The contributions are based on the participants’ presentations and have been expanded. While acknowledging the different political, social, and environmental contexts of each contributor, as well as their highly distinctive perspectives and creative approaches, some common themes have emerged in this volume, which the guest editors outline in this introduction. These centre on First Nations Peoples’ complex relationships with land and water as sites of appropriation and struggles for sovereignty, as sources of learning and creative production, and as places of ancestral being and continuous belonging, community, and culture. The introduction provides a brief overview of each contributor’s essay, as well as background on the collaboration between the institutions that convened the symposium: Queensland University of Technology, Taiwan’s National Museum of Prehistory, and Aotearoa’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery | Len Lye Centre. It also fleshes out some of the similarities between the countries’ histories, particularly the ongoing effects of colonisation upon their respective First Nations Peoples.

Introduction to “History and Sovereignty”

This essay introduces the second section of “Grounded in Place: Dialogues between First Nations Artists from Australia, Taiwan and, Aotearoa,” a special issue of Pacific Arts. “History and Sovereignty” includes papers by First Nations artists Vernon Ah Kee (Australia), Chang En-Man (Taiwan), and the Kaihaukai Collective (Aotearoa/New Zealand).

nothing important happened today: An Interview with Vernon Ah Kee

This is an edited transcript of an interview with Vernon Ah Kee conducted by Sophie McIntyre in which the artist discusses his 2021 exhibition nothing important happened today, held at the Spring Hill Reservoir in Brisbane, Australia. The discussion explores the history of the site, to which several of Ah Kee’s works in the exhibition responded, and broader national and global issues relating to colonisation and sovereignty. The conversation also touches on ongoing themes within Ah Kee’s practice, such as race relations and the politics of denial in Australian society.

Ah Kee details the methodologies used to create his artworks—which range from videos to large-scale drawings to installations—with McIntyre observing in them the relationship between beauty and violence. Ah Kee ruminates on the role of art in society, particularly in Australia, where there remains a significant divide between the experiences of First Nations and non-Indigenous peoples, and our perspectives on history and sovereignty, which were major themes explored in the “Grounded in Place” symposium panel of which Ah Kee was a part.

Snail Paradise Trilogy: A Series by Chang En-man

In 1933, a Japanese colonial official introduced the giant African snail (Achatina fulica), originally from East Africa, to Taiwan from Singapore to be raised for food. Since 2009, I have given presentations on this snail, including projects involving recipes, embroidery, maps, interviews, collaborations, and multimedia work. My inspiration comes from my Paiwan (an Indigenous group in Taiwan) mother, who would always gather snails after the rain, cook them, and give them to my siblings and me to eat. Snails were the starting point for my research into my maternal bloodline, which is part of the Taiwanese Indigenous bloodline. From there, I considered how the path of the snail’s dispersal is comparable to the route of imperial expansion in the Pacific, and looked at Taiwan’s history and its relationship to the world. This paper considers my evolving project centered around the giant African snail and offers my thoughts on how traditional Indigenous Taiwanese cooking and sewing practices may be reinterpreted as a strategy for resisting colonisation.

Mana i te Whenua: Relationships with Place and Sovereignty

Kaihaukai is a term that describes the sharing and exchanging of traditional foods, an important customary practice for Māori. The Kaihaukai Art Collective centres on the mahika kai (food gathering/processing) of the Ngāi Tahu (Indigenous peoples of Southern New Zealand), which relates to working with traditional foods in their place of origin and includes preparation, gathering, eating, and sharing. Mahika kai assists in the transfer of knowledge and continuation of cultural practices, some of which are at risk of being lost.

This paper discusses Kaihauka Art Collective’s contribution to the Tamatea: He Tūtakinga Tuku Iho/Legacies of Encounter exhibition, shown at Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand from November 2019 to July 2020. The exhibition centred around the acquisition of a painting by William Hodges, which depicts a hulled Māori canoe beside a waterfall in Tamatea (Dusky Sound). The painting was shown with works by renowned New Zealand artists that responded to it.

Kaihaukai Art Collective’s response to the exhibition culminated in an installation that included a feast that took place within the gallery. The feast was a narrative that participants consumed in four parts—Ko Te Tai Ao, Ahi Kaa, Disturbed Earth, and Vermin. Through doing this, they became complicit in the resulting legacy of their own encounter with Tamatea. The meal’s remaining detritus—the shells, bones, and other waste—was collected in the form of a midden, a tangible reminder of impact and disruption. This discussion of the installation is contextualised by an exploration of the Māori term mana whenua (relationship to place) and its relationship to mana i te whenua (authority from land).

Introduction to “Land and Community”

This essay introduces the second section of “Grounded in Place: Dialogues between First Nations Artists from Australia, Taiwan and, Aotearoa,” a special issue of Pacific Arts. “Land and Community” includes papers written by First Nations artists Judy Watson (Australia), Akac Orat (Taiwan), and Areta Wilkinson (Aotearoa New Zealand). These artists discuss their recent works that investigate the land and water as sources of learning, places of ancestral affiliation, parts of their community and ethnic identity, sites of contestation, and places through which to assert sovereignty in the face of the lasting effects of coloni s ation.

Across Country: Waterlines

This visual essay is an edited transcript of a presentation delivered by Judy Watson given in the 2021 symposium “Grounded in Place: Dialogues Between First Nations Artists from Australia, Taiwan, and Aotearoa.” The artist speaks of her Waanyi Country, near Boodjamulla National Park (Lawn Hill Gorge) in north-west Queensland, Australia, and discusses a number of her artworks that reflect her ongoing investigation into water, massacres, and connections to Country.

Traditional Amis Architecture and Its Environment in a Contemporary Context

This essay discusses issues the author encountered while constructing a house in 2020 using traditional methods of the Amis, one of the officially recognised Indigenous groups in Taiwan. The author dealt with many obstacles including legal, environmental, and resource issues. These problems point to the historically disadvantaged status of Indigenous Taiwanese people in terms of land rights. With the help of others in his village, the author completed the construction of the house, an achievement that highlights the challenges faced by Indigenous Taiwanese people wishing to implement traditional building practices and lifestyle in the contemporary context.

Preparations for Landing—Paemanu: Tauraka Toi

Since 2018, a kin group of Kāi Tahu contemporary artists called Paemanu has worked collaboratively with the Dunedin Public Art Gallery (DPAG)—established in 1884 and home of the oldest art collection in Aotearoa New Zealand—to see Māori values and concepts introduced into and intersect at the art institution. The group’s goals have been realised through the collaborative permanent collection exhibition Hurahia ana kā Whetū: Unveiling the Stars at DPAG (June 2021– April 2023 ); the enhanced role of the DPAG curatorial intern; the exhibition He reka te Kūmara (November 2021–March 2022) by emerging Māori curators; the establishment of the Paemanu Art Collection; and Paemanu’s self-determined exhibition at DPAG, Paemanu: Tauraka Toi—A Landing Place (December 2021–April 2022). This article discusses and celebrates the ways Kāi Tahu Māori contemporary visual culture has been elevated throughout DPAG for the first time in the institution’s history. It describes the tino rangatiratanga (self-determination) by Kāi Tahu Māori artists to change up the gallery experience at DPAG so that Mana Whenua (the people of the land) are finally visible and are sensed throughout.

Introduction to “Site and Materials”

This essay introduces the “Site and Materials” section of “Grounded in Place: Dialogues between First Nations Artists from Australia, Taiwan, and Aotearoa,” a special issue of Pacific Arts. Employing a range of media, from bull kelp to industrial steel wool and rami fibre, artists Mandy Quadrio (Australia) and Yuma Taru (Taiwan) discuss their respective artistic practices in relation to the loss and recovery of ancestral and creative connections with Country and community. Their essays reflect upon the past and the impact of colonisation on Indigenous communities and cultural traditions. They also demonstrate the increasingly important role artists play in raising awareness about the survival of Indigenous peoples and cultural practices, and the value of the environment for future generations.

Ground into Place

As a Trawlwoolway artist from Trouwunna, also known as Tasmania, I seek to challenge Western constructs of Australian colonial histories. I work to liberate Palawa cultural objects from their hidden status, often combining them with Western manufactured materials. I make art in response to legacies of colonial oppression and towards a full acknowledgement of Palawa presence.

Tasmanian bull kelp and industrially produced steel wool are signature materials in my practice. Bull kelp becomes an expression of Palawa presence, while steel wool denotes erasures and the attempted colonialist “scrubbing out” of Palawa identity. Both materials transform over time, referencing how, as Palawa people, we are adaptable and able to incorporate change as a part of our strong cultural continuum.

When installing my works in galleries and museum spaces, these sites often become my secondary studio. I use my signature materials in these spaces to literally and metaphorically disrupt colonial and institutional architecture. Such disruptions leave room for personal narratives to be formed. Some installation strategies that I employ include denying viewers access to my work and creating voids and dark spaces. These actions are utilised in the hope that they might ultimately inspire social and political change.

The Future of our Roots and the Land: The Re-vival of the Atayal Weaving Material Ramie

This study focuses on ramie, a nettle plant known for its length and toughness used in traditional weaving by the Atayal, an Indigenous people in Taiwan. It discusses the Lihang Workshop’s revival of traditional weaving practices over the last thirty years and the application of these practices in art and culture. It also looks at historical writings about ramie, its role in the development of contemporary culture, and the use of the entire plant in adhering to the concepts of zero waste and a circular economy in Atayal culture.

Introduction to “Place and Space”

This essay introduces a section of “Grounded in Place: Dialogues between First Nations Artists from Australia, Taiwan, and Aotearoa,” a special issue of Pacific Arts. “Place and Space” includes texts and images by artists Leah King-Smith (Australia), Anchi Lin (Ciwas Tahos, 林安琪) (Taiwan) and Ngahuia Harrison (Aotearoa New Zealand). The contributions of these three practitioners—all involved in lens-based and digital media—speak to loss of sovereignty and ways forward through contemporary art. Their reflections on recent projects prove their practices to be forms of claiming personal and culturally political territory in the face of centuries of exclusion and prejudice in colonial contexts.

Evocations: A Visual Song/Poem for Canaipa

Evocations is a video work made from photographs taken at the conservation-zoned Turtle Swamp Wetlands on Canaipa (Russell Island) in southern Moreton Bay, Quandamooka Country, Queensland, Australia. The accompanying poem is a written response to the images, and evokes their sense of movement and energy.

Seeking Gender Identity in the Contexts of Atayal: An Art Project

This paper examines and seeks to challenge fixed ideas relating to identity, gender, and belonging, which I explore in my art practice. Focusing on a central work, Perhaps She Comes From/To __ Alang, I explore ways that virtual reality—in a video and a website—can be employed to define and engage with my Indigenous and queer identity. This work uses digital video, performance, and cyberspace to reconstruct a sense of place and space that disengages from the traditional gender(ed) norms of what it means to be Atayal. My disconnected urban context prompts me to question what counts as an authentic pathway to reconnect with gaga (Atayal customs and traditional values). The journey of returning to a preconstructed identity needs to be redefined and discussed to embrace a queer sense of belonging. This paper engages with these notions by discussing cyberspace, live performance, and video installation as alternative spaces in which to thread indigeneity, the marginalised body, and queer visibility, and to reclaim screen sovereignty. Three different narratives that feature in my multimedia work—the story of Temahahoi, the story of the brass pots, and a personal story of my quiet queer body—are discussed. Through my work, these narratives engage with storytelling, Atayal worldview, and the Atayal language to re-examine the complexity of identity and the reclaiming of screen space in contemporary times.

Coastal Cannibals: Industry and Occupation on Whangārei Te Rerenga Paraoa

Coastal Cannibals is a photographic series exploring the impacts, contradictions, and possibilities of “development” within Whangārei Te Rerenga Paraoa (Whangārei Harbour). Located on New Zealand’s northeastern coast, Whangārei Harbour is a site of significant cultural, ecological, and historical significance for the different iwi (tribes) and hapū (subtribes) who have resided—and continue to reside—there. For these tribes, maintaining unbroken occupation has not been straightforward; the harbour is a contested and still-consumed space. Iwi and hapū contend with heavy industry, residential developments, and regional policies that both disregard tribal authority and disrupt kaitiakitanga (guardianship relations). Coastal Cannibals focuses on the harbour’s shoreline developments, where industry is both a source of tension for iwi and hapū, as it places huge pressures on the ocean and surrounding environs, and of necessary jobs and income for a historically underserviced region. For those committed to Indigeneity, occupation is never a straightforward affair. In the postcolonial tradition of “speaking back,” the photo series draws its title from a description used against the great Ngātiwai rangatira Paratene Te Manu prior to his and his tribe’s eviction from the nearby Te Hauturu-o-Toi (Little Barrier Island), asking us today: who is eating away at what?

Belatedly and Finally: The Early Time of the Indigenous in the Concurrent Contemporary

This essay discusses the uneasy process of mediating material that is assigned the term “Indigenous” and its variations, including “folk,” “customary,” “ethnic,” “Aboriginal,” and “First Nation,” among others. These terms are, in turn, set against a range of dominant rubrics, such as “national,” “modern,” and “Western”—a contrast that may catalyse assimilation or incite resistance. This fraught process plays out in various ways through the writing of art history, the curating of contemporary art, and the organisation of a national modern art collection and representation of living traditions. This essay shares the unease, as well as the productive effort, in struggling with these problematics, which implicates the very condition of nature and the well-being of the species. It annotates experiences in two specific settings: the nation-state and the contemporary biennale. This reflection on practice is intended to initiate conversations on how the Indigenous is constitutive of the cultural politics of curation and the methods of telling time in crafting a context deemed (art-) historical. In this engagement, the curatorial gesture is troubled by lateness as well as by timeliness in reclaiming an earlier moment of creative life that is finally rendered as a contemporaneous cosmology.


Media Review: Whakapapa/Algorithms

Media review: Whakapapa/Algorithms. Film, 22 minutes, digital video and sound, 2021. Directed by Jamie Berry; distributed by CIRCUIT Artist Moving Image. Purchasing information available at

Media Review: Te Pae: Exploring the Realms

Media review: Te Pae: Exploring the Realms. Series of three online performances, approximately ninety minutes each, 2022. Performed by Regan Balzer, Horomona Horo, and Jeremy Mayall, with Troy Kingi, Maisey Rika, Waimihi Hotere, and Kurahapainga Te Ua.

Book Review: Women Photographers of the Pacific World, 1857–1930

Book review: Anne Maxwell, Women Photographers of the Pacific World, 1857–1930, New York : Routledge, 2020 . ISBN: 9781032174655, 334 pages, black and white illustrations. S oftcover $USD 48.95.

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