Latai Taumoepeau

(TONGA/AUSTRALIA)

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Stitching up the sea

“Oceania is vast, Oceania is expanding, Oceania is hospitable and generous, Oceania is humanity rising from the depths of brine and regions of fire deeper still, Oceania is us. We are the sea, we are the ocean…” – Epeli Hau’ofa

Stitching up the sea is a durational performance ritual and meditation, exploring the fragility and vulnerability of people, the physical environment and intangible cultural heritage of the Moana.

She is surrounded by a wall of white sacks filled with empty glass bottles, stacked up on top of a white tarpaulin. She is wearing brick sandals on her feet and an ike (Tongan mallet) usually used to beat mulberry bark into large ceremonial cloth called tapa or ngatu. Glass waste material sourced locally is smashed into a mass of glistening shards.

Each empty torn bag adorns her neck as a lei/sisi, usually a garland of fresh tropical flowers and leaves used to welcome guests to keep the neck cool in the heat and as a body adornment in formal Pacific presentations.

Stitching up the sea, is a cyclical continuum of tauhi vā, the holistic practice of maintaining space through social relationships, and faivā, the practice of time-and-space through relational obligation in performance.

This work explores the intangible cultural heritage of the Moana/ Oceania and the complex relationships suspended in the sea of islands of the Pacific Ocean. Emphasising the futile actions of the most vulnerable communities impacted by environmental capitalist climate crisis and the imbalance of power in caring for country.

Through her grief, she ceremoniously holds her sea of islands close. Facing the past, she backs into the ugly future, maybe she’s making sand maybe she’s rebuilding her ancestral land. Can she relocate saltwater sovereignty?

Commissioned by Blacktown Arts Centre in the greater western Sydney, Stitching up the sea is an evolving solo work that aims to create visibility of a people who have inhabited and embodied the enormous Pacific Ocean for thousands of years.

Stitching up the sea excavates a live dystopic image of idyllic island destinations mostly considered as holiday destinations to outsiders. Void of Pina Colada cocktails, hypnotic hip-swaying and rugby balls, this performance documents a dangerous current of transformation and dispossession due to human induced climate change.

Latai Taumoepeau is a Punake, body-centred performance artist; her story is of her homelands, the Island Kingdom of Tonga and her birthplace; the Eora Nation – Sydney, and everything far and in-between. Latai activates indigenous philosophies and methodologies; cross-pollinating ancient practices of ceremony with her contemporary processes and performance work to re-interpret, re-generate and extend her movement practice and its function in and from Oceania.

Cultural collaborators – Taliu Aloua and Tevita Havea
Sound composition – James Brown
Design and dramaturgical constultant – Carlos Gomes
Lighting Designer – Amber Silk

Commissioned by Blacktown Arts Centre
This performance was funded by Australia Council of the Arts.

Latai Taumoepeau was awarded the Fbi SMAC ‘Best Artist’ award 2016, and the Pacific Communities Council ‘Environment’ award 2015.

Latai Taumoepeau’s 2016 UK appearances are co-presented by SACRED:Homelands Festival and SPILL Festival of Performance.

Latei Taumoepeau on Facebook

access to performance by day ticket only: Friday 25 November, 18.30 (2 hours)

access to in conversation by day ticket only: Saturday 26 November, 20.15

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