Collaborating with family members and other Pacific Islander knowledge holders, I began to connect and recontextualise cultural items in my art practice. My work entitled ‘Aere Mai, Oki Mai… Hold me again once more under te Marama’ is a reflective shrine-like space, drawing together traditional dance, clothing, and textiles. These artforms are made predominantly by women and often given as wedding gifts.
I wanted to honour and reflect the experience of different generations, re-creating a sense of ceremony and connection. I took sarongs, called pāreu and worn by women, and created 5-metre long hangings. Throughout the space I incorporated Tivaevae, which is the traditional embroidery artform from the Cook Islands, along with several handmade and woven pieces.
It was important to reflect my experience as well as the stories and memories of others. So much of my work involves talking to people, hearing all their stories, and then embedding their stories so they can see themselves in the work.
What is the most exciting thing about being an emerging artist right now?
Being an emerging artist allows me the freedom to experiment with different forms and materials. I don’t feel pressure to fix my focus to one medium, so I have space to explore different art practices, learn new techniques, blend them and continuously evolve.
The early focus of my artmaking was in screen and filmmaking, but COVID meant working from home, so I explored other visual artforms. My art practice has evolved, and I have experimented with many different materials, techniques and media.
The work I presented for the exhibition became part of my practice during my studies and Sydney College of the Arts, where I’ve completed my Honours in 2022.
How will the fellowship support your practice – what’s next for you?
The Fellowship will take me to the Cook Island to work with one of the last remaining knowledge-holders of traditional word carving and tattooing. I will spend time in community, working and learning from him. As an arts student, there was no guidance in cultural art practice, so travelling is really the only way to receive this rare and valuable teachings from the elders of the community.
He is so generous with his time and knowledge. He has a mission to share ancient practice with young artists like me and even those with no Cook Islander heritage.
I feel this is an opportunity for me to carry on his mission and teach people about the culture, especially my Pacifica community here in Sydney, and help them discover and connect with their culture.
https://www.nsw.gov.au/departments-and-agencies/create-nsw/news/stories/interview-morgan-hogg Cultural connection: In conversation with Morgan Hogg