Rain­bow Paci­fica por­trayed


Pati Solomona Tyrell is ex­press­ing his iden­tity through art, be­cause other me­dia won’t.

The 24-year-old Auck­land artist has cre­ated por­trai­ture work that ex­presses his iden­tity as a gay Samoan man.

The Mt Welling­ton res­i­dent is the co-founder of les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, and trans­gen­der (LGBT) Pa­cific arts col­lec­tive FAFSWAG.

Tyrell said the photo se­ries was ‘‘a man­i­fes­ta­tion of our in­di­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ties’’ which adopted the nar­ra­tive that Pa­cific queer peo­ple were once cul­tur­ally re­spected.

‘‘The se­ries is about re­claim­ing that mana in a mod­ern con­text through a vis­ual lan­guage that de­rives from my own prac­tice and world view,’’ Tyrell said.

Grow­ing up gay in New Zealand Tyrell said he never saw ‘‘him­self’’ in me­dia.

‘‘So for me por­trai­ture has been about be­ing able to kind of take that con­trol,’’ Tyrell said.

‘‘It’s just about try­ing to cre­ate stuff that I wanted to see when I was grow­ing up.’’

Tyrell’s work will fea­ture in ex­hi­bi­tion Sau­niga along­side Pa­cific artists An­drew Matau­tia and Ue­lese Vavae.

The pho­to­graphs will stand from floor to ceil­ing and are of Tyrell’s friends who also iden­tify as queer and of Pa­cific eth­nic­ity.

‘‘It’s about be­ing able to see our­selves,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s a whole thing around in­vis­i­bil­ity and just for other queer peo­ple to see them­selves within my work or other queer artists work.’’

Sau­niga cu­ra­tor Jodi Mead­ows said the artists in the ex­hi­bi­tion used Samoan mythol­ogy, lan­guage and vis­ual cul­ture as a tool to de­velop con­tem­po­rary im­agery.

‘‘Por­trai­ture is used as a process to ex­plore their in­di­vid­ual cul­tural iden­tity but also as a mech­a­nism to sub­vert and chal­lenge the ways that we see cul­ture in ev­ery­day con­tent, en­com­pass­ing both is­land and ur­ban ex­pe­ri­ence.’’

Sau­niga, a Samoan word, trans­lates to ‘pre­par­ing for’, or ‘a gath­er­ing of sorts’. It runs from March 4 to April 1 in the ICL Build­ing on Level 7 at 10-14 Lorne Street in cen­tral Auck­land.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is run by Tau­tai, an or­gan­i­sa­tion ded­i­cated to the men­tor­ing and sup­port of Pa­cific artists. The name draws on the Samoan word for nav­i­ga­tor, re­flect­ing a de­sire to work along­side artists and of­fer guid­ance in their prac­tice.


Vis­ual artist Pati Solomona Tyrell is co-founder of LGBT Pa­cific arts col­lec­tive FAFSWAG.

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