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.