Lost tra­di­tions find artis­tic sup­porter

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KARO­LINE TUCKEY

The cul­tural and so­cial en­rich­ment that oc­curs when two cul­tures meet in­trigues Welling­ton artist Michel Tuf­fery, who has been ex­plor­ing the in­flu­ence of Ger­many in Samoa.

Tuf­fery has been fas­ci­nated by the cul­tural in­flu­ence of Ger­many on Samoa, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing 1899 to 1914 when Samoa was a Ger­man colony.

He has Ger­man Samoan her­itage through his mother’s side, as well as Tahitian and Raro­ton­gan blood, and says de­spite some stigma still per­sist­ing sur­round­ing the Ger­man pe­riod in Samoa, he’s proud of it.

‘‘A lot of Ger­man Samoan’s spend a lot of time be­ing ashamed of it, but it’s only just come out now that they can start talk­ing about the Ger­man part, and that’s why this ex­hi­bi­tion’s re­ally im­por­tant.’’

Ger­man think­ing had a strong in­flu­ence on Samoan agri­cul­ture and tech­nol­ogy, and as well as in­ter­twined blood lines, the Ger­mans left many cul­tural and artis­tic nu­ances in Samoan life, he says.

Tuf­fery has been re­search­ing these links on and off since 1999, in­clud­ing vis­its to both na­tions. In March this year he re­turned to Samoa to de­velop his re­search into a project, Sia­mani Samoa ( Sia­mani is Samoan for Ger­man), that is now on dis­play at Porirua’s Pataka gallery, and is booked to travel to Syd­ney and Ger­many next year.

Tuf­fery col­lected footage of items of Ger­man Samoan cul­ture and pro­jected them onto the old Court­house build­ing in Apia, built in 1890, which has been used by a suc­ces­sion of dif­fer­ent ad­min­is­tra­tions. The footage ac­com­pa­nied a per­for­mance by the Samoan Royal Brass Band, whose sound de­scended from Ger­man mu­sic, and ac­com­pa­nied by dancers.

‘‘The band still do the march ev­ery day, and play, I worked with them and went through their score cards and got trans­la­tions. They couldn’t pro­nounce the Ger­man, but wanted to know the mean­ings of the songs, and were just blown away.’’

The en­sem­ble toured the project to sig­nif­i­cant vil­lages, and had a strong re­sponse.

‘‘We found all these peo­ple would come out and say ‘my nan . . .’ or ‘my cousin . . .’, and share their mem­o­ries – that was the whole point, to reawaken the el­derly ones’ mem­ory banks, be­cause once you lose those hard drives you’re stuffed.

‘‘It was re­ally im­por­tant to start the project in Samoa, where the sto­ries started, and let them tell the story first.’’

Tuf­fery joined a cam­paign to save some of the his­tor­i­cal build­ings that were sched­uled to be de­mol­ished while he was in Samoa.

The cam­paign was largely un­suc­cess­ful, the fa­cade of one build­ing was saved.

‘‘Peo­ple see it as be­cause it’s old it’s ac­tu­ally not use­ful, but it’s part of our per­son­al­ity, you lose part of your soul and your vis­ual iden­tity.’’

For him, one item that has be­come sym­bolic of this lost her­itage is tra­di­tional hair combs.

‘‘They’ve dis­ap­peared, they’re some­thing that haven’t been fa­mil­iar for quite a while,’’ he says.

Sia­mani Samoa is on show at Pataka un­til Fe­bru­ary 19. For more in­for­ma­tion visit pataka.org.nz or micheltuffery.co.nz.

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