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Fatu Feu’u awarded 2002 Cook Islands residency

17 June 2002

Fatu Feu’u awarded 2002 Cook Islands residency by Pacific Arts Committee

The recipient of the 2002 Cook Islands Artist’s Residency, awarded by the Pacific Arts Committee of Creative New Zealand, is Fatu Feu’u. One of New Zealand’s best-known Pacific artists, Feu’u has lived in Auckland since he came to New Zealand from Samoa in 1966 and has been a practising artist since 1983.

Feu’u says that although he has travelled extensively in the Pacific, this will be the first time he has visited the Cook Islands. During the three-month residency from June to September, he aims to create a body of new work for a show at the Henderson Gallery in Auckland in late 2002.

“I am very excited about the residency because I want to explore the traditional elements of tattoo, tapa and carvings of the Cook Islands, comparing them with other symbols and patterns of the Pacific,” he says.

He’ll be meeting with elders and with local artists such as master carver Michael Tavioni and painter Mahiriki Tangaroa, and also doing workshops with young emerging artists and school children in the Cook Islands community.

Marilyn Kohlhase, Chair of the Pacific Arts Committee, says Fatu Feu’u has always been extremely generous in sharing his skills with other artists.

“He puts a lot of energy into mentoring emerging artists and helping them develop their careers,” she says. “This residency not only provides Fatu with an opportunity to work in the Cook Islands community but also gives him the chance to explore symbols and icons particular to the Cook Islands. I know he will be an excellent ambassador of New Zealand.”

Throughout his career, Feu’u has been committed to fa’asamoa (Samoan culture and beliefs). In Sean Mallon and Pandora Fulimalo Pereira’s book, Speaking In Colour, he says: “The best thing my mother told me was, ‘You are not going to get any money because we have not got any money. But we are very rich. You know why? We are very rich with our art and our culture’. Now, whenever I paint I feel I’m doing it not just for myself, not just for my family, but for my people, my culture.”

His paintings feature the motifs and symbolism of Pacific masks, pottery, Samoan tatau and siapo (traditional Samoan tatto and printed barkcloth). He mentors emerging Pacific artists and in 1995, he founded the Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust in Auckland.

Feu’u remained the Chair of the Tautai Trust until 2000 when it received annual funding from Creative New Zealand for the first time and was placed on a more professional footing.

“I founded the Trust because there were a lot of young people who needed career direction, mentoring and opportunities to show their work,” he says. “Now, as the Trust’s patron, there’s still a lot of work and phone calls from young people. But it keeps me going.”

Feu’u says there were two important people in his art career – his mother and the late artist Tony Fomison. “They both said to me that you have to take your family and friends with you, helping them along as you progress in your career. It’s about giving something back to your culture and to other artists.”

The Cook Islands Artist’s Residency is open to all visual artists of Pacific Islands heritage living, working and exhibiting in New Zealand. Last year’s inaugural residency was awarded to Auckland new media artist Veronica Vaevae.

The Pacific Arts Committee administers the residency, covers the costs of the airfares and materials, and provides a $3000 a month stipend. The Cook Islands Ministry of Cultural Development provides accommodation, studio space and other support while the artist is in the Cook Islands.


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