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Cook Islands Artist's Residency

Date: 27 September 2004

Cook Islands Artist's Residency

"Filipe is an exceptional artist, passionate about his practice"

Internationally acclaimed Tongan sculptor Filipe Tohi of New Plymouth is the recipient of the 2004 Cook Islands Artist's Residency, awarded annually by the Pacific Arts Committee of Creative New Zealand.

Filipe Tohi will undertake the three-month residency from October 8. He plans to create new work in wood and stone, drawing on both his Tongan heritage and his experience of Cook Islands culture. He will also carry out research on how and where lashings were used in the Cook Islands. For the past decade, Tohi has been exploring the patterns and history of tufunga lalava (lashings), the traditional Tongan binding system used to lash together houses or canoes.

An important part of the residency is the recipient's contribution to the local arts community. An experienced tutor, Tohi plans to hold workshops on lashings for secondary school students.

Marilyn Kohlhase, Chair of the Pacific Arts Committee, says she's delighted that an artist of Tohi's calibre is undertaking this year's residency.

"Filipe is an exceptional artist, passionate about his practice and committed to researching and developing his innovative work," she says. "He is also keen to interact with the local community in the Cook Islands and share his vast knowledge of tufunga lalava."

Born in Tonga, Tohi came to New Zealand in 1978 at the age of nineteen. A sculptor of wood, stone and steel, his work is in public parks and has been exhibited throughout New Zealand and in countries as diverse as the United States, Japan, Australia and France. His work has also been purchased by the Chartwell Collection.

Tohi received the Pacific Innovation and Excellence Award in the Pacific Arts Committee's Arts Pasifika Awards 2003. He was also a member of the Aotearoa New Zealand delegation, which took part in this year's 9th Festival of Pacific Arts in Palau in July.

Then in August, he spent three weeks in Changchun, China, where he was one of 15 sculptors creating work for the largest permanent sculpture park in the world. The park contains works from countries throughout the world and Tohi's work represents Tonga.

And this month, he's been in Samoa taking part in a group exhibition and giving lectures on tufunga lavlava.

Last year, the Auckland City Council commissioned Tohi to create a public artwork for Onehunga's Library and Community Centre. This major work, Hautaha (coming together), was unveiled earlier this year. He also created a 14-metre sculpture for New Plymouth, entitled Halamoana (ocean bathway).

Tohi has also been creating work for the new fale (meeting house) at the University of Auckland, which will be opened in early October, and will be having a solo exhibition at Whitespace in February as part of next year's Auckland arts festival, AK05.

Among his other considerable achievements, Tohi participated in the 5th Lyon Biennale of Art (2000), Pacific Notion in Sydney (2002) and Pacific Ways of Knowing in New York (2002).

Joan Rolls-Gragg, President of the Cook Islands National Visual Arts Society, says the local arts community feels "privileged and honoured" to have the internationally acclaimed artist spending time in the Cook Islands as the 2004 artist-in-residence.

"We're very excited about Filipe's residency and look forward to sharing our arts with him," she says.

This is the fourth year that the Pacific Arts Committee has offered the residency. Last year's recipient was Sylvia Marsters of Auckland, who described the experience as life-changing. "It gave me the chance to focus on my painting and also interact with the local community, which inspired a new direction in my work."

The residency is open to visual artists of Pacific Islands heritage living, working and exhibiting in New Zealand. 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 and the Cook Islands National Visual Arts Society provide studio space and other support while the artist is in the Cook Islands. This year, the Pacific Resort in Rarotonga is sponsoring the artist's accommodation, with support from the Pacific Arts Committee.

Tohi's residency will culminate in late 2004 with an exhibition of his new work at the Cook Islands National Museum in Rarotonga.


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