In 2019 I composed a poster form multilingual guide in Sāmoan, French and English called Punāʻoa o ʻupu mai ʻo atumotu/Glossaire des archipels to represent currents of thought and action in international Indigenous visual cultures. I worked with my friend, celebrated Nêhiyâw typographer and graphic designer Sébastien Aubin, to render my learnings from a constellation of mentors, knowledge keepers and sources during my doctoral research into international Indigenous curatorial practice into a poster form multilingual guide. The work draws on extensive discussions, residencies, exhibitions, gatherings throughout 2015–18 across the Great Ocean from north‑eastern North America to south‑eastern Australia.
The international Te Whāinga: A Culture Lab on Civility, organised by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and Auckland Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira’s curators Adriel Luis, Dina Jezdic, Kālewa Correa, Lawrence‑Minh Bùi‑Davis and Bree Manning took place in October 2019 on reclaimed foreshore lands at Silo Park, Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, within Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei territory. The Center has spearheaded Culture Labs, an intimate sharing and learning residency and exhibition format delving into issues of our time, across the continental United States. Most recently, in ‘Ai Kai: A Culture Lab on Convergence in July 2017 in Honolulu, I toured an international curatorial project centred on Indigenous genders, sexualities and ceremonial‑political structures, Pōuliuli (Faitautusi ma Fāʻaliga), first presented at West Space earlier that year. Te Whāinga had at its core a number of prominent and activist Aotearoa artists, designers and curators, joined by a few from the continental United States and Canada with ties to the Philippines, Solomon Islands and elsewhere throughout the Great Ocean.
Three terms framed within this work that are particularly relevant when thinking through negotiations of the settler colonial structures of learning, creativity and dissemination in a university, art museum or other formal Western institutional context are the following: first, Faiga iloa faʻakolonē, denoting the coloniality of knowledge as epistemologically derived from empire‑driven Western European states and their breakaway colonies around the world; second Tala faʻasolopito o faʻāliga, specifically pertaining to the comprehensive, sequential display histories of images, shadows, photographs, likenesses, as opposed to circular genealogical time‑derived histories; and third, Tautuanaga ʻo fa‘āliga ata, meaning a display of images, likenesses, photographs and shadows organised in service of collective wellbeing. As a contemporary practice this work is based in Sāmoan cultural values and histories, and the texts imprinted on bodies, lands, waters, digital files and other formats are the latest manifestation of genealogical matter and imperatives that direct our actions into the times yet to come.
Punāʻoa o ʻupu mai ʻo atumotu / Glossaire des archipels is an offering for this present moment of upheaval into the times yet to come and already foreseen by the Ancestors: Indigenous time is cyclical and ever‑realised, while Gregorian shame‑time with its attendant exploitative regimes of plantations, churches, embodied shame, intergenerational violence and trauma, and race‑based socio‑political economy must meet its end for humanity to access futurities. This guide was informed especially by many discussions on precolonial and after‑colonial Sāmoan language, semantics and epistemology with stellar artist Angela Tiatia, and scholars Lealiʻifano Albert Refiti and Niko Pātū. In the shared spirit of communal learning and living, the two large laminated works on display in late October 2019 went on to have another life when I gifted them to my fellow francophone cousin Nātia Tucker, and to mentor Sāmoan and Tuvaluan artist friend Rosanna Raymond for the Vā Moana/Pacific Spaces research lab at Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makau Rau / Auckland University of Technology.
Léuli Eshrāghi is a Sāmoan artist, curator, NIRIN: 22nd Biennale of Sydney commissioned artist, and Horizon/Indigenous Futures postdoctoral fellow at Concordia University, Montreal, whose display territories centre Indigenous bodies, languages and knowledges.