Identify Me is the result of a collaboration between Julia Mag’eau Gray and Sunameke, a dance production company and myself. Photographed and positioned in the South Pacific Island of Aotearoa, New Zealand, this photo-based video work essentially is about resisting and liberating my individual identity from the confines of museum and Western categorisation. I stand embedded within a Pacific Island landscape, not of my origin. Materiality from the Melanesian region such as Masi (Fijian bark-cloth) and grass skirts from the Central Province of Papua New Guinea, are layered with Magimagi (coconut sennit) from Fiji is woven within and bound upon my body. The removal of each layer is a defiant act of resistance, evading classification and returns the woman in view to her core self.
The utilisation of Melanesian materials used unconventionally visually presents an aesthetic of beauty, a female adorned in culturally treasured materials, skin glistening with contemporary pigments, cosmetics and adornments, whilst wearing the universal footwear of the Pacific. It is not uncommon to find Pacific objects of beauty and significance in museums and galleries far from the place that they originate. This work also aims to replicate a similar experience of discovering objects within museum displays or stores, but inherently being aware that something isn’t right or it’s out of context. The audio effect of white noise is used to signify the frustration and discomfort of being silenced and not having a voice or platform to present an alternate perspective of your own culture. The metaphorical use of the frame represents psychological and historical references to the exotification of female Pacific bodies through photography and returning the gaze.
Still images from Identify Me (2016) single channel video audio, 3 mins 46 secs.
Full video is available to view via password protected link