Identify Me is the result of collaboration between Julia Mage’au 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 is essentially about resisting and liberating my individual and collective 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. Whilst understanding that materiality is a key marker of cultural identity and association, the removal of each layer is a defiant act of resistance, evading classification and returns my individual identity and body back to my core self
The utilisation of Melanesian materials used and worn unconventionally visually presents and appeals to 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 alludes to the sound of the distant ocean, yet 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 The metaphorical use of the frame represents psychological and historical references to the exotification of female Pacific bodies through photography and defiantly returning the gaze.
Excerpt of Identify Me (2016) single channel video audio, 3 mins 46 secs.
Full video is available to view via password protected link