There is a new addition to our Taku P’eu Tupuna exhibition: a garment created by 16-year-old Evangeline (Apiti Tuauri Te Kura) Meti-Nicholas that won third place at the Pasifika Fusion cultural festival. Te Manawa programme developer Roma Potiki talked to her about its genesis.
What made you feel you wanted to enter the Pasifika Fusion competition?
I heard about it a few years ago, but I could never go to it because I was always in Rarotonga. So I only went to it once, in 2012. And then my friend brought it up; she said I should join, so I decided to and they just motivated me to keep going.
Did your friend enter something as well?
Yeah, she entered speech. And we did the digital cinematography together. We buddied up and created a video to show that people have different ideas and that not not every Pacific Islander thinks the same.
And your family supported you too?
Yeah, my grandparents and especially my parents. I’d text them and ask “can you get these shells,” or “can you go buy these shells please, I really need them”. And then my dad came to Palmy from Rarotonga to bring them. He couldn’t stay long, so he didn’t stay for the competition, but I called him and said I came third and he was like “That’s my girl!”
I’m looking at the shells here.
The big white ones are from Aitutaki and the long ones come from a necklace. They’re mainly from Tahiti and the Cook Islands. They’re a mixture. My dad’s also Tahitian, so I’m bringing that into the artwork. They came from Tahiti and the Cook Islands and I wanted to bring them both together.
And then you’ve got the paua.
Yes, the paua shell represents my dad’s Māori side. I wanted to put that in to show that “you are more than what you see”. That was the theme for Pasifika Fusion. I wanted to put the paua shells in, since if I just had the paua shells on, you would think I was just Māori. You wouldn’t think “Cook Islands” because I’m not wearing a Cook Islands outfit. So bringing the other shells in, and especially the pipi shells…
Are they those bright yellowy ones?
Yes. They’re mainly from Mangaia, Aitutaki, and Penrhyn. I wanted to bring those shells because my grandparents are from there.
And you glued everything on?
Yeah, I hot glued everything. I didn’t know which was the best glue to use. I thought, “I’ve got so many glue sticks I’ll just use those”. It can be quite stiff though.
Did that work out OK when the model was wearing it?
Yeah, it was actually quite flexible on her. But also the long shells, they came from a necklace, so I had to cut all the necklaces off, because they were sewn in different ways and I just wanted them straight. So I had to re-sew all the shells onto some different nylon. That was a last-minute one: I was procrastinating and complaining the whole time and I was freaking out, I didn’t know what I should do. With the pipi shells I had quite a few of them, but they weren’t enough for the whole entire outfit, so I had to re-design it at the last minute.
In terms of that designing, did you draw stuff on paper first?
Yes, I had a few designs and this one was last-minute because we didn’t have enough shells. I didn’t lay it out properly on the outfit until the last few days.
On the night you had someone else modelling?
I couldn’t fit into it. I thought I could, but no. My friend who did the cinematography with me was supposed to be my model but she couldn’t fit it either. I found my friend Leni – she’s also Cook Islands and she could fit it but she was nervous. So she asked her friend, who was also Cook Islands, and luckily she could just fit into it. I didn’t know her, but now we’re good friends too.
Do you think you’d go into another Pasifika Fusion?
I think I will. I’m also thinking of joining the cultural performances as well, Pasifika Fusion does a range of performances from Samoan, Tongan and Cook Islands. And maybe wearable arts and visual arts, as well as cinematography. I’ve never seen a wearable arts outfit before.
Did you get to place when you did cinematography?
Yeah, we got third.
That’s good, especially for a first go.
It was our first time and it was a last minute video as well. Everything was just last minute! We had our first trial with the video but the microphone on our camera didn’t even work. And we didn’t even realise until we were editing. Then we had to shoot another video, but we just had to shoot it in the studio, and we just did it individually instead of the whole group together.
And when you do some of this, can you get credited for it as part of your college work?
OK, thank you very much for that, Evangeline.
The garment will be on display in the Art Gallery until 16 September