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Re-Stor(y)ing Oceania

Latai Taumoepeau, Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta  — 

TBA21–Academy announces Re-Stor(y)ing Oceania, a new exhibition comprising two new site-specific commissions by Indigenous practitioners from the Pacific, Latai Taumoepeau and Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta. The exhibition is curated by Bougainville-born artist Taloi Havini, returning to Ocean Space after her 2021 solo exhibition.

Re-Stor(y)ing Oceania platforms artists and communities who live and work in the vast and diverse region of islands and atolls in the southern hemisphere.

The Pacific Islands are one of the regions most impacted by the damaging effects of climate change, and their Indigenous leaders and communities have led the call for more study and greater awareness of the ensuing crises for decades. Peoples of the Pacific span over a quarter of the planet with ancestral relations that extend from Taiwan, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon’s, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji to Palau, Hawai’i in the north to the southernmost island of Aotearoa, to Rapa Nui in the east and to the west coast of the Australian continent.

Despite the formation of many Pacific Island Countries since 1962, the legacies of colonisation still affect Oceanic communities today – socially and economically through the ongoing exploitation of their natural resources. In a time of climate and environmental crisis Re-Stor(y)ing Oceania seeks to subvert this extractive trajectory through art, oratory, song, genealogy, performance, embodied knowledge, and Oceanic cosmological belief systems.

Drawing together performance, sculpture, poetry, and movement, Havini’s curatorial vision is guided by an ancestral call and response method. Havini uses this as a means to seek solidarity and kinship in times of uncertainty. Real threats to life call for the need to slow down the clock on extraction and counter this with reverence for life of the Ocean. For the new commissions, Havini has invited artist Latai Taumoepeau to present a call with the work Deep Communion sung in minor (ArchipelaGO, THIS IS NOT A DRILL) and Wāhine architect Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta to respond to that call with The Body of Wainuiātea.

Latai Taumoepeau, “Deep Communion sung in minor (ArchipelaGO, THIS IS NOT A DRILL)”, 2024. Exhibition view of “Re-Stor(y)ing Oceania”, Ocean Space, Venice. Commissioned by TBA21–Academy and Artspace, Sydney, and produced in partnership with OGR Torino, culture and innovation hub. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Giacomo Cosua.

Latai Taumoepeau

The significance of song to poetically record histories and to share values and knowledge in Taumoepeau’s homeland of Tonga is acknowledged through the creation of a new choral work focused on her firm resistance to deep sea mining.

The newly commissioned work "Deep Communion sung in minor (ArchipelaGO, THIS IS NOT A DRILL)", an immersive 16 channel sound installation, invites the public to engage in a durational performance – bringing global awareness to the dangers of deep-sea mining in the Pacific.

Through the construction of an amphitheatre comprised of sound and standing paddle machines, the artwork references mass congregational worship and layers the geopolitical players amongst cultural complexities surrounding spiritual belief and ritualistic practices through faiva (body-centred) durational performances. Honouring the ancient ceremonial practice of the Me’etu’upaki performed in Tongatapu earlier this year, Taumoepeau invites members of the public to join her as an invocation seeking guidance towards the collective care and protection of Moana (Oceania).

The immersive installation is Taumoepeau’s rendition of an ancient choral ritual, the Me’etu’upaki; (me’e) translates as dance; (tu’u) standing, (paki) with paddles. As the public commits in groups to power the standing paddle machines they amplify Taumoepeau’s people’s ceremonial Me’etu’upaki, their teamwork contributing to the resistance to deep sea mining (DSM).

At the heart of this work is an ancient cultural obligation to keep the cosmogony of the artist’s Tongan ancestors alive over vā (space/time) where Kele (sea sediment) and Limu (seaweed) remain unharmed. Taumoepeau asks the question, who is willing to do the labour in this exercise of ecological responsibility?

Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta, “The Body of Wainuiātea”, 2024. Exhibition view of “Re-Stor(y)ing Oceania”, Ocean Space, Venice. Commissioned by TBA21–Academy and Artspace, Sydney, and produced in partnership with OGR Torino, culture and innovation hub. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Giacomo Cosua.

Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta

The Body of Wainuiātea by Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta presents a new installation embodying ritual and ceremony guided by the Māori concepts of kawa and tikanga from her ancestral lands of Aotearoa New Zealand. Heta is a Māori, Samoan and Tokelauan leader and advocate for change, whose work provides Maori and Pasifika perspectives on the importance of place to design and cultural identity, in connection with whenua (land). Heta’s practice creates spaces and experiences that make visible stories, many of which have been hidden with a focus on Indigenous and Wāhine (women’s) voices.

Designed for exchange and collaboration, this welcoming space seeks to use ancient ways of knowing and relating through story and waiata ("song") to restore a greater awareness of atua ("the gods") connections to our Ocean, re-establishing the tapu ("sacred") within current environmental and scientific campaigns seeking to protect the life of the planets largest bodies of water.

The Body of Wainuiātea is composed of karanga (Māori women's spiritual call), gourds, coconut oil fragrance, timber, bricks, textile and stainless steel. Earthen bricks are laid in a formation speaking to ancient ceremonial sites for acknowledging atua (gods). This Ātea is specifically designed by Heta to encourage visitors to acknowledge Wainuiātea and bring their own ancestors with them into these ceremonial grounds.

The sixteen seats are positioned in relation to the cardinal directions, —the rising and setting of the sun. Above, twelve rolling folds of fabric honor Ranginui/Rangi/Lagi and the twelve levels of the heavens. A karanga (Māori women's spiritual call) composed and sung by Rhonda Tibble will be heard in ritual occasions to honor Moana (Oceania) as tapu (sacred).

Derived from the word “tika,” which means the right or correct way, tikanga is a definition of what is correct to maintain balance in our relationships to both human worlds and the environment. Visitors are invited to enter The Body of Wainuiātea in order to learn, share and reconnect to ancestral stories.

A series of conversations, performances and activities will be programmed in this space over the duration of the exhibition, inviting contributions from multi-disciplinary practitioners. As one enters The Body of Wainuiātea, we are consciously making a decision to bridge the gap between the individual and the collective, the private and the public— to experience sitting in relationality with our neighbours.

The exhibition is commissioned by TBA21–Academy and Artspace, Sydney, and produced in partnership with OGR Torino, culture and innovation hub.


Taloi Havini (Nakas Tribe, Hakö people) was born in Arawa, Autonomous Region of Bougainville and is currently based in Brisbane, Australia. She employs a research practice informed by her matrilineal ties to her land and communities in Bougainville. This manifests in works created using a range of media including photography, audio – video, sculpture, immersive installation and print.

Latai Taumoepeau (b:1972 Gadigal Ngura (Sydney), Australia) makes live-art-work. Her faiva (body-centred practice) is from her homelands, the Island Kingdom of Tonga and her birthplace the Eora Nation. She mimicked, trained and un-learned dance, in multiple institutions of learning, beginning with her village, a suburban church hall, the club and a university. Her faiva (performing art) centres Tongan philosophies of relational vā (space and time); cross-pollinating ancient and everyday temporal practice to make visible the impact of climate crisis in the Pacific. Latai conducts urgent environmental movements and actions to assist transformation in Oceania.

Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta (Ngātiwai, Ngāpuhi, Waikato Tainui, Sāmoan, Tokelauan) is a multi-disciplinary artist, designer and mother, living and working in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. Elisapeta’s career has spanned architecture, art, writing, film and performance, teaching and research and has resulted in a rich tapestry of collaborative works and projects that are centred in indigenous mātauranga (knowledge and ways of knowing) and tikanga (protocols and ceremony). In working through a multi-disciplinary practice, Elisapeta seeks to create experiences that make visible our stories, many of which have been hidden or eroded – with a focus on indigenous and wāhine (women) centred story-telling.