• Fatu Feu’u

‘If artists and writers are, as Fatu Feu‘u says, keepers of history and custodians of old stories yearning to be told anew, then he is uniquely qualified for this responsibility. He is the celebrated ‘Father of contemporary Pacific arts’ in Aotearoa and the bearer of two Samoan matai titles: the ali‘i title of Lesa, given by his mother’s family, of Sa‘anapu, and the tulafale title of Si‘a, conferred by his father’s family, of Poutasi.

The ali‘i or ‘sacred chief’ title acknowledges genealogical links to the gods, endowing Feu‘u with authority and responsibility for his family and their resources. The secular tulafale ‘orator’ title, bestowed upon those who may advise and give voice to the ali‘i, recognises his knowing and rearticulating of Samoan histories and traditions, and the gafa genealogies that bind people and the world together. In 2001, Feu‘u also became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (O.N.Z.M.) for services to art. Brought together in one body, these acknowledgements and modes of being describe the relational responsibilities and understandings Feu‘u brings to bear on lives lived in both Samoa and Aotearoa—with all their ensuing obligations—and his world-renowned practice as an artist, educator and storyteller.

Working since the 1980s across media including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and stained and etched glass, Feu‘u’s bold and inimitable style has been anchored not only in recurring motifs and compositional structures but also fa‘a Samoa—‘the Samoan way’—and the many socio-cultural conventions and ideals it holds in balance.’

Text by Dr Billie Lythberg.

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