Congratulations to Kalisolaite ‘Uhila who has been awarded the Arts Foundation's Harriet Friedlander Residency. Established in 2008, the biennial residency awards $100,000 to a New Zealand artist to live and work in New York City.

'Uhila was named as the 2021 recipient at the Arts Foundation's Icon Awards, Whakamana Hiranga, yesterday evening at Government House, Wellington.


Kalisolaite ‘Uhila is an award-winning performance artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

Born in Tonga, ‘Uhila’s art practice centres on live performance, in which the expression of his ideas take place, unrehearsed, in gallery spaces and other locations outside of a traditional theatre environment.

His path to becoming a performance artist began as a print-maker studying at Auckland University of Technology. Studying a visual arts degree, he realised that he did not need paper to make a print but could bring image and sound together. He started to use his body as a tool and his first performance was using an antique saw to make marks on wood.

He has gone on to develop a range of different projects, including sleeping rough at Te Tuhi Gallery for a week and Auckland Art Gallery for three months; spending days with a piglet in a pen for Pigs in the Yard at the Mangere Arts Centre and in Aotea Square; conducting the tide at Wellington's Oriental Bay; and in 2012 donning a black balaclava and green fishing net before leaping from a swing bridge into the Wamapu Stream then dragging himself back to shore.

In 'Uhila's experiential performances, he is not always the obvious subject, he may be completely invisible, disguised or inaccessible. ‘Uhila’s ideas come from exploring life expressing it in ways to be relatable to all people, which, in turn, provokes dialogue.

For his masters he explored the time aspect of ‘social structures and relationships’. His thesis was titled Maumau-taimi: Wasting Time; Being Useless. Exploring perspectives of wasting time versus time well wasted in the field of art together with an ongoing study of the construction of performance to understand the patterns and language hidden inside Body, which he recreates in his own contemporary art of performance art from past and future into the present.

His projects have won ‘Uhila a number of accolades including the Auckland Fringe Award, Visual arts in 2011, being a finalist in the 2014 Walters Prize and receiving the contemporary Pacific Artist Award at the Creative New Zealand Pasifika Arts Awards in 2017.

Kalisolaite ‘Uhila is represented by Michael Lett in Auckland, New Zealand.