Savage Island Man with Pure, 2003
1 x 1.2 meters
Courtesy of the artist
Born 1970, Auckland, New Zealand; lives in Auckland, New Zealand
Although born in New Zealand to a Scottish father and Rotuman mother, Sofia Tekela-Smith was raised by her grandmother in Rotuma. There she learned traditional women’s handicrafts such as weaving and platting of pandanus leaves and the making of body ornaments. For this exhibition, she is exhibiting two photographs of her body ornaments. Both the cowrie shell and the amulet are symbolic objects within Rotuma and other Pacific Island cultures. Cowrie shells are considered symbols of female fertility, while greenstone is a symbol of prestige (mana), particularly in New Zealand where the stone is found. The placing of these objects in the man’s mouth suggests a kind of silencing, although it might also be seen as a gesture of intimacy, given that the man in the photographs is her partner, the artist John Pule.