Povi Tau Vaga, 1996
Tin, recycled copper, rivets
180 x 300 x 100 cm
Courtesy of artist
Born 1966, Wellington, New Zealand; lives in Wellington, New Zealand

O le Povi Pusa Ma'ataua
Tuffery’s performances and sculptures draw upon Polynesian dance traditions, including those of Samoa and the Cook Islands. The title means “jewel box of bulls” in Samoan. Tuffery’s bulls have been exhibited in galleries as well as used in large-scale performances. His use of corned beef tins serves as a metaphor for the changes wrought on Samoan society following the introduction of Western foodstuffs after World War II. The fat content and high salt levels in the canned meat have caused long-term health problems for Pacific Islanders.

O le SaoSao Lapo'a/barracuda
Asiasi I/thunnus albacares
These sculptures deal with environmental concerns. Saosao is the Samoan word for “barracuda” and asiasi means “yellowfin.” Here, the artist reflects on the irony in the Samoans beginning to replace local fresh fish with imported canned products because of over-fishing in the Pacific.

Tuffery staged a public performance titled Moanamalosi (Deep Blue Hue) on February 18 at Asia Society.

Asia Society chat with the artist:

In my work, I try to comment on the environmental impact of global trade, and how Westerners have also affected our people, the Polynesians. We have gone through this cycle which has really influenced us in all respects: our thinking, our diet, our lifestyle. We have lost a lot in the process. These are the issues my work is trying to address.

I have in particular looked at the social, political and environmental issues related to the cultural importation and consumption of Western style canned foods. It is also a question of visual pollution, pollution from the outside, in which ‘branding’ has had a huge effect. I am not talking about only the pollution in the sea or the environment, I am talking about pollution in spiritual terms as well. For example, McDonald’s, KFC, and the changes, the damage that these things have brought in their wake.

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