Art of Tuvalu
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The Art of Tuvalu has traditionally been expressed in the design of clothing and traditional handicrafts such as the decoration of mats and fans. Tuvaluan clothing was traditionally made from Fala leaves (Screw Pine or Pandanus).
The material culture of Tuvalu uses traditional design elements in artifacts used in everyday life such as the design of canoes and fish hooks made from traditional materials. The design of women's skirts (titi) and tops (teuga saka), that are used in performances of the traditional dance songs of Tuvalu, represents contemporary Tuvaluan art and design.
The collection of the Museum of New Zealand holds Tuvaluan artifacts and handicraft, including a man's jacket and a Mother Hubbard dress[Note 1] made from pandanus leaves that were made following the impact of Christian missionaries who demanded that the women of Tuvalu adopt more conservative clothing as compared to traditional Tuvaluan clothing.
The artistry of Tuvaluan handicraft
The women of Tuvalu use cowrie and other shells in traditional handicrafts decoration of mats, fans and wall hangings that use dyed fibres woven in traditional designs. Crochet (kolose) is one of the art forms practiced by Tuvaluan women.
A traditional headband (fau o aliki) or headdress (kula, pale) made out of pandanus, such as those prepared for the inauguration of a chief (aliki) would follow a specific design and the task of creating the headband or headdress is often reserved to a specific person, such as a daughter of the chief. The traditional floral garland of a young woman (Te fou ote tamafine) or a headdress for a woman (fou) would also follow a specific design using tiale (gardenia), pua (guettarda speciosa) and melia (frangipani).
Te titi tao is a traditional skirt placed upon another skirt - a titi kaulama - and tops (teuga saka), headbands, armbands, and wristbands continue to be used in performances of the tradition dance music of Tuvalu, such as the fatele. The fatele, in its modern form, is performed at community events and to celebrate leaders and other prominent individuals, such as the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in September 2012.
Contemporary dancing skirts (titi) and tops (teuga saka) may still incorporate pandanus leaves, as well as synthetic or natural cloth that is decorated with bold geometric motifs and bold colours. Tuvaluan men also participate in performances of the traditional music in the costumes that follow tradition style that are made from pandanus leaves and synthetic or natural cloth that incorporate bold colours. Marriage ceremonies are usually conducted with men and women in traditional costumes.
The material culture of Tuvalu
In 1960–1961 Gerd Koch a German anthropologist, visited the atolls of Nanumaga, Nukufetau and Niutao, which resulted in his publication of a book on the material culture of the Ellice Islands, which described, with illustrations, the design of traditional handicrafts and artifacts. Following the change of name to Tuvalu, the English translation by Guy Slatter was published under the title The Material Culture of Tuvalu. Charles Hedley, a naturalist at the Australian Museum, had earlier written the General Account of the Atoll of Funafuti (1896) which described some uses of the native plants and trees on Funafuti.
The churches and community buildings that used for wedding celebrations and community activities (the falekaupule or maneapa) are decorated by the community with the exterior painted with white paint that is known as lase, which is made by burning a large amount of dead coral with firewood. The whitish powder that is the result is mixed with water and painted on the buildings.
Contemporary Tuvaluan art and literature
Artists with Tuvaluan ancestry in migrant communities, such as the Tuvaluan community in Auckland, New Zealand, produce work using traditional techniques and media and also using modern materials and contemporary Polynesian graphic designs.
Selina Tusitala Marsh, of Sāmoan, Tuvaluan, English and French descent, is a published poet. She represented Tuvalu at the London Olympics Poetry Parnassus event in 2012.
In 2015 an exhibition was held on Funafuti of the art of Tuvalu, with works that addressed climate change through the eyes of artists and the display of Kope ote olaga (possessions of life), which was a display of the various artefacts of Tuvalu culture.
International artists and Tuvalu
Vincent Huang (黃瑞芳), a Taiwanese artist, constructed an installation on the reef of Funafuti in 2010 that was design to raise awareness of the effect of climate change in Tuvalu. He was invited to create the Tuvalu Pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale. In 2014 he had an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei that invited visitors to consider the moral threat climate change presents to Tuvalu. Huang was invited to represent Tuvalu at the 2015 Venice Biennale. He created a turquoise pool crossed by two black walkways. The weight of the people on the walkways results in the pathways sinking into the water causing 'flooding' that symbolically reproduces the impact of global warming on Tuvalu. Huang selected the PVC lining of the pool to reproduce the colour of the "beautiful crystal blue of the Tuvalu lagoon".
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