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JH

Louisa Afoa’s Still-Life Photographs

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Louisa Afoa, Essential Household Items, 2023 (detail). Image courtesy of the artist Louisa Afoa, Essential Household Items, 2023, installation view, four inkjet prints, 690mm x 500mm, photo by Sam Hartnett Louisa Afoa, Essential Household Items, 2023 (detail). Image courtesy of the artist

We see presented for public scrutiny assorted items of great private significance to the artist, albeit they commonplace. That they are ubiquitous and not rare is important, because their value lies in their family use, what they stand for emotively in this particular household. Through personal memory they seem to take on an aura, acquiring an almost magical power.

Tāmaki Makaurau

 

 

Louisa Afoa
Essential Household Items


Curated by Andrew Kennedy

 


12 November - 28 January 2024

 

Louisa Afoa‘s four rectangular photographic compositions are lined up on the Te Tuhi ‘drawing wall’. Each compressed domestic space and its Still-Life contents is a meditation on the artist’s childhood and the parental love she received, for as narrow shrines displaying symbolic objects, they celebrate family unity and mutual tenderness, images that are paeans to family values and collective unity—and on a wider level promoting an ethos of Pasifika food preparation and community consumption.

Afoa‘s cleverly organised images (with their use of household objects for contemplation) use a shallow shelf for holding and positioning these symbols, and a backdrop of tea towels arranged like a sort of cotton Mondrian, elegant patterned ‘wallpaper’ that provides a cliff-face of pretty woven textures.

We see presented for public scrutiny assorted items of great private significance to the artist, albeit they commonplace. That they are ubiquitous and not rare is important, because their value lies in their family use, what they stand for emotively in this particular household. Through personal memory they seem to take on an aura, acquiring an almost magical power.

There is a chopping block that when placed vertically on the floor, doubles as a seat at a table for a small child. There is also a sharp-edged sliced-in-two can that is used for peeling vegetables-especially taro—and Mum’s eggbeater. Plus Dad’s dark-green bottled Brut eau de cologne, and a Siapo-labelled bottle of Nui Voka Samoan vodka made from coconut.

In every photo in the background is a bouquet of dried flowers, and a white Crown Lynn swan; sometimes two of different sizes. These ornamental ceramics the artist has inherited from her mother, and might (as curvaceous china creatures) stand for an idealised form of beauty, and the withered flowers more realistically, the transmuting or aging properties of time.

The rarified ceramics were originally owned by Afoa’s maternal grandmother and so have a very different meaning for the artist’s mother than the ‘make-do’ practical utensils the artist herself is passionately fond of—from her own childhood. An interesting generational divide.

John Hurrell

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