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Ata Moana draws inspiration from Tongan practice of pattern-making

Smaller size Faletau

Recordings made on the shoreline of Te Matau-a-Māui have been transformed into a stunning installation by digital artist Dr. Sione Faletau. Faletau’s installations combine geometric forms and movement to create an immersive digital exhibition experience that you must visit.

‘Ata Moana’ also draws inspiration from traditional kupesi. Kupesi is the Tongan practice of pattern-making and carries meanings and histories, with deep connections to place.

Faletau’s practice is site-specific. Visiting Ahuriri, Napier in 2023, Faletau responded to the Museum’s architecture and drew inspiration from its connection to Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. In making this work, Faletau began with the recordings he made on the shoreline of Te Matau-a-Māui.

Digital sound waves give Faletau a range of high, medium, and low frequencies that he manipulates into moving image form. “Audio wave spectrums of sound form data or information that give me the material I manipulate to become kupesi. Much like how tufunga (tapa artists) manipulate material to create their art,” Sione says.

Projection mapping those kupesi onto forms, the patterns morph into an organic experience, seamlessly bridging the realms of technology and nature. This innovative method has opened a new language and a unique way of seeing and engaging with kupesi in the contemporary realm.

“I research things that interest me. If I find something interesting with sound or within Tongan cultural practices, I'm going in that direction – these things that I just keep unlocking, so to speak. And I guess that's what sustains the creative drive and that state of flow.”

Sione is of Tongan descent, from the villages of Taunga and Lakepa in Tonga. ‘Ata Moana’ presents the Tongan worldview in an exciting and fresh way, digitally exploring the visual potential of sound in his work. His art practice is multidisciplinary; he has many strands of art making which he utilizes to explore ideas through the mediums of performance, video, drawing, sculpture, and installation. Most recently, his practice has moved more into the digital realm where he works to explore the visual language of soundscape and design.

Exhibitions like 'Ata Moana' are important, offering a dynamic fusion of tradition and innovation. By transforming recordings from Te Matau-a-Māui's shoreline into immersive digital installations and drawing inspiration from Tongan kupesi, Sione creates a new visual language, bridging the gap between technology and nature. Of delving into the past and responding using new technologies, Faletau says, “I guess we're playing with time and space. These are about traditional forms being created with contemporary means.”

This approach not only enriches the understanding of traditional practices but also expands the possibilities of contemporary art. For MTG Hawke's Bay Tai Ahuriri, 'Ata Moana' presents a fresh perspective, inviting viewers to explore the interconnectedness of sound, feeling, and visual expression.

‘Ata Moana’ is on show at MTG Hawke’s Bay Museum, Ta Ahuriri until 4 August 2024.

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper 24 February 2023 and written by Toni MacKinnon, Art Curator at MTG Hawke’s Bay.

Image: Still from video installation ‘Ata Moana’ 2024.  by Dr Sione Faletau.


26 February 2024

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