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07 October 2006 —
29 November 2006

Andy Leleisi'uao:
The ballad of
the cheeky darkie

Christchurch based, Samoan artist Andy Leleisi'uao's paintings and sculptures lace their investigations into the effects of colonization and consumer culture with a dark, biting humor. 'The ballad of the cheeky darkie' mixes up two of the Christchurch based artist's most significant bodies of work—'The ballad of 'Tinou'amea and Pepe' (2004) and 'Cheeky darkie' (2005).

'The ballad of Tinou'amea and Pepe' traces the story of Leleisi'uao's parents arriving from Samoa to Auckland to start a 'better life'. The paintings tell both the personal story of Leleisi'uao's family, but also chart the wider experience of Polynesian migration to New Zealand in the 1960s and 70s, their personal account carrying with it, as Leleisi'uao says: 'the poignancy of not always belonging'.

Papoli drawing on the temple of Lalomaunga shows a Samoan couple arriving in New Zealand. The paper plane indicates their recent arrival while the standard issue blue overalls hanging behind them hint at their future employment. Enigmatic blue on a weekly basis depicts the man about to put on his overalls while his wife winds him up in preparation for work at the factory. The narrative is stamped with recurring symbols which reverberate across the works—from the paper plane (which transforms from a symbol of arrival to demonstrate money sent back home) to the New Zealand flag, butterfly wings and allusions to the painting The last supper.

'Cheeky darkie' presents the ubiquitous fast-food Happy Meals, but not as you've ever seen them before. Stationed on cans of pisupo, or corned beef (referencing the shift from a traditional Polynesian diet), well known characters from popular culture—ET, wrestlers, Krusty the Clown—are transformed. Leleisi'uao says of these works: 'the toys are painted brown because you don't have Samoan toys…they are a bit of fun but there is a sinister side.'