For Te Tuhi’s Project Wall, Benjamin Work has created a wall painting which calls into question symbols associated with nationhood and identity.
The artist deconstructs the Tongan Royal Flag in order to address the adoption of imperial symbols, and the subsequent devaluing of traditional motifs, to fit within the narrative of civilisation imposed by the English, French and Spanish colonial powers. Work reverses this relationship by incorporating indigenous symbols of wealth and power. A fala (woven mat) will be provided for the viewer to sit on and engage with the work, transforming Te Tuhi’s foyer space into a site of self-determination.
Benjamin Work (1979, Tamaki Makaurau, Auckland) is a Nuku’alofa-based artist of Tongan (Tu’anekivale) and New Zealand Scottish heritage. Known for his paintings in Auckland’s public spaces, Work combines his background in aerosol painting with a creative output centred on popular culture influences that emerged from North America in the 1970s and 1980s. Work’s bold visual language references design elements and semiotics particular to Tongan weaponry and culture. His practice extends across a diverse range of mediums reflecting the ‘here and now’ and engages with the current cultural and social context throughout the Moana.
Work's Revamped Tongan Coat of Arms - EyeContact