‘Uhila’s practice derives from a lived experience of the body as a cultural and political entity . . . his works oscillate between Tongan and Western notions of the body, space, and time’.
– Nina Tonga
Pigs in the yard II is a new Te Tuhi commission by Auckland-based artist Kalisolaite ‘Uhila. In this solo exhibition ‘Uhila revisits an earlier series of works investigating the relationship between humans and pigs. The first iteration was a performance in which ‘Uhila reversed the relationship of humans and animals by allowing a group of pigs to run free while the artist and the audience were confined behind fences. In a later work he shared a container with a piglet for a week. For Te Tuhi, ‘Uhila develops this inquiry further through a video installation documenting the life of pigs and the cooking of a whole pig as a live action.
As is the case in many Polynesian societies, pigs in Tonga are revered as a sacred animal, used as a ceremonial food only for important occasions such as weddings or funerals. Because of this status, pigs in Tonga are allowed to roam about with relative freedom. However, in most Western societies pigs are often caged in adverse conditions and are a symbol for uncleanliness or gluttony. ‘Uhila also cites George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm (1945) and in particular the pig protagonist Napoleon who leads a rebellion against a human farmer. The political allegory that plays out in Animal Farm holds added significance for ‘Uhila as a reflection on the human compulsion to create social structures, and how this often involves an occupation of space and the control of bodies. In this sense, the pigs in ‘Uhila's work are significant as sacred animals of Tongan lore but also as surrogates for the human body and a metaphor for the freedom or repression.
‘Uhila was the recipient of the 2013 Iris Fisher scholarship.
→ Revered Porcine Cuisine – EyeContact