Sun Gate: Ha‘amonga a Maui is a live-streamed durational performance by artist Kalisolaite ‘Uhila with Ha‘amonga a Maui, the Burden of Maui, a 13th-century gateway stone threshold on the Eastern shore of Tonga. The gateway was once used by ancient Polynesians as a sundial for the shadow it casts and the marks on the surface bear witness to this story. Moana Nui A Kiwa stories of Maui often reflect the trials that occur when humanity goes out of sync with natural rhythms, just as today as we face climate change and the effects of increasing cyclones and sea level rise, which disproportionately affect island nations such as Tonga.
On 15 January 2022, the violent subterranean eruption of Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai sent out shockwaves spanning over 300 kilometres from under the water to high into the ionosphere. The effect on Tongan people and their homes from the waves of an immense tsunami that ripped across the islands was catastrophic. Communication ceased; no one knew what was happening to their loved ones. Ha‘amonga a Maui was blanketed in ash, but protected from the worst effects of the tsunami on the Eastern side of Tonga. This durational eight-hour performance aims to heal communication networks between Aotearoa and Tonga and to connect to the path of the sun and our warming atmosphere.
On the Autumn equinox, 20 March 2023, the sun moves north across the celestial equator and day and night are of exactly equal length. This event will be registered in Tonga by Ha‘amonga a Maui and the long shadow it casts and by ‘Uhila’s own body. He will be stationed in Tonga at the gateway of Ha‘amonga a Maui in counterpoint to this monument. His body will attune to the lengthening shadows over a day; the sun in Tonga sits straight on the forehead in the afternoon then moves to cast shadows over an eight-hour period.
About Kalisolaite ‘Uhila
Kalisolaite ‘Uhila was born in 1981 in the Kingdom of Tonga. He lives and works in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. ‘Uhila’s practice revolves around performance. He has made many durational performance works, which are often informed by his Tongan heritage. Tradition, masculinity and cultural bias are ideas that ‘Uhila explores. Through his performance works he often seeks to promote a sense of understanding and togetherness. ‘Uhila has received multiple residencies for his practice, including the Montalvo Arts Centre Residency, California (2018); Youkobo Art Space Residency, Tokyo (2018) and ZK/U & Ifa Galerie Residency, Berlin (2016). In 2014, he was selected as a finalist in the Walters Prize for his 2012 work Mo’ui Tukuhausia. In 2020, ‘Uhila was awarded the Harriet Friedlander Residency by the Arts Foundation of New Zealand.