Fofonga ‘oe kau fakafoki – The faces of those who have returned

A solo exhibition by Todd Henry

6-31 August

Vunilagi Vou proudly presents the first solo exhibition of Auckland-based photographer Todd Henry (US/NZ). Fofonga ‘oe kau fakafoki – The faces of those who have returned is a body of work Henry made during the filming of the VICE New Zealand documentary that he associate produced, “Deportees of Tonga: Gangsters in Paradise” (2019) offering audiences insight into the worlds and experiences of Tongan deportees.

Whilst VICE’s signature production and narrative style has generated mixed reviews amongst Pacific audiences, Henry’s still photography captures a humanistic side of the film’s subjects. Unlike fly-in-fly-out production teams, his connections to Tonga and Oceania are deeper and enduring.

As part of his postgraduate research, Henry has analysed the visual representation of climate change in Tuvalu and its relationship to “last chance” tourism in the country, a topic of global interest and broadly documented by international media. Through his time spent on the islands, Henry developed a protocol of ‘locally guided’ representation based on time and talanoa, and sharing the power of the lens. 

Oceania has deep histories of [mis-]representation perpetrated by outsiders and the colonial gaze, but it is Henry’s sensitivity to his subjects, their voices and their agency as subjects in his photography, that elevates his position as an image maker of Pacific time and space. 

In the Kingdom of Ōtāhuhu aka Little Tonga, Fofonga ‘oe kau fakafoki – The faces of those who have returned is importantly positioned to broker conversations about the politics of representation, attitudes towards deportees, redemption and the idea of return.

A limited edition of photographic prints will be available for sale with all profits going towards Dare to Dream Foundation, a new organisation aiming to mentally and physically assist the deportees in Tonga.

Main image credit: Talia’uli Prescott reflects on his past life outside of his home in Ma’ufanga, Tonga, photo by Todd Henry