Featuring Marks by Julia Mage’au Gray, stories by Emmaline Matagi and Michaelyn Pokarop
Curated by Ema Tavola
LAIN BLO YU MI – Our People Our Lines is an exhibition that pays homage to Auckland-based Papua New Guinean-Australian mark maker, Julia Mage’au Gray, and her significant role in the revival of Melanesian female tattoo practice.
In 2013, Julia was part of a collective of women who produced the three-part documentary film, “Tep Tok: Reading Between Our Lines”. The film is based on the journey of four Papua New Guinean – Australian women as they trace the relationships of Melanesian tattoo from their respective regions to practices across the Pacific. They embody the research, being marked along the way, discussing meaning and mana with Pacific people across Oceania, Australia and Aotearoa. For Julia, the film was a catalyst; for Melanesian mark making to be revived and survive, the movement required more than awareness, it needed action.
In 2014, Julia shifted her focus from choreography and filmmaking to learning the tattoo artform; she took the revival of skin marking worn by her Bubu (grandmothers) from research to practice. Julia’s aesthetic is informed by a distinctly Melanesian visual vocabulary and her work now adorns the skin of countless men and women around the world.
LAIN BLO YU MI – Our People Our Lines is story of female-led tattoo revival and the impact of Julia’s work on the ways we embody our connections, decolonise our thinking, and shift energies to transform our relationships with ourselves and the worlds around us.
The exhibition presents a community of practice; men and women whose lives have been indelibly impacted by the process of being marked by Julia and her team. A special contribution is the detailed stories of Melanesian women, Emmaline Matagi (Fiji) and Michaelyn Pokarop (Papua New Guinea) who subvert early colonial anthropological documentation modes to centralise the experience of Melanesian women over outsider perspectives.
The exhibition will be officially closed on Saturday 28 September with a significant site-specific live performance of Melanesian mark making and ritual. Audiences are welcome to participate on the basis of a reciprocal exchange of food and considered presence.
LAIN BLO YU MI – Our People Our Lines is proudly part of Arts Month, a national programme of arts events throughout September supported by the Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi.
Vunilagi Vou opening hours:
Tuesday – Thursday: 10am – 5pm
Friday: 10am – 6pm
Saturday: 11am – 4pm
Sunday / Monday: Closed