In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • About the Artists
  • Katherine Higgins

The art throughout this issue responds to a central theme: maintaining an indigenous identity within the French colonial system. These seven artists express, confront, and assert indigenous identities; they challenge and extend the visual discourse across the region and engage home communities and distant audiences. Rather than aesthetic similarities, I sought diversity. I invited women and men, well-established and emerging, who are exploring new media, mastering fine art practices, confronting social and cultural issues, and celebrating strength and beauty in Oceania.

These artists grew up in the Islands. Many are self-taught, some went abroad to art schools, and others attended Tahiti’s Centre des Métiers d’Art (cma), where students are encouraged to discover individual expression while learning techniques inherent in Polynesian and Oceanic artistic heritage. As students at cma, Olson Teraiamano and Manaarii Tetauupu created works that pay tribute to ti‘i (anthropomorphic figures) and contemplate the role of deities in modern life. Marie-Hélène Villierme, who left Tahiti to attend art schools in France and Belgium, uses photography and film to present a visual testimony to life in French Polynesia. TAHE, a self-taught artist, reconstitutes found objects to re-humanize abandoned spaces around Tahiti.

One of the first Kanak contemporary artists, Micheline Néporon has devoted herself to art since the late 1970s and in the 1990s attended fine arts and architectural schools in France. Denise Tiavouane and Paula Boi Gony are also self-taught artists and, like Micheline, have been included in the prestigious Asia Pacific Triennial. Together they are “big sisters” for the interdisciplinary arts organization Siapo NC Collective and use art to inspire youth to explore Kanak history and identity.

For me, the art throughout this issue highlights innovative and compelling expressions of visual culture in French Polynesia and New Caledonia with a definitive similarity: the artists are consciously working with their [End Page IX] communities to incite discourse about indigenous identity through art. I am grateful to the artists for their contributions and for the assistance of Ela To‘omaga-Kaikilekofe, Patrice Kaikilekofe, Viri Taimana, and guest editors Bruno Saura and Léopold Mu Si Yan. [End Page X]

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Tupuna and Nuuroa with a Puta Tupuna (ancient manuscript with genealogical lineages), by Marie-Hélène Villierme (French Polynesia), 2010.

Digital print of a medium format film (silver halide), 60 cm x 60 cm. Image courtesy of the artist (

Marie-Hélène Villierme left Tahiti at the age of eighteen to study photography in France and Brussels. Her creative work explores customs, community, and histories in Tahiti, French Polynesia, and the Pacific region. Marie-Hélène’s photographs achieve the delicate balance of transformation and continuity in different social and cultural environments, whether celebrating customs like heiva (dance) or contemplating the effects of nuclear testing.

[End Page XI]

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Kego, by Paula Boi Gony (New Caledonia), 2004.

Acrylic on board, 40 cm x 60 cm. Image courtesy of Ela To‘omaga-Kaikilekofe and Siapo NC Collective.

Paula Boi Gony was born in the north of Koumac, a commune in the North Province. She uses visual arts to reinterpret aspects of customary Kanak society, such as traditional values and laws. Her work has been included in prestigious local and international exhibitions, including the 1994 Nouméa Biennial and the 3rd Asia Pacific Triennial.

[End Page XII]

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Human Print, by TAHE [Tahea Drollet] (French Polynesia), 2009.

Public installation with found materials, burned wood, and aerosol paint; various dimensions. Image courtesy of the artist (

Tahea Drollet, known as TAHE, is a Tahitian artist whose work confronts globalization and confidently asserts indigenous identity for wider public discourse beyond gallery walls, often through graffiti. TAHE creates socially engaged and politically activated art in public spaces such as this abandoned building. He created this installation from the rotting debris and added faces to the walls to “re-humanize” the space and leave a poetic scene for accidental visitors.

[End Page XIII]

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pp. IX-XIX
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