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  • About the Artist:Kalisolaite 'Uhila
  • Moana Nepia

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Photo by Patti Solomona Tyrell

While on a 2018 residency at the Youkobo Art Space in Tokyo, Tongan-New Zealand performance artist Kalisolaite 'Uhila connected with other Tongans living there, undertaking research into their experiences of Asian culture and the nature of time—how its use and contours may change according to where we might be located, the spaces we inhabit, and the people with whom we are sharing those spaces. Researching the inter action between bodies and ideas in and through time informs both philosophical and material aspects of his work as a performance artist. Audiences responding to the sensory and visual impact of his work are drawn to contemplate its metaphorical references to Pacific Islander experiences in historical and geopolitical contexts. Similarly, a personal focus on relationships with others, and life outside the time and space of performance, provides 'Uhila with a meditative still-point that enables him to endure the emotional and physical demands of site-specific, durational practices.

After living in a shipping container with a pig for a week, inhabiting the streets of Auckland for three months for a project about homelessness, performing on theroof of a gallery to bemused spectators in adjacent high-rise buildings and the street below, and since "cooking" himself in an umu, 'Uhila has attracted a loyal following, received numerous awards, and been in demand for regional and international exhibitions and residencies in New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Japan, Tonga, and the Cook Islands. In 2016, he completed his master's of performance and media arts at Auckland University of Technology (aut) with first-class honors. He is represented by Michael Lett in New Zealand ( and in 2019 is a featured artist in the second Honolulu Biennial (

The art featured in this issue can be viewed in full color in the online versions. [End Page v]

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Mo'ui tukuhausia, by Kalisolaite 'Uhila, 2012 and 2014.

Performance, Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, 2012;

The Walters Prize, Auckland Art Gallery, 2014.

Photo by Bruce Phillips, courtesy of the artist and Michael Lett.

In an effort to draw attention to increasing levels of homelessness in Auckland, one of the most expensive cities in the world, 'Uhila took up a week-long residency in the grounds of Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts in 2012 and on the city's streets for three months in 2014. Mo'ui tukuhausia, meaning "to be absolutely stranded," "left friendless," or "destitute," also draws attention to theemotional experiences and disproportionate overrepresen tation of Pacific Islandersfacing homelessness in other Pacific centers, such as Honolulu, Saipan, Papeete, Suva, Port Moresby, or Sydney. [End Page vi]

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Mo'ui tukuhausia, by Kalisolaite 'Uhila, 2012.

From the exhibition What do you mean, we?, Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, 3 March–6 May 2012.

Photo by Bruce Phillips, courtesy of the artist and Michael Lett.

'Uhila's message on this cardboard placard for Mo'ui tukuhausia is a call to action that recognizes the transformative political power of the personal gesture. It also prompts us to think beyond small, random acts of charity and toward sustainable solutions for homelessness that will bring lasting change. Attacking issues of climate change and sea-level rising, poverty, pollution, human rights abuses, and the scourge of lifestyle-related diseases in the Pacific requires similar emphasis on raising personal and collective levels of consciousness, shifting focus away from the self-centered excesses of neoliberalism and isolationist thinking, reaffirming universal rights, and values of kindness and respect, multilateral thinking, and collaboration. [End Page vii]

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Umu Tangata, by Kalisolaite 'Uhila, 2013.

Performance, volcanic rocks, wood, smoke machine, lights.

Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland.

Photo courtesy of the artist and Michael Lett.

While preparing for Umu Tangata, 'Uhila was thinking about his role as an artist—sacrificing himself as "an offering" for his people, his country, and his work. In order to sustain the physical ordeal of this eight-hour performance, he described "energizing himself" outside...


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