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

  • About the Artist: Lisa Hilli
  • Katerina Teaiwa

Born in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea (PNG), and living in Narrm/Melbourne, Australia, Lisa Hilli is a contemporary artist with lineages from PNG (Tolai/Gunantuna), Finland, England, and South Africa. Her work highlights the in/visibility of Black and Melanesian women’s bodies through themes of landscape, history, and archival research, which she explores through photography, video, textiles, and installation. Her major works have culminated in touring exhibitions, including Trade & Transformations (2018), Social Conditioner (2015–2016), Vunatarai Armour & Midi (2015–2016), and Just Like Home (2010–2013), while others have been featured at galleries and events in Australia, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Hilli holds an MFA from RMIT University and is currently an experience developer for Te Pasifika Gallery at Melbourne Museum. She has been an artist in residence at institutions in PNG, Australia, and Finland, she worked with Pacific communities in Australia and Solomon Islands to create short films for the eleventh Festival of Pacific Arts (2014), and she cofounded the Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle and the Contemporary Pacific Arts Festival (Footscray Community Arts Centre, 2013–2015).

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Photo by Atong Atem

As Hilli discussed on The Art Show with Namila Benson regarding her three-video animated work Afrophobia, her experiences as a Black woman have deeply shaped her creativity. For instance, on the politics of Black womanhood and afro-textured hair, she explained, “Hair is such a key identifying feature of who I am. . . . It’s a powerful marker on my body. . . . I’m standing in my strength and being proud of who I am, and it took me a long time to get there. It’s something that’s used as a significant tool of political movements . . . that definitely unites Black people across the world” (abc Radio National, 10 June 2020).

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

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Damien Kereku, Vunalagir Vunatarai, Tolai People, Wearing Midi, by Lisa Hilli, 2015.

Returning the midi to the Tolai male body helped me understand its historical and contemporary significance to Tolai people today. Through remaking a midi, I learned the power of embodied and ancestral knowledge. This is the first midi to be made in over a hundred years.

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In a Bind, by Lisa Hilli, 2015.

Pigment print on cotton rag; 76 cm x 51.5 cm.

Frustrated by museum displays of fractured, decontextualized, and disembodied Melanesian cultures, I challenge the viewer to contemplate the tensions between a perceived artifact and the fact of my body. Through this impractical mask and while standing on my matrilineal lands, I reduce my body to hair texture and skin tone to signifythe historical and contemporary legacies of derogatory labels and geographical terminologies based on Melanesian and Papua Niugini peoples’ physicality.

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Raim Wearing Vunatarai (Matrilineal) Armour, by Lisa Hilli, 2015. Cotton, cardboard, digital photographs on paper; diameter 46 cm.

Vunatarai (Matrilineal) Armour draws on matrilineal strength and Tolai knowledge systems. I center and reinsert my vunatarai (clan) totem— Makurategete (cordyline and croton plants)—onto paper tags usually attached to museum artifacts that are generally devoid of cultural makers’ identities. Stitched onto red cloth, the circular and repetitive design feminizes the midi, a historical Tolai male body adornment. This work is worn by my mother, Raim.

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Sisterhood Lifeline, by Lisa Hilli, 2018.

Photo commissioned for the exhibition The Commute, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia.

Vinyl wall mural; dimensions variable.

A creative response to a personal experience of institutional racism, Sisterhood Lifeline celebrates and honors the sacred space that Black women and nonbinary people hold for each other through vulnerability and strength. This photographic work unapologetically affirms the bodies that are familiar to me and serves as a call for all people of color to boldly take up space when working in cultural institutions to bring about change.

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Social Conditioner series, by Lisa Hilli, 2016.

From left to right: Me...


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p. vii
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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