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Can you see us now? Jasmine Togo-Brisby

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Jasmine Togo-Brisby, Can you see us now? 2024, cast plaster. Photo by Max Bull-Crossan

16 Māehe – 23 Hune 2024
16 March – 23 June 2024

He uri a Jasmine Togo-Brisby o te reanga tuawhā nō Te Moana o Ahitereiria ki te tonga o Ni-Vanuatu. Hāngai pū ana āna mahi toi ki ngā whakareretanga iho o te whakataurekareka i Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa.

He puninga toi tārai hou a Kei te kitea mātau ināianei? nā Togo-Brisby, e whakaatu ana i te hītori mō ngā tāngata moutere o te South Sea, ngā uri o ngā iwi o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa i tōia atu ki Ahitereiria ki te whakahaere urupuia i te 1847 ki te 1903. E rua ngā whakaahua hei tāhūhū whakaaro mā te ringatoi, te kaipuke; me te tuanui tīni Wunderlich, he rite tonu te kitea o ēnei whakaahua ki ngā whare Deco taketake o Heretaunga.

Ko ngā pahū tamtam ukutāhū - he momo pahū rākau ka whakamahia hei whakapānga, ā, hei whakarākei hoki i ngā kaupapa a Vanuatu - kua whakarārangihia ki te papa o te whare toi ānō nei he anga kaipuke. He hangarewa kōaro nō ngā pahū tamtam pakupaku i hangaia mā ngā tūruhi, engari mō te ringatoi nei ka taka a roto. Mō Togo-Brisby, ko te waka te tohu o te aroha me ngā pēhitanga o te wā me ngā reanga - he taunga mō te whakapapa o te South Sea me ōna tini hononga.

Kua whakarākeitia te tuanui ki ngā rama. Ko tā te ringatoi he whakaatu i ngā whakarakeitanga o te rautau 20 me tana hononga ki te whānau Wunderlich. He wā tōna ko te whānau Wunderlich ngā pou tuku tuanui tīni ki Aotearoa, nā ngā tīpuna o Togo-Brisby i mua noa i te kāwhakitanga o ngā tīpuna nei ki Vanuatu, ki reira whakataurekarekatia ai.

Nō nā tata nei uiuitia ai a Ahorangi Clare Corbould, ka matapakia e Togo-Brisby te āhua ki te "purei me te pūranga uriuri", ka whakakōrerohia te hononga o ngā hītori o te taurekarekatanga me te pēhitanga me te hāngai ki te kaupapa Black Lives Matter hei akiaki i te tū mārō hītararī. I ahu mai i te whakaaro i te tono a tētahi māheni kia whakarāpopotongia e ia tana kaupapa mā ngā kupu rima: Kei. Te. Kitea. Mātau. Ināianei? Mārakerake ana te pātai nei i tana puninga toi.

I whānau a Jasmine Togo-Brisby ki Murwillumbah, ki Niu Haute Wēra i te 1982, ā, kei Brisbane ia e noho ana. Mai i te 2018 ki te 2022, i noho ia ki Te Whanganui-a-Tara, ka puta tana ihu ki te Mātai Toi Whakangahau ki Te Whare Wānanga o Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa. Kua whakaaturia whānuitia ngā toi a Togo-Brisby e ngā whare toi puta noa i Aotearoa me Ahitereiria, nāna i huri ai ngā kōrero mō ngā toi o te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa ki reira. He mea whakanui āna mahi e ngā whare toi tiketike pēnei i a Te Papa Tongarewa, Te Whare Toi o Tāmaki, QAGOMA, Te Whare Toi o Ahitereiria me Te Whare Toi o Niu Haute Wēra.


 

Jasmine Togo-Brisby is a fourth-generation Australian South Sea Islander of Ni-Vanuatu ancestry. Her art practice is deeply engaged with the global legacies of the South Pacific slave trade and its passages through Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, the Pacific Ocean.

Can you see us now? is a new sculptural installation by Togo-Brisby, which sheds light on the history of South Sea Islanders, the descendants of Pacific Islanders who were taken to Australia to work on plantations between 1847 and 1903. It builds on two recurring images the artist reclaims across her practice: the ship; and decorative Wunderlich pressed-tin ceilings, which are seen in many Deco heritage buildings in Heretaunga Hastings.

Plaster-cast replica tamtam drums – a type of wooden slit drum used for communication and ceremonies in the islands of Vanuatu – are arranged on the gallery’s floor to form a skeletal ship, resembling an excavation of sorts. The artist has taken her moulds from miniature tamtam drums created for the tourist industry, but here these silent instruments strike a deep, reverberating chord. For Togo-Brisby, the ship is an image of empathy and resistance across time, space, and genealogies – a vessel for South Sea identity and the connected journeys of many.

Lit by chandeliers hovering just above the ground, the installation also recalls an ornate ceiling. Behind the artist’s reference to the decorative façades of the early 20th Century is a personal connection to the Sydney-based Wunderlich family. The Wunderlichs, at one time the largest provider of pressed-tin ceilings to Aotearoa New Zealand, acquired Togo-Brisby’s great-great-grandparents after they were abducted in Vanuatu and enslaved as domestic servants.

In a recent interview with Professor Clare Corbould, Togo-Brisby discusses the practice of “playing in the dark archive”, making global connections between histories of slavery and oppression in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, to encourage empowerment and liberation. The title of this installation is taken from her response to an art magazine’s request to sum up her art practice in five words: Can. You. See. Us. Now? This question of visibility and cultural memory beats like a drum through her work.

Jasmine Togo-Brisby was born in Murwillumbah, New South Wales in 1982 and is currently based in Brisbane. From 2018-2022 she lived in Wellington, where she completed an MFA at Massey University. Togo-Brisby has exhibited extensively across Aotearoa and Australia and made significant contributions to new dialogues in contemporary Pacific art in both countries. Her works have been exhibited by and collected by major institutions including Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, QAGOMA, Australian Museum and Art Gallery of New South Wales.

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