Lonnie Hutchinson

Black Pearl

Artwork Detail

Since 1997, interdisciplinary artist Lonnie Hutchinson has brought to light repressed narratives of Māori and Pacific Island experiences and histories to challenge patriarchal and colonial narratives.

Hutchinson’s revision of the past is articulated through a visual language made up of recurring motifs such as the elusive spectre ‘Black Pearl’, a potent haunting figure painted in black and characterised by a distinctive Afro. Black Pearl emanates from Hutchinson’s exploration of Pacific herstories; a symbol of Indigenous female empowerment, her phantom presence haunts and taunts the subconscious of patriarchal audiences.

In the moving image work 'Black Pearl', 2005, Black Pearl is rendered in black silhouette and brought to life using stop-motion animation. She is presented in provocative positions that change in rhythm with the accompanying sounds of waves breaking against the sides of a ship and seagull calls. The sexualised nature of the work reveals the history of prostitution in the harrowing ‘blackbirding’ practices of the late 19th century, in which men, women and children from across the Pacific were abducted and coerced into indentured labour in Australia and as far away as Peru. Captured women were expected to provide sexual services for the ship’s complement, traded between different vessels and sold in slave markets known as ‘barracoons’.

– Ane Tonga, Curator of Pacific Art, 2023

Black Pearl
Lonnie Hutchinson
Production date
single channel video installation, standard definition, 4:3, black and white, stereo sound
1min 59sec
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2006
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

To find out which artworks are available for print requests and reproduction please enquire here. This service only applies to select artworks in the Gallery's collection.