Robin White (Artist), Ruha Fifita (Artist)

Moana Loloto - The Crimson Sea

Moana Loloto - The Crimson Sea by Robin White, Ruha Fifita

Artwork Detail

“The crimson sea, 2014, signifies the mysterious depths of the ocean – or that which is beyond human comprehension.”

Judith Ryan, 2016

The Tongan hiapo ngatu ta’uli is an esteemed and ancient artwork that always has a dark-hued central panel. Traditionally they were made for royalty and solemn occasions such as funerals. The colour black is produced from the soot created by burning candlenut, a plant known as tuitui. The production of this precious black pigment is both complex and time-consuming and the process is rarely undertaken today.

The black void of this ngatu signifies the mysterious depths of the fathomless ocean, or that which is spiritual and beyond human understanding. The textile has a red ground prepared from umea (iron pigment) over which the tuitui (candlenut soot) is painted by mixing with tongo (mangrove medium).

Robin White comments that Moana Loloto is referred to in Tongan as ‘the word and love of God’. Loto means heart, depth, innermost essence, soul and spirit. Consequently, Moana Loloto is associated with the language of revelation and the fathomless ‘Word of God’.

‘The sea is our pathway to each other and to everyone else, the sea is our endless saga, the sea is our most powerful metaphor, the ocean is in us.’

Epeli Hau’ofa, 2008

Moana Loloto - The Crimson Sea
Robin White, Ruha Fifita
Production date
hiapo (paper mulberry), umea (red earth pigment), tongo (liquid pigment made from mangrove) and tuitui (black candlenut soot)
6540 x 3510 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the Patrons of the Auckland Art Gallery and the artists through the Auckland Art Gallery Foundation, 2018
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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