Robin White (Artist), Ruha Fifita (Artist)

‘I he 'api o 'eku Tamai/ In My Father’s House

‘I he 'api o 'eku Tamai/ In My Father’s House by Robin White, Ruha Fifita

Artwork Detail

Between 2013 and 2016, Robin White and Ruha Fifita worked collaboratively with Ebonie Fifita and the women of Haveluloto village, Tongatapu to make Tongan ngatu (painted barkcloth).

Curator Judith Ryan has commented that Tongan ngatu is a renowned living tradition creating barkcloth artwork made by a collective of women. The women soften the inner bark of hiapo (paper mulberry tree) into sheets by beating it. Sections of this barkcloth are then pasted together and the collective rub the surface with natural dyes over kupesi (raised pattern rubbing boards) revealing patterns. Motifs are further enhanced by hand painting, between both patterned and unadorned sections.

This wall-based fuatanga (large rectangular ngatu) belongs within a series of works called Ko e Hala Hangatonu: The Straight Path, 2013–16. The series was inspired by a Tongan design, the Hala Paini (Pathway of Pines), that represents the road lined with Norfolk Pines leading from the King’s Palace in Nuku’alofa to the royal tombs. In Ko e Hala Hangatonu: The Straight Path, the concept of hala (pathway) is extended to connect East and West, past and present, the everyday and the transcendental.

The title of this artwork, In My Father’s House, derives from a verse in the New Testament, at John 14:2: ‘In my Father’s house there are many mansions.’ Here, the artists are reflecting on the wider implications of the word ‘father’, acknowledging their religious beliefs and cultural influences and honouring their ancestry (whakapapa) through the repeating patterns of the ngatu.

‘I he 'api o 'eku Tamai/ In My Father’s House
Robin White, Ruha Fifita
Production date
hiapo (paper mulberry), umea (red earth pigment), tongo (liquid pigment made from mangrove) and tuitui (black candlenut soot)
6440 x 3790 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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