Ani O'Neill (Artist), Rosanna Raymond (Artist)

Tuna as Man, Tuna as Eel

Tuna as Man, Tuna as Eel by Ani O'Neill, Rosanna Raymond

Artwork Detail

In 1994 Rosanna Raymond and Ani O’Neill were invited by curator Jim Vivieaere to perform at the opening of Bottled Ocean at the Auckland City Art Gallery. They chose to present the Pan-Pacific legend creation story of Ina and Tuna and the genesis of the coconut palm. The two ‘coconut eel puppets’ were made in Rosanna’s kitchen in her Kitchener Street apartment.

Their opening performance has since become renowned as the very first public presentation by the Pacific Sisters; they performed as living installations to recreate the ancient Mangaian legend of Tuna transformed into the Pacific’s most important tree. The garments’ activation as living puppets recast the nature and scope of contemporary Pacific performance art.

Rosanna Raymond notes that: ‘Dance is a vital art form in the Pacific; I call it our google. Dancers are storytellers who transfer knowledge by dancing our histories. In the Pacific, oratory is the highest art form; dance is used to uphold the mana of the words. It’s a direct link to the Atua (Gods), a form of prayer. Dance is used in times of ceremony, celebration and war. It weaves its way through all aspects of our lives.’

These two artworks have been presented in performance for 25 years and have, on a few occasions, had key elements remade and rearticulated. They have the status of the first major Pacific performance costumes created in Auckland.

Tuna as Man, Tuna as Eel
Ani O'Neill, Rosanna Raymond
Production date
nylon, coconut, coconut husk, seed
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the Patrons of the Auckland Art Gallery, 2019
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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