without centre, without limits

06 Jul - 13 Oct 2024

Four artists­ from south and east Taiwan present new works that draw on their personal experiences to invigorate their indigenous material cultures, narratives, and knowledge.

Ko te whakairatanga o tēnei whakaaturanga i te tau 2022, nā ngā ringatoi tokowhā o te paeroa o Taiwana i tārei, hei tūkanga ki te whakatinana i ngā hononga, ā, ki te akiaki i te tikanga whakawhitiwhiti, ā te wā heke, i waenga i Taiwana me Aotearoa - i te ātea o ngā hekenga nui me ngā tātai whakapapa tuku iho.

Ka tohaina ngā whakaaro o nāianei me ngā take e pā ana ki ngā ringatoi—ko Lafin Sawmah rātou ko Eleng Luluan, ko Akac Orat, ko Malay Makakazuwan—mā ngā mahi hōu I waihangatia mō Govett-Brewster Art Gallery i muri i te wānanga rua wiki te roa i Aotearoa nei.

Ka tāmaua e ia ringatoi ngā wheako me ngā hītori motuhake ake o ia iwi, ki te whakahaumanu ii ngā kura o roto i ngā pūrākau me ngā rauemi taketake o hō rātou ahurea. Ko te whakatinanatanga o hēnei mahi ka kitea i te rangitāmirotanga o ngā whakapono ki te mahi I te ngākau tapatahi, i te wairua o te whakaaro tahi, kia toitū te hononga ki te whenua me te moana, ki hō rātou ake aho tāngaengae e kore e motukia— e whai tikanga ana hēnei whakaaro katoa i tēnā pito o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa ki tēnei pito i Aotearoa nei. Kāore he pito, kāore hoki he taiepa i te pitomata o tēnei takiwā, i hēnei hononga hoki.

This exhibition by four artists from south and east Taiwan was conceived in 2022 as part of a process to enact connections and encourage future exchanges between Taiwan and Aotearoa - a space of shared migration and enduring whakapapa ties.

Insights into the contemporary life and concerns of the artists—Lafin Sawmah, Eleng Luluan, Akac Orat and Malay Makakazuwan— are offered through new works created for the Govett-Brewster after reflecting on time spent together during a two-week residency in Aotearoa.

Each artist draws on their personal experience and distinct tribal backgrounds to invigorate their indigenous material cultures, narratives, and knowledge. The resulting works are grounded in the shared beliefs of collective responsibility, community spirit, an inseparable connection to land and sea, and the unbreakable bond between past, present and future— all ideas from the edge of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa which have a resonance here in Aotearoa. The possibilities of this space, these relations, are conceived as being without a centre, and without limits.

About the artists:

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Lafin Sawmah

Lafin Sawmah (1983 – 2023) belonged to the Pangcha (Amis) tribe, located on the east coast of Taiwan in Taitung County. Lafin worked and lived in the city before he returned to his hometown Changbin at age 26, where he rediscovered his tribal culture, his passion for art and began specialising in woodworking. Lafin assisted several Indigenous artists before establishing his studio in 2011 with his wife Heidi Yip. He became known for his carved sculptures and land art installation. 

In recent years, Lafin’s vison for his creative practice expanded as he sought to reconnect with the legacy of his ocean-voyaging ancestors.  He made a wa’a sculpture which later turned into a sea-going vessel.  His project had great support not only by his local friends and family but also Hawaiian Hi’ikua sailor Kimokeo Kapahulehua. His wa’a entitled Fawah was launched in 2022 with ritual, an occasion that re-awakened ocean ceremony and knowledge amongst his community.

Eleng Luluan

Eleng Luluan was born in 1968 in the Kucapungane (Haocha) community, Pingtung County in southern Taiwan. In 2002, at the age of 34, she moved to the Dulan community in Taitung, Eastern Taiwan, where she was exposed to contemporary Indigenous art. There she was able to create a space for her own self-determination and an artistic life. Adhering to the concept of getting close to nature, her deeply intuitive making process results in works that evoke the senses, encouraging embodied experience and ways of knowing.

Eleng is renowned for her mixed-media sculpture and environmental installations that utilise natural and everyday materials. She constructs with and transforms materials whose tensile and conceptual strength challenge established gender identities and discourses of settler-colonial, diasporic, migrant, other transnational and transcultural histories. Her works address the monumental issues faced by Indigenous Taiwanese peoples—including enduring colonial wounds and effects of land disasters. In doing so, she invites us to bear witness and care about what we feel and see.

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Akac Orat

Born in 1984 in Taitung, Taiwan, Akac grew up in the Puyuma tribe. At the age of 30, he lived in his mother’s Amis tribe where he engaged in traditional craftmanship, art education and curatorial practice. As a curator, he utilised the exhibition format as a discursive platform and a means to support the regeneration of indigenous knowledge and practices. As a teacher, he promoted an interdisciplinary understanding of art.

In recent years he has entered different domains of practice and engaged in field work. He built a traditional Amis thatched house—a centre for learning in which he passes on his skills to others—that has enabled him to reimagine an indigenous life for himself. His artistic production is focused on the maintenance of traditional values and cultural knowledge found within the practice of harvesting and transforming natural materials and caring for the land they grow on. He is a rattan weaver and responds to contemporary issues through this craft.

Malay Makakazuwan

Born in 1980, Malay lives and works in Hualien, Taiwan. Her parents were the first generation from her indigenous family to live in an urban area and were often away from the tribal community for work. As a result, Malay and her younger brother were raised by their grandparents (mumu) in the Pinaski tribal community in Taitung. Memories of her family and hometown have become a source of solace and inspiration in her creative endeavours.

Malay's works primarily consist of mixed media, with expressions often incorporating weaving techniques using found objects and natural materials. She draws inspiration from tribal stories and current events, exploring tribal culture and creation to give voice to the modern marginalisation of indigenous communities in Taiwan.

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An illustrated bilingual Mandarin and English publication will be available in late 2024 comprising texts on the artists and their context by Taiwanese writers, various reflections on the Aotearoa residency and project, and documentation of the artists’ new works.

Public Programmes 

Sat 06 Jul 2024 | 10:30AM | Artists' Kōrero: without centre without limits

Sat 06 Jul 2024 | 1:00PM | Curators Tour: without centre, without limits