In a world premiere, renowned Samoan-born contemporary artist, Greg Semu, will unveil a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria featuring a series of powerful photographic works, The Raft of the Tagata Pasifika (People of the Pacific). Working with a cast of twenty-two indigenous actors from the Cook Islands, Semu restages two iconic European history paintings.
Displayed on large-scale lightboxes, Greg Semu's work reimagines John Steele and Charles F Goldie’s painting, The Arrival of the Māoris in New Zealand, 1898, which was itself modelled on Théodore Géricault's epic history painting, The Raft of the Medusa, 1818-19, which is an icon of French Romanticism.
‘Through the photographic lens, Semu’s work presents the collision of indigenous worlds and colonial imperialism,’ said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV. ‘Semu’s work grapples with Western art history and leads us towards a Māori understanding of the events surrounding their ancestors’ migratory voyage to New Zealand.’ Creating dramatic and gritty compositions of navigational voyages Semu’s work draws attention to the colonisation of the Pacific and the ongoing fight amongst Māori for recognition of their rights and ownership of their own story and oral histories.
Greg Semu: Raft of the Tagata Pasifika (People of the Pacific) is on display at NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Australia from 10 June – 10 September 2016. Entry is free. The Raft of the Tagata Pasifika is supported by Creative New Zealand and the Wallace Arts Trust.
Image 01. Greg Semu, The Arrival, diptych 2014-2015. Type C photograph, 126.5x168.7cm. Copyright Greg Semu. Courtesy of Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne.
Image 02. Greg Semu, The Arrival, diptych 2014-2015. Type C photograph, 126.5x168.7cm. Copyright Greg Semu. Courtesy of Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne.
Image 03. Greg Semu, The Raft, 2014-2015. Type C transparency, light box, 110.0x178.0cm. Copyright Greg Semu. Courtesy of Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne