Tupua: Iconic Afterlife and New Beginnings

Researchers: Tina Engels-Schwarzpaul, Albert Refiti, I’uogafa Tuagalu, Nooroa Tapuni
Status: Current

This project initiates investigations into transformative appropriations and iconic power in the Pacific. In collaboration with researchers in the Pacific, Aotearoa New Zealand and Europe, it will trace historic and contemporary exchanges of iconic images and objects through migration, trade, tourism and curation. At the interface of Western and Indigenous Pacific knowledges, and from different perspectives on a shared heritage, we will explore the latter’s Nachleben (survival) and new beginnings. From this, we will develop theories pairing tupua and the iconic (“the nested ideas of icon, iconic power, iconosphere, and icon-ology”) that will help better to understand material cultural exchange. To identify how Pacific, Aotearoa New Zealand and European experiences of Pacific icons intersect in the (ex)change of concepts and images, expert interviews and material from Pacific and European archives will be analysed, compared with current practices and then further teased out in creative practice-led research processes. The double outcome will consist of a print publication, as well as a digitally based exhibition to be opened simultaneously in Samoa, Aotearoa and Germany.

A consideration of the iconic has widespread implications: it can help understand how images gain traction, socio-culturally and economically, and how important concepts from Aotearoa/New Zealand can extend into the realm of icons, spaces, things and people.



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