Flora vitiensis: drauniulu edition

Stewart calls into question the visual ‘silencing’ of these women by rendering them nameless, disconnecting them from their past and their future. 

Ema Tavola, 2018

Fijian women’s faces from ethnographic photographs found in archives, many of which have no information about the women, are covered with flowers illustrated in Flora vitiensis (1865-1873)*, a reference to tekiteki, the Fijian practice of decorating one’s hair (drauniulu), which was banned by the Wesleyan missionaries in the 19th century. Interspersed with these collages are a series of hand-drawn botanical illustrations of plants, which in contrast to the photographs are documented in Flora vitiensis, depicting their history, uses and properties.

* Flora vitiensis: a description of the plants of Viti or Fiji Islands with an account of their history, uses and properties by Berthold Seemann and illustrated by Walter Fitch (London: L. Reeve and Co., 1865-1873).

Commissioned for Wantok, curated by Luisa Tora, 21 April – 26 May 2018, Māngere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku, South Auckland.

Wantok, 8 December 2018 – 28 April 2019, The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, Wellington.

Here Is Your Horizon, curated by Talia Smith, 8 December 2018 – 28 April 2019, Cement Fondu, Sydney.