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Talk: A Sense of Identity Through Art

Talk: A Sense of Identity Through Art

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  • Sun 12 Dec ’21, 4:00pm – 5:30pm


Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 55 Cable St, Wellington


All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Member - Friends of Te Papa: $25.00
  • Public: $30.00

With travel beyond Aotearoa not possible, our speakers Shani Pillai and Joji Jacob have embarked on an initiative to explore and understand how NZ culture is evolving through the various ethnic groups making NZ their home. Their passion for art naturally led them to use it as the medium to connect with artists with different ethnic origins as their starting point. Shani & Joji travelled around different parts of NZ to meet artists and personally interviewed them to capture their journey and foray into the NZ art scene. New Zealand has become a melting pot of people from all over the world arriving as either migrants, immigrants or refugees. They bring with them their various cultures, traditions, cuisine, arts and crafts, and languages and their ancestral heritage.

This multi-media presentation focuses upon emerging ethnic artists who draw on their ancestry and heritage to create works of art in their new home, and introduces us to Koji Miyazaki (Japanese jeweller), Sudi Dargipour (Iranian flooring textile designer) and Tamar Guse (Israeli fibre artist). The talk shares their personal and professional journeys, while highlighting how much influence their ancestry and heritage have on their crafts, enabling them to develop their own sense of identity and style.

Regardless of the reason for them being in NZ, everyone invariably goes through a similar change cycle – a sense of feeling overwhelmed by the changes, a sense of alienation, loss of identity and language, and a yearning for all that has been left behind, especially family. Initially, everyone romanticises all that was in the country they left behind and tend to reach out to their own ethnic community for support while transitioning into their new home. Over time, once they are more settled and more familiar with the new home, more assimilation and integration into the wider NZ society naturally occurs. This is when the ancestry that has been brought across merges with the new home and becomes part of its heritage and future.

While some were already artists before they arrived in NZ, others turn to art to express who they are in a positive and creative way and, through that, develop an understanding of who they now are and their place in the new world.

Shani Pillai and Joji Jacob’s roots are in India, they are Kiwis, proud Wellingtonians & honoured to be Friends of Te Papa.

Shani is from Malaysia and of South Indian heritage while Joji’s origins are in Kerala. They are passionate about their cultural heritage, and the traditions and arts passed down through the generations. Their desire to share their culture led them to designing and offering boutique tours to the Indian subcontinent. They are exploring how others with different ethnic backgrounds who have made NZ their home are merging their heritage and ancestry into the fabric of NZ culture.

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