FALE-SHIP: Melissa Gilbert

Fale-ship | Melissa Gilbert
Melissa Gilbert | Fale-ship

Mālō e lelei! Introducing Melissa Gilbert, a multi-faceted creator, who taps into themes of identity, healing and spiritualism.

Tongan, Samoan, Fijian and Palagi
Central Auckland
IG: @meliciousmelmel & @gap.tooth.boo
FB: Melicious Mel Mel

Her multi-cultural background heavily influences her work and how she sees the world. She does everything from smearing paint on canvas to hot gluing feathers on self-made regalia to covering herself in fake blood just to tell her stories. She tenaciously teaches herself new skills, to create bigger and better work that touches its viewers. Her residency took place right in her backyard in Grey Lynn, Auckland. 

Melissa provides insight into her artistic process. She captures her academic research and how this is both reflected in and informs her creativity.

” It feels like some of the most important work I do includes a mixture of calamity and luck to create…”

Melissa Gilbert

Take a behind scenes look into Melissa’s final video work ‘Atua Otua Kalou’ she created for Fale-ship residency. With help from her friend Shanie, Melissa has documented her creative process – from research, to making, to experimenting with space, light and sound.

Filmed by @shanieprasad

Watch Melissa’s final work ‘Atua Otua Kalou
moving image, running time 02:13, Dimensions 1920 × 1080, 2020, Filming by Shanie Prasad. 


In my FALE-ship work I’ve focused on my journey with spiritualism and shamanism. Shamanism, for me, is about healing.  

In my academic studies of the practice of shamanism, there is a common thread of the initiation experience across multiple cultures. The prospective shaman passes out and is pulled down to Puluto (or the cultures version of the underworld) and shown images of their physical body being ripped apart in front of their eyes and put back together again. This happens so they may learn how to heal themselves and ultimately others. They then gain consciousness and begin practicing as a shaman with the new acquired knowledge.  

The words “Atua”, “Otua”, “Kalou” translates to God in Maori, Samoan, Tongan and Fijian. The first section of the video is depicting meditative chanting that helps the shaman submit to the force that takes them under. The second half of the moving image depicts the shaman conversing with their ancestors in Puluto (show through the text). I also paid respects to the Maori concept of Te Kore with the deep shadows and ambiguous audio. The aesthetic of the ancestor covered in blood, also pays homage to Lilith, the divine feminine. 

Q+A with Melissa and Marie

Marie discusses challenges Melissa faced during her residency and how maintaining a positive mindset is the key to success!

Q+A Talanoa facilitated by:  
Marie Filipo 
Musician, Motivational Speaker 
South Auckland, Aotearoa 
IG: @marie_filipo | @mariefilipomusic 

View all the FALE-SHIPS here

For further information please email us 
Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe

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