Meleseini Luhama Tau’alupe
A Tongan Tattoo Apprentice, Illustrator and Spoken Word Poet
Postcards Unlocked #30
My work is based around well lived life experiences and navigating what it looks and feels like to heal from these lessons we are all given, through poetry and illustrations. The name “Brown Sugar” refers to the bitter sweet taste of my urban Pasifika heritage in reclaiming it, recognizing myself in it and the ongoing lessons of how to celebrate this. I wouldn’t have had the patience to constantly pursue a greater understanding of Tonga if it wasn’t for all the mentors, teachers and loved ones along the way, who have taught me how deep colonization runs but have inspired me in the beauty of taking back the narrative. The constant pushing to create spaces to help lift up our own communities, that true leadership is through service and the willingness to never stop learning.
I am a (slightly) regular spoken word performer at events such as the Wellington Feminist Poetry Club, Poetry in motion and have competed in two regional slam poetry finals. My style of poetry is off the cuff and raw, often speaking on mental health, sexual assault, sexual health and the constant pursuit of coming into your own as a queer, Pasifika, gender nonconforming woman.
I’m currently training as one of the two tattoo apprentices at Taupou Tatau Tattoo Studio based in Wellington city, under Tuigamala Andy Tauafiafi. It is like doing a university degree with a range of different lectures in various fields but in real life context with both practical and theory work. Learning things I wouldn’t have been able to understand without being in such a creative melting pot, the biggest lesson being that,
Most importantly, where there is artistic excellence, there is human dignity. I’m incredibly thankful for the amazing environment at Taupou Tatau, for every person part of the Aiga and for shaping me to always remain a student of the game, to never stop growing and to never take life too seriously because there should always be room for laughter.