Va’eomatoka Kenneth Liueli Valu
Tongan (Lapaha & Ma’ufanga – Tongatapu and Niuafo’ou) Illustrator / Mixed Media Artist
Postcards Unlocked #24
I am a continental U.S. Pacific northwest artist, illustrator, community organizer, and storyteller living with my partner and child in Seattle, Washington. My artistic practice and influences are firmly rooted in my Tongan cultural upbringing having grown up in Lapaha, Tongatapu and spent parts of my childhood in Onehunga & Mangere Bridge, Aotearoa. I had the good fortune to grow up among talented musicians, scholars, storytellers, and my wonderful late mother who helped establish and shape my love for the arts from an early age.
Over the years, my pursuit of the arts was relegated to a hobby though I continued to practice and use this gift to support a number of work and community based initiatives all throughout my student and professional career. Last September, after working in higher education and outreach for over a decade, I decided to take a leap of faith and pursue my art practice full-time.
In the past, my work has explored dichotomous themes of diaspora, Pasifika folklore, religiosity/spirituality, and solidarity on native Coast Salish land. Today, while I still intend to create work within these tenets, I am particularly interested in the concept of space (vā & tauhi vā/vaha’a) from a Tongan/moana perspective and the consequences of our nurturing and/or neglect of that space. My intention is to lean into this notion as a way to ground my work moving forward while continuing to grow and stretch my understanding of different mediums and of Tongan/Pasifika identity in the diaspora.
I am currently a resident at The Seattle Residency Project through the end of June, 2020 along with five other amazing artists. Given the nature of our current circumstances, we’ve had to switch gears on a number of plans but are collectively working toward our first group show to be debuted online.
I am privileged to still be able to be working on a couple of public art projects even amidst these challenging times and am grateful for the ability to contribute to supporting my family’s needs.