Tui Emma Gillies
Tongan (Falevai, Vava’u) / NZ Tapa Artist based in Kawakawa, Aotearoa
Postcards Unlocked #15
Like everyone else, I have been watching the world respond to the coronavirus. Watching people around the world get sick and die. Watching this unseen enemy inspire people to risk their lives to save others. Watching people laugh and make jokes about a crazy way of life that has been forced upon us. A life under lockdown. I am experiencing a World War against a shadow. And as an artist, I have been watching myself respond to it. I’ve been looking back at the world I knew before this great change. Looking back at work I did before all this happened and wondering how on earth I will now express what I’m feeling and observing and trying to understand.
How will I do justice to the responsibility I now feel? We are moving through a gateway, a portal from one world to the next. What are the things we need to take with us and to fight for? And what are the things we must leave behind? These are the questions we are all asking ourselves.
The world is taking a deep breath and a moment to allow its wounds to heal. Even as thousands of us have been invaded and killed by these blobs fastening their suction pads to our lungs, millions more of us have been forced to look at our lives in solitary contemplation as the jobs and the toys and the hobbies and the obsessions and the money fall away, even though not long ago they felt as real as that dream you woke up from, sweating. Now we are being forced to look at something much more real, our lives, stripped down to their barest essentials.
What is left? What is important? That’s what I want my paint brush to explore and discover with me. That’s the place I want my ancestors to guide me to.
My name is Tui Emma Gillies. And I am a tapa artist.