Last fall (2006), I had the opportunity to travel abroad to Tonga & New Zealand with a field studies group from BYU. Before I left, I expected that we would study only the art & culture of the Tongans and the Maori. I expected to play there and to make art, but not much more. Thankfully, though, this was not result of our trip. On the contrary, I learned many things which surprisingly concern me & my identity & relationships & people. I went abroad expecting to learn about ART & CULTURE, but instead, I learned more about myself & people & convictions & beliefs.
At the local Maori college, “Awanuiarangi,” where we studied in Whaketane, N.Z., they teach according to three themes: “Whakapapa” (or geneology), “Whenua” (or land), and “Tangata” (or ones’ self with relation to others). The idea is that as you learn about where you come from (genealogically and geographically), AND as you learn about what that actually means, you come to learn about yourself. You develop IDENTITY and UNDERSTANDING.
This was exactly my experience in Tonga & New Zealand. My interactions with those people and my exposure to their land & culture have helped me to better understand myself. Just as the Maori carve symbols into their art in order to understand and record their stories, my own story will be forever impacted because of the way that these people and these experiences have carved themselves into me.
This exhibition is a photographic record of the people & places in Tonga & New Zealand that have helped me to develop identity & understanding.