Hiapo is the foundation of an art workshop for Alofi youth with John Pule

18 year old Tiola Kamupala and Artist John Pule with one of her three pieces.

A youth art and poetry workshop that started three weeks ago wrapped up over the weekend. 

Organised and facilitated by Fiafia Rex of Oma Tafua with artist John Pule the workshop was based on the hiapo Niue.

The workshop was initially organised for the youth of Alofi but according to John Pule, the eighteen participants ranged in age from an eight-year-old child to a seventy-three-year-old matua.

“Out of that workshop, we were able to do this workshop. I had 18 people ranging from the age of 8 to 73 years old but the focus of the workshop of the youth and the foundation of the Niuean hiapo. That’s the objective of this workshop,” said John Pule.

John Pule explained that the workshop started three weeks ago by learning the traditional process of preparing hiapo with local carver and artist Api Motufoou.

“The first workshop was conducted by Api Motufoou and he took us through the process of cutting down a branch of the ovava tree and splitting the bark away from it and we were able to beat it into a beautiful long piece of hiapo”.

BCN News caught up with Pule and one of the students, eighteen-year-old Tiola Kamupala at Aliutu Hall last Friday who was working on her third piece.

The artwork is on a large 2 metre canvas and the workshop participants were able to put to the canvas their ideas with the hiapo as the foundation and using the traditional colours of the Niue hiapo, black, brown and yellow.

18-year-old Tiola Kamupala has been studying art at Niue High School and last year completed her level 3 NCEA art course but this is the first time she has painted on a large canvas.

She told us about one of her pieces inspired by the women in her family. 

“My Mum, my grandmother, my sister, and my aunties. Ever since I was young, they have helped me through my life. (They) encourage me every day that you have to get things done, not to leave it halfway but it’s good to finish the piece”.

John Pule was very impressed with the talent of the young people especially and how they performed during the workshop.

“They have done it, they have used their own imagery in it and yes they are influenced by the Niue hiapo”.

Pule who will be heading back to New Zealand in a couple of weeks knows all too well the history of the Niue hiapo. A few years ago wrote a book about the Niue hiapo.

He told BCN News that our ancestors were remarkable artists, paying tribute to the talented Niueans who used the hiapo to tell their stories and how he found Niue hiapo in many countries and museums around the world.

“Our artists back then, you know, they were quite remarkable. They are our first painters and that is a good legacy to go on”.

Fiafia Rex told BCN News that the workshop was supported by the Pacific Forum’s Pacific Resilience Partnership programme to fund the materials needed. 

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