Raymond Sagapolutele released his exhibition at Bergman Gallery this past week using ancestral motifs to communicate the words his grandmother told him. Aua e te fefe. Don’t be Afraid.
The use of skulls within this exhibition changes the connotations of the imagery. Raymond uses the imagery of skulls to show the audience that they are more than just a prop to frame horror. They can be used as ancestral motifs, which Raymond says have developed in his work in two ways.
He presents the skulls as a symbol of timelessness, holding space for his ancestors so that they may be a part of a contemporary dialogue. Presenting them as timeless is a uniquely Pacific way of presenting the skull motif to the audience as it challenges the concept of linear time in the colonial worldview. Māori and Pacific people see time in different ways that are not a straight line. For us, time can be a loop that repeats itself in new forms, or as intertwining threads that fold upon its own strands. Raymond also uses these skulls as “fragile placeholders” of his psyche “during a lockdown that tested my resilience, and ability to maintain a sense of creativity unencumbered by uncertainty.”
The skulls are a motif that Raymond uses to explore the past and future in a way that is uniquely Pacific.
“They are not reminders of our mortality. These are not the embodiment of journeys ended but are reminders of lessons around lives lived. They are nothing to fear.”