Avanoa O Tama is a photographic series that looks at the cultural assignment of gender identity in regard to social and cultural expectation amongst men of Pacific diaspora. Concerned with representation and codes of gender this work explores a spectrum of masculine identity among literal and conceptual cultural spaces. The conceptual spaces refer to the intangible grey areas where gender and sexuality tread an ambiguous line between the typical and the unexpected.
These spaces are often occupied by Fa’afafine and gay Pacific males. In this instance, this space is shared with other heterosexual Polynesian and Melanesian males. As an artist I am interested to see what is exposed about our public perceptions of gender and sexuality when these codes of gender deviate from cultural and social norms. And how this reflects on our own cultural sensibilities and notions of tolerance and understanding.
As a Pacific Gay Male I have struggled over time to identify a clear distinction of Pacific masculinity I feel comfortable relating to. Searching for a cohesive sense of self and a recognizable sense of presence within the world we occupy, has lead me to this point in my artistic journey.
‘Avanoa O Tama’ presents a visual narrative that observes, critiques and articulates Pacific male identity in all its forms and with all its complexity, looking at the performance of our own unique perception of what it means to be a Pacific Male in the 21st century.
I’d like to thank everyone for their involvement in this project. This work could not exist without your generous contributions, hard work and faith in my ability to share your story. Thank you to Ema Tavola, Vinesh Kumaran, Tyrone Tautiepa, Annie Ng Chok, Pati Solomona Tyrell, Meshach Joku, Jermaine Tairefu, Lupeni Palu, Mikaele Tomasi, Will Iopu, Cody Wilson-Heti, Joel Wilson-Heti, Peter Williams, Salesi Kuma Palekana Loloa, Pilimai Uasi, Moe Fruean-Laga, Nahora Ioane, Shop N Save Otara, O.M.A.C, Crosspower Ministries, Lynda McCormick, Julie McCormick, Ila Tilialo Pula Fiti.