'Moana' by Ahota’e’iloa Toetu’u Ignites 1920s Lobby

Ahota’e’iloa Toetu’u’s Moana draws on traditional Tongan patterns and Art Deco motifs within the 1920s architecture of the iconic South British Insurance Company Limited Building lobby. The overall effect is a sparkling and elegant composition, with geometric lines that help direct visitors toward the lobby lifts and mirror the patternation in the surrounding floor area. Foreground and background interchange, suggesting natural landscapes and shimmering light.

Bringing colour, movement and energy into the space, the artwork is infused with a lively palette that is rich with symbolism. Traditional ochres and creams found in tapa become a lively amber-orange against the white wall.  Blues and violet represent moana (the sea). Red has special significance in Tonga as it is the predominant colour of the flag, referencing Christianity and the blood of Christ.

The geometric patternation in the artwork recalls amoamo kofe, which translates literally to the rubbing of bamboo. Kupesi (designs) such as these were used by warriors to decorate their prized pōvai (pole clubs), are common in fala mats and were applied to decorate ngatu (tapa) by Tongan women. The grid-like formation was often held together by lalava (lashing) that was traditionally made of sennit (kafa processed coconut fibre). Through recognition of these historic Tongan materials, the artwork embraces the multi-cultural community of Auckland the seas that help connect our lands, people and knowledge.


Auckland CBD, Tuesday 7 August 2018
5.30 – 7pm

All welcome. Includes hospitality and a brief artist's introduction at 6pm.

The Lobby – South British Insurance Company Limited Building
3–13 Shortland St
Cnr Shortland St and High St
Auckland Central