53. Pacific Sisters - Artist Influence

53. Pacific Sisters - Artist Influence

Pacific Sisters, a collective of Pacific and Māori artists and designers, emerged in the 1990s in New Zealand. Their work is known for its vibrant fusion of contemporary art, fashion, and performance, which provides commentary on issues like colonisation, gender, identity, and diaspora, among others.

When exploring the artworks and ethos of the Pacific Sisters through an ecofeminist lens, one can observe the following intersections:

  1. Nature and Womanhood: Ecofeminism posits that the exploitation of nature and the oppression of women are interconnected, both rooted in a dominator model of society. Pacific Sisters' works often embrace nature – in terms of materials, symbols, and themes – and highlight the strength and vitality of Pacific women, suggesting an inherent link between womanhood and nature.
  1. Cultural Heritage: The collective's artworks often draw from Pacific traditions, especially those that uphold the sanctity of nature and emphasise communal living. In many Pacific cultures, nature is revered and considered an extension of the self. This ties into the ecofeminist perspective where nature is not seen as a resource to exploit but as an entity to respect.
  1. Challenge to Western Paradigms: Ecofeminism critiques the Western patriarchal mindset that tends to subordinate and exploit both women and nature. Similarly, Pacific Sisters challenge Western notions of beauty, identity, and culture, emphasising a worldview where nature and femininity are deeply intertwined and revered. 
  1. Sustainability and Material Choices: Pacific Sisters often utilise materials that are natural, recycled, or reclaimed. Their choice of sustainable materials can be seen as an ecofeminist statement, reinforcing the idea of a harmonious relationship with the environment.
  1. Body and Land: The Pacific Sisters, through their performances and fashion works, emphasise the body – often female – as a landscape, drawing connections between women's bodies and the land. This mirrors ecofeminist principles that see the female body as a microcosm of the Earth.
  1. Empowerment and Voice: Central to ecofeminism is the empowerment of women and giving them a voice in both ecological and feminist discourse. Pacific Sisters, through their collective approach and through their artworks, provide a platform for Pacific women to voice their concerns, experiences, and identities.
  1. Community and Collaboration: Both ecofeminism and the Pacific Sisters' ethos emphasise the importance of community and collaboration over individualism and competition. Their collective, collaborative approach serves as a model for how communities can come together to address larger systemic issues.

The Pacific Sisters Art collective's work can be deeply resonant when viewed through an ecofeminist lens. Their integration of nature, cultural heritage, and womanhood, combined with their critique of Western paradigms and emphasis on sustainability, aligns with the core tenets of ecofeminism.

The Pacific Sisters, a collective of Pacific and Māori fashion designers, artists, and performers, exemplify ecofeminist principles in their work through the following aspects:

  1. Use of Natural and Recycled Materials: The Pacific Sisters often incorporate traditional Pacific materials like tapa cloth, feathers, and shells, as well as recycled and repurposed items in their art and fashion. This practice not only showcases a deep respect for the environment but also echoes ecofeminist ideals of sustainable living and the rejection of consumerist, wasteful culture.
  2. Celebration of Indigenous Femininity and Nature: Their work frequently celebrates the strength and beauty of Pacific and Māori women, connecting their cultural identity closely with nature. This intersection of femininity, indigenous culture, and nature is a central theme in ecofeminism, which recognizes the unique relationship and knowledge indigenous women have regarding environmental stewardship.
  3. Advocacy for Cultural and Environmental Preservation: The Pacific Sisters actively engage in promoting awareness about the importance of preserving both cultural heritage and the environment. Their work serves as a platform to address issues like climate change, which disproportionately affects Pacific islands, and the loss of indigenous practices. This aligns with ecofeminist views on the interconnectedness of environmental and social justice, particularly in relation to indigenous communities.

I met Rosanna Raymond  and Ani O’Neil when I was a teenager working in the fashion industry in Auckland. Later Ani was one of my tutors at Elam, and in the couple of years following Rosanna was my rock star aunty when we were both living in London. We ha an exhibition together at New Zealand house in 2003. I have always felt very honoured and grateful for the kindness and respect these women have shown me. And am in awe of their special and important work. The aesthetic of their recent photographic installation for Scape2022 and HHC22has been of particular influence for my own project. Not that mine in anyway even slightly holds a flame to these incredibly powerful portraits. Nonetheless, they were a reason for my choosing to depart installations as such, and pursue portraiture instead.

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