Léuli Eshrāghi
tangata a nuʻu poʻo tangata a fanguʻu

January 31, 2023

The performance installation, tangata a nuʻu poʻo tangata a fanguʻu (2022), literally meaning ʻpeople of the villages or people of bottled oil’ in Sāmoan, is a contemporary faʻamalama (offering to ancestors, spirits and guardian spirits). The golden sheen present on the artist references the healing properties of electrolyte-rich coconut water, that effectively hide the nefarious effects of monocrop plantations across the global south, in a system of abstraction of responsibility that the artist terms ʻhydro-decadence’. Immersed in a sonic composition created on ʻUpolu island by sibling artist Tiafu Nadeem Eshrāghi, the artists endeavours to move beyond the intersecting forms of domination of body, land, mind and water, to eco-critical states of softness, plurality, and pleasure. 

In collaboration with TRADES A.i.R., we are pleased to welcome our newest artist in residence, Léuli Eshrāghi. You may have crossed paths with Léuli, as they are a frequent visitor to Hawai‘i. This month long residency presents an opportunity for Léuli to exchange ideas, gain knowledge of, and strengthen ties with Kanaka Maoli and their Hawaiʻi based allies. Léuli (Sāmoan/Persian/Cantonese ancestry) works across visual arts, curatorial practice and university research to center Indigenous kin constellations, sensual and spoken languages, and ceremonial practices.While in residence at Aupuni Space, Eshrāghi will work with Kānaka ‘Õiwi and Hawai‘i-based poets and artists to conceive their performance, moving image, writing and installation project afiafi.

Meaning day, afternoon and fire in Sāmoan, afiafi affirms and situates non-colonial temporality where sensuality, pleasure, sexuality, joy, and spirituality—expressed in French, German and Austrian colonial collections of fau (hibiscus) and uʻa (paper mulberry) barkcloth obtained from the Sāmoan archipelago in the 1700s-1900s as much as in photographic archives of Indigenous ancestors—in symbiosis with kin animals, deities, and territories threatened by climate catastrophe, are deeply embraced. This work is not so much a response to the invisibility of non-binary and Indigenous-gendered people in Eurocentric art history upheld across the Great Ocean, but moreso a tender yet rigorous offering for today’s challenges of intersecting crises of violence against faʻafafine-faʻatama, māhū, queer, trans, and non-binary bodies, and of Indigenous homelands threatened by the rising Great Ocean.  

This program is made possible through a generous grant from the Laila Twigg Smith Art Fund via the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, we are grateful for their continued support of our efforts.