Ane Tonga, Grills
30 May – 28 June 2014 (Gallery Two)
Opening Friday 30 May at 5.30pm with a performance by Sesilia Pusiaki, P.O.T. Productions
Sister Speak: Saturday 7 June at 1pm. Ane Tonga in conversation with her sister Nina Tonga, Assistant Curator – Pacific, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, in the exhibition Grills.
Titled Grills as a hybrid of hip hop bling and Tongan culture, this photographic series explores nifo koula (gold teeth), a new terrain of body adornment in Tongan culture. The on-going series began in 2008 after Ane Tonga and her sister Nina Tonga began to joke about their relatives returning from Tonga with new gold teeth. Ane Tonga’s initial approach to the subject was to flippantly link the practice of nifo koula with that of grills within hip-hop culture. A grill (also called a front, or golds) was first worn by hip hop artists in the early 1980s. Grills became widespread in the 2000s following the rise of Dirty South rap and as hip hop attained mainstream pop culture status.
Tongan nifo koula are not removable, and involve gold jewellery being melted down and then fitted to partially cover the wearer’s own teeth. Once Ane Tonga’s mother, grandmother and many female members of her family had nifo koula, the artist realised that she had to take the phenomenon more seriously. This photographic series resulted, and it has been produced for exhibition with the aim of broadening understanding of a practice which is widespread amongst the global Tongan community.
Closed public holidays