Tabatha Forbes: The Printed Hibiscus

19 April - 13 May 2023 Bergman Gallery, Auckland

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake.


The Printed Hibiscus is an exploration into botanical study and floral fabric history, focusing on the stylised hibiscus as it has come to represent / misrepresent the South Pacific. The project research has taken several different turns - beginning with the flower as a botanical specimen, connecting to its global plant genus, and then as an ethnobotanical subject, exploring the intersection between humans and plants.


This intersection is not discussed through its cultural use by indigenous Pacific communities but instead, references the flower as a brand through fabric design history, centred on its nearly 100 year old connection to Hawaii. The focus is narrowed to the printed hibiscus image that is recognised around the world through the famous 'Hawaiian' or 'Aloha'  shirt.