Tabatha Forbes – Polynesian Tropical Almond, Kauariki Ukulele, Kauariki Wood, Rarotonga. Limited Ed. Print.


Tabatha Forbes, Polynesian Tropical Almond P3 – Kauariki Ukulele, Kauariki Wood, Rarotonga. Limited Ed. Print, 600x420mm. Signed, titled and numbered, unframed

An introduction to the Ukulele series from the exhibition Giveaways, BCA Gallery, Rarotonga, 2012.

“My first show at BCA last year Takeaways was predominantly concerned with the early barter between the indigenous Pacific Islanders and the early European ships: specifically the taking away and the leaving behind of certain objects /plants /animals in the South Pacific.

Giveaways continues with the idea of historical introductions within both nature and culture, this time taking the very current UKULELE icon and creating a project that attempts to reposition it as an artefact of both cultural and historical value in the making.

After designing the ukes (with reference to their musical origins in Portugal, Hawaii and Tahiti) I commissioned an Atiuan craftsman* based in Turoa, Titikaveka to make 6 in the ‘Polynesian Ukulele’ style, using three different native timbers.  The works act in reflection, illustrating the plant of the timber but also demonstrating the shift in perception by use of materials, application and context.  The painted ukes are my attempt at a contemporary representation while their wooden pairs are in a way a tribute to the craftsman’s beautiful work, and to the timber and plant itself which I have tried to highlight by burning the drawings into their wooden surface.

Once again, it’s about how we value culture and environment, and how the changes in those values are influenced by the popular thought and trends of the day.  I strongly believe that the practice of art and craft in the pacific, while perceived by many visitors as ‘souvenirs’ are hugely significant in representing the time, place and people working and living here today.  Significantly, the ukes in this exhibition are not presented here as instruments for sale as they are in the shops and market around the Cook Islands.  They are presented as ‘artefacts’in an attempt to shift the view a little and state clearly that this is not another appropriation but rather an outsider’s interpretation of a practice worth celebrating and valuing here and now.” Tabatha Forbes.

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