Francis Pesamino is a Samoan artist who grew up in New Zealand. He graduated fromManukau Institute of Technology in 2011 and recently exhibited at Mangere Arts Center in South Auckland.This is his first exhibition in Europe.

In his work Pesamino places a powerful focus on the significance of his own cultural identity. He uses hand-drawn typography to paint portraits of prominent Samoan and New Zealand community leaders and sport personalities. On closer inspection, his graphic style highlights the contradictory character traits, inner and outer compulsions and sensibilities of those represented – they are quite literally written in their faces.

Pesamino’s complex pen-and-ink drawings are exhibited alongside historical artefacts from the Weltkulturen Museum’s Polynesian collection. All of these items make reference to the subject of tattooing, just as Pesamino’s portraits also evoke associations with the form and content of this Polynesian body art. Elaborate patterns imprinted onto the skin are legible signs of a person’s descent and of their social and family status. The tattoos that adorn the faces of Maori men in New Zealand are especially striking. This style of ornamentation, like the typography in Pesamino’s portraits, follows the natural contours of the face. The most popular tattoo patterns of groups from other Pacific islands cover the human body so completely and fluidly that they almost look like writing on the skin. One particularly outstanding example is the ornamentation found in body tattoos from the Marquesas Islands, which with its strict angular shapes, reads like a text written in upper-case letters.

Francis Pesamino writes:
“I think of my drawings as a representation not only of things within Samoan culture and its people, but also the outside perspectives of how Samoan culture is perceived in the Modern World, whether it be through stereotypes, and recognisable high-profile Samoans portrayed through the media, all of which inform the way Samoan people identify themselves. My drawings are presented in a manner that articulates my position of in-betweenness.
The way in which I want people to view my work is through visual story telling. It is up to the viewer to not only decipher who the people depicted in the drawings are, but also through reading the constructed words, they are able to create a narrative of that person, as well as of the way they are being portrayed. This in turn influences the way Samoan people are viewed, both inside and outside of the culture.”

Curated by Dr. Eva Raabe, Research Curator, Weltkulturen Museum.

Kindly supported by the Government of New Zealand through the Cultural Diplomacy International Fund.

Wednesday, 3. October 2012 to Sunday, 28. October 2012
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