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Exhibition Dates: 27 April – 21 July 2024, Tues - Sun 10am – 5pm (Saturday until 9pm)

Fafangu: to awaken is a new body of work by queer Tongan-Australian contemporary interdisciplinary artist Adriana Māhanga Lear [she/they]. Fafangu: to awaken re-vitalises and re-imagines Tongan concepts and practices of ongo (sound), relating to mate (death), putu (funeral rites), and fonua (people and place).

In this multimedia exhibition that featuresphotography, video, sculpture, installation, sound and music, Lear interrogates the colonial archive to examine the legacies of Eurocentrism and heteropatriarchy on Tongan art forms.

Fakatakatōfā, the practice of waking chiefs and royalty from sleep with the fangufangu (bamboo nose-flute), is an artform that is particularly imperative to the underlying philosophy of Fafangu: to awaken.The artist engages this practice as a heliaki (metaphor) for the awakening of ancient knowledges and practices, by walking backwards into the future.


Fafangu: to awaken highlights the artist’s embodied, decolonial approach to issues of gender, sexuality and identity across Moana Oceania, and their ongoing visual and sonic experimentations with kupesi as a Tongan concept and practice of motif, pattern, design, symbolism, and identity. The exhibition is the outcome of a PhD research project involving community consultation and tālanoa (conversations) with specialists in Tongan music, arts and culture, along with music analysis of sound archives, and research of collections at the Tonga National Museum, Australian Museum, Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, and Übersee Museum in Germany.

Fafangu: to awaken  –  summary of works:

  1. Fale 'o Hikule'o – House of Echoes 

    Woven pandanus sculpture with soundscape

  2. Fākafoa  – The Body Breaks in Waves

    9-channel HD video with sound (recorded music performance) + printed music score

  1. 'Otua hala he sikotā – Messages from the dead 

    Series of graphic music scores on tapa with sound (recorded music performances)

  1. Fafangu ae fangufangu  – Awakening the fangufangu 

    Photographic installation with soundscape

  1. Tu'uloa – In standing, to endure (Live music endurance performance)

Artist Biography: 

Adriana Māhanga Lear, AKA Ace [she/they], is a queer Tongan-Australian contemporary artist whose interdisciplinary works focus on gender, sexuality, and identity, underpinned by decolonial, Indigenous self-determination, and social justice movements within and across Moana Oceania. Adriana works across photography, video, sculpture, installation, and sound, and is also a musician, composer/producer, and researcher.

Adriana was part of Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre’s Wayfinders exhibition and Studios Switch artist residency. She has also exhibited at Campbeltown Arts Centre, 107 Projects, and the University of Wollongong Project Gallery.

Adriana resides in Wollongong, on unceded Dharawal, Yuin and Wodi Wodi country. She holds ancestral ties to Tu'anuku, Vava'u and Vaipoa, Niuatoputapu, and the matapule title Pā'utu-'O-Vava'u-Lahi, bestowed by esteemed Tongan scholar and artist Hūfanga-He-Akó-Moe-Lotu Dr 'Ōkusitino Māhina.

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