In this episode of Cloud9, we interview Ruha Fifita, a multi-disciplinary artist from Tonga. Ruha is of mixed Tongan and New Zealand heritage and now lives in Brisbane, Australia, where she works as an artist and volunteers in community based initiatives.
For the past six years, Ruha has been exploring the Indigenous art form of Ngatu making, an ancient tradition that consists of pasting together tree bark and painting it through the use of carefully designed relief patterns. Historically a matriarchal practice in Tonga, Ngatu plays an integral role in every aspect of development, culture, ceremony and community life.
Ruha was first introduced to Ngatu at an early age by her grandmother. A chance encounter many years later with New Zealand artist Robin White sparked a series of collaborations that has landed her work in galleries and festivals across Australasia and the Pacific. At present, Ruha uses these large-scale art works to explore concepts such as prayer, conservation, collaboration, reciprocity, diversity and oneness.
Inspired by the high level of collaboration and community engagement that Ngatu making requires, Ruha shares how this unique art form has influenced her vision and her work toward race unity at both a global and local level.
To learn more about Ngatu you can watch this video.