chapter  11
Navigations
Visual identities and the Pacific cultural subject
ByElizabeth Grierson
Pages 13

Visual images, objects and artefacts have a significant role in the constitution and shaping of cultural identities. This essay engages with the politics of signification in visual practices of colonial and post-colonial discourses in Pacific locations. The speaking position of Pacific Islands’ artists in a recent Auckland art event, Navigating Pacific Art in the Present – Testing Traditions: Pacific Sculpture Symposium (3-13 March 1998), is juxtaposed against an analysis of representations of Pacific ‘otherness’ in conditions of modernity. Two discourses are situated – one ao fo’ou ta (new time), the other ao taf ta (time of light or colonial time)1 – in which the practices of art and education prescribe and confirm value. At this time of the millennium when pasts and futures become the topic for concerned reflection, it seems appropriate that visual significations of the ‘Pacific cultural subject’ might be appraised in terms of new political formations of place and identity.