There is a peculiar third grade art standard that reads as follows:
3.3.5 Describe the function and meaning of specific works of art and objects from the Pacific Islands
Art standards such as these invite me to do a little research and stretch beyond the great artistic masters of the past to find new and interesting artists who are tapping into their culture and heritage to preserve tradition. Such is the case with our artist, Filipe Tohi. Tohi moved from Tonga to New Zealand and has been working as a full time artist since 1992. He is the leading contemporary Pacific visual artists and dabbles in media ranging from stone, wood, steel and digital arts. He is most famous in our studio for his art of lalava. Lalava, the art of Polynesian lashing, or joining materials together, is a way for Tohi to “demonstrate how geometric patterns, formed by the layers of wrapped coconut sennit, were a well-established part of daily life, and a mnemonic device for representing a life philosophy that Lalava patterns advocate balance in daily living and were metaphorical and physical ties to cultural knowledge.”
We are using colored raffia, instead of coconut skins, to lash our lalavas. This brought up an important conversation about the materials artists choose to work with and why. Price, convenience, functionality, etc. all play into it.
Because I can’t get this song out of my head every time I say the word lalava…