(Shrine to Abundance)
The Tulana Mahu is a contemporary art installation fixed inside a 20 foot shipping container. The Tahiono Arts Collective created it in Niue in 1999 with contributions from no fewer than 15 Visual artists, crafts people, musicians and video artists and documentary makers.It was originally created for the 3rd Asia Pacific Triennial a showcase of leading contemporary artists from India to the Pacific organized by the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane.Following the Brisbane exhibition the container was exhibited at the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival where it was part of a group exhibition entitled Shines for the New Millennium. At this show the artwork was augmented by a performance created specifically for the event. From Sydney the container went on to Auckland briefly and then went south to the Manawatu Museum where it was exhibited for another six months. It was then sent to the Cook Islands National Museum where it was exhibited for six months in 2002.The installation was created as a celebration of the new millennium and especially in terms of the hope for abundance in the future. It is divided into two sections, the outer shrine and the inner sanctuary. The outer shrine, represents the abattoirs of New Zealand, places where so many Pacific Island people have gone to work over the last half century. Contrasting dramatically with the sterile, minimal look of the outer shrine, the inner sanctuary is a cluttered mass of tightly arranged artwork, crafts and found objects. This interior section loosely represents the modern Fale Peito or cookhouse with its central feature the umu pit. The clutter is a metaphor for the paraphernalia of the Fale Peito.The use of the shipping container is also symbolic in that it represents the modern procurement of food and other items of abundance and the moving of these things around the Pacific. It is also a symbol for the interaction of both the modern and traditional diaspora of Polynesia.
When abundance is celebrated, concern must also be given to its antithesis which is interpreted here as waste and the problematic environmental potentialities that this will always bring into question. As well as abundance, the word mahu also translates as the cleaning up process after defecation and so the understanding is that the positive aspect of abundance has its negative side in the potentiality for pollution.