Attention: This site looks better in the latest Mozilla or Internet Explorer.

The Humanities Conference 2003

Home | Newsletter | Call for Papers | Register

Presentation Details

 Download: Poster | Brochure 1 | Brochure 2    

Negotiating Liminality: Pacific Artists in New Zealand

Wendy E. Cowling.

Many young New Zealand-born people, second or third generation children of emigrants from island nations in the South Pacific such as Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue and Fiji are exploring questions relating to their identity and social location. This exploration has been important for the arts in New Zealand during the last decade, resulting in a considerable output of fiction and non-fiction writing, theatre, painting, sculpture, dance, photography and music.

The artists' explorations have included confronting the difficulty of gaining acceptance from their island-born elders, both in New Zealand and in the home communities. They have had to deal with the fact that they are often considered to lack the innate qualities that would mark them as being TRULY Tongan, Samoan, Niuean or Fijian. This is partly due to the way in which the artists draw on a contemporary New Zealand ethos that is also linked to identity-seeking. Some have also had to contend with the view of local mentors that they should mainly draw on their Pacific heritage in their work. Nevertheless, many of these individuals are successfully (and wittily) demonstrating that they are coming to terms with their bi-ethnic or multi-cultured identity.


Wendy E. Cowling  (New Zealand)
Senior Lecturer
Anthropology Department, Division of Cultural and Environmental Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
The University of Waikato

After working for 20 years as an editor in began her undergraduate degree at Macquarie University, Sydney Australia in 1979, majoring in Anthropology and Pacific Studies. Awarded Commonwealth scholarship in 1985 and did fieldwork in Australia and in Tonga. Completed Ph.D. on Tongan responses to concepts of tradition in 1990. Appointed as lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Waikato in 1991. Has on-going research projects in Tonga, Samoa and in New Zealand.

  • Ieremia, Neil
  • Fatu Fe'o
  • Michel Tuffery
  • John Pule
  • Toa Fraser

(30 min Conference Paper, English)