Triangle Road, Massey, West Auckland. Su'a Suluape Paulo II, Tufuga Ta Tatau

Mark Adams

This is one of the posters in our collection. It was made in Auckland, Auckland Region, New Zealand in 1978.
This is not an original photograph by the Mark Adams but a poster reproduced for the exhibition "Free NZ Art" curated by Tobias Berger as his final parting exhibition from Artspace in 2005. This exhibition revealed some of the curators favourite artists and reminisced Felix Gonzalez-Torres' supplying stacks of free posters.

Concepts behind the original work gathered from Te Papa collections online include:

"This colour photograph by Mark Adams shows a Samoan man, identified as 'Tom', being given the pe'a (Samoan male tattoo) by Sulu'ape Paulo II. The photograph documents the process of tatau (tattooing) and reveals Adams's characteristic interest in the context in which pe'a are created. The scene of the activity is a suburban lounge in West Auckland. The television and patterned wallpaper contrast with the tools of the tufuga tätatau (master tattooer) arrayed in the foreground of the image. Sulu'ape Paulo II is using the 'au - a small bone comb with sharpened teeth fixed to a shell plate attached to a wooden handle"

"Meeting a tufuga tätatau
Adams began photographing pe'a in 1978 when he was asked to take photographs for an article by Alan Taylor on Samoan tatau. The photographs of 'Mr Salati' were taken in April 1978, and a little over a month later Adams and his friend Tony Fomison were introduced to Sulu'ape Paulo II. In an interview published in 2003, Adams commented: 'I showed Paul [Sulu'ape Paulo II] the photos [of 'Mr Salati'], and we just started talking. I asked him, "Can I photograph your practice, can I come with you?" and he said "yeah". He just took us at face value, which is really what we wanted, I suppose. Then we started going out with Paul.' 7.10.78. Triangle Road, Massey, West Auckland is the result of this meeting, and it is an early example of a photographic project that Adams has continued into the present."

"A suburban setting
Adams's photographs of pe'a are radical in their denial of traditional ethnographic approaches to photographing other cultures. In his 2003 interview, Adams explained: 'When I was asked at that time what do you think you're doing, I'd say I just want to turn the camera around 180 degrees and point it back in the opposite direction, if you see what I mean, with this sort of colonial archive in mind.' Adams's photograph takes its role as a kind of archive seriously, as the detailed ethnographic style title suggests. But Adams doesn't isolate the pe'a and treat it like a formal pattern on disembodied limbs - a typical strategy of the 'colonial archive'. Rather, the context of the process is revealed, so that what might otherwise seem 'exotic' is shown as belonging firmly in contemporary New Zealand."

Accessed 6 July 2012 from Te Papa website/collections online
Credit Line
Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery, Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui
Collection Type
Permanent collection
Acquisition Date


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