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July 17, 2017 | by  | in Visual Arts |
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Chat with Quishile Charan and Salome Tanuvasa (Namesake)

Namesake is an exhibition created by close friends Quishile Charan and Salome Ofa Tanuvasa. Using textiles, audiovisual, and illustration, Quishile and Salome explore ideas of cultural heritage, a sense of home and displacement, and thinking about the different creative sites of knowledge that aren’t always considered legitimate. Sitting on the floor of the gallery threading the last few beads of Quishile’s textile work, both artists talked with me about their exhibition and why this work lies close to home.

Quishile highlighted the functionality of cultural creativity as a way of organising communities, interacting within these communities, and passing on family and cultural history. “I’m interested in colonial shame and how that’s affected my [Indo-Fijian] community and myself. […] So I work with visual narrative through textile making that relies on flora and fauna, and one element of our textiles is telling our stories, the traditional knowledge systems. But I also want to offer a place of grieving, healing, because it’s not something my community has been offered and it’s something we’re still trying to work through.”

In preparing for this exhibition, Salome highlighted feelings of isolation during art school that is carried through into the wider art industry. Engagement with colonial and postcolonial disruption of a sense of self and belonging are few and far between. Working on this has “heightened the lack of support and a space that’s been safe to have these discussions. There’s a lack of space for people who are going through similar issues either in their art practice or daily lives.”

Salome describes going to university and being told to value only a certain kind of knowledge from a certain group of academics, and slowly losing a sense of value of the knowledge passed down from her ancestors. “Institutions need to help — earlier on — and communities need to help promote the value of different structures and sites of knowledge”

“When we were talking about the name of this exhibition, it was nice to acknowledge and think about where we come from, and how our names are pre-conceived by family members who have good relationships with their great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers, and it’s a connection I wish I had. So ‘Salome’ is from my mother’s mum’s name, and she lives in Vava’u in Tonga, where my mum grew up.  And ‘Ofa’ is  my dad’s mum’s name, and dad’s from Samoa in Nofoali’i. To have these names given to me, and knowing these connections, is very humbling”.

Quishile explains where her hybrid name comes from: “Around the ’80s, parents gave their children names that were different, and sometimes squished a bunch of names together, or alternative spellings of Hindustani names… With my name, it starts off with a boy’s name — Kushaal — and it means ‘the happy one’. My family always tells me stories that my father took a really long time deciding my name, and he thought it was important to have my aaji’s (grandmother) name, Shila, in mine.”

Quishile’s aaji told her one day, “in your name, that’s where I lay. This way I know, someone will never forget me.”


Namesake is currently showing at Enjoy Gallery until July 22, free entry. On July 22, 11.00am, there will be an artist talk with both artists.

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