Cool Hunter Predictions: Salote Tawale

Salote Tawale explores perceptions of identity, race, ethnicity and gender as constructed within the framework of Western cultural values through her multidisciplinary practice.

Words: Daniel Mudie Cunningham

Photography: Zan Wimberley

Salote Tawale is a Fijian-born, Sydney-based artist who moved from Suva to Melbourne with her family in the late 1970s. In her multidisciplinary practice, which includes photography, drawing, performance and video installation, Tawale explores perceptions of identity, race, ethnicity and gender as constructed within the framework of Western cultural values. Tawale’s work often starts out as a performance to video, becoming an inti-mate self-portrait referencing songs by the likes of Whitney Houston and Radiohead. “A pop song is so right but so wrong; it’s so in line with how you feel about something but also at the same time a total fantasy.”

For Tawale, the materials of calico and tarpaulin employed in recent works for installation and draw-ings are contemporary replacements for traditional Fijian material such as masi (bark cloth) and palm leaves. “Like me, these materials embody not only cultural continuities but also my place as part of pacific diaspora.”

In early 2016, Tawale took a break from her cur-rent stint at Parramatta Artist Studios to undertake a residency at the Banff Centre in Canada. This opportunity had significant impact on the current direction of her practice; it was also a time to work through the grief of having recently lost a family member. In a recent series of abstract drawings on calico, Tawale conveyed the emotion and bodily feelings that accompanied this loss.

Tawale has exhibited widely within Australia and internationally including in the Biennale of Sydney, Contemporary Pacific Arts Festival, Wellington Art Centre, Penrith Regional Gallery, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Success at Fremantle, Campbelltown Arts Centre and the Indonesian Contemporary Art Network in Yogyakarta.

Most recently Tawale was the recipient of the 2017 Visual Art Fellowship awarded by Arts NSW to a mid-career artist. The prize includes an Artbank commission and residency at Murray Art Museum Albury. This award will enable travel back to the Fiji Islands to collect family oral histories and research the traditional practice of Fijian Women’s Tattoo at the Fiji Museum.

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 79, JAN – MAR 2017. 

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