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'Pisupo lua afe' (Corned beef 2000), 1994

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FE010516 Pisupo lua afe (Corned beef 2000)

This is a large, freestanding tin sculpture in the shape of a bullock, made by artist Michel Tuffery in 1994. The life-size sculpture comprises empty yellow-and-red corned beef tins that have been flattened, cut or folded, and riveted into place. The tins previously contained the Fijian brand 'Golden Country' corned beef. The work measures 115 cm x 65 cm x 217 cm.

Source Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Educational value:
  • 'Pisupo lua afe' is a witty but heartfelt comment on the way in which imported goods have become integral to Pasifika customs - pisupo, which is tinned corned beef, has replaced local foods within the Pacific Island diet and is commonly given as a gift at weddings, funerals, feasts and other special occasions.
  • Tuffery's 'un-Polynesian-looking' bullock raises the issue of whether global trade, colonial economics and foreign intervention in Pacific Island cultures encourage independence among those cultures or actually foster dependency.
  • The title of the work is a comment on the impact of imported goods on Samoan culture and language - in the 1960s, former Chief Justice of Samoa C C Marsack wrote that 'when Samoans were first introduced to the wonder of tinned food, this was in the form of pea soup. As no Samoan word can end in a consonant, they tacked an "o" on the end and made the Samoan form of the English term pisupo, pronounced pea-soup-o. As time wore on and other edible matter arrived in tins, the generic term pisupo was used for all of it. Now it is more or less confined to tinned meat' (Icons Nga Taonga, Te papa Press, 2004).
  • Michel Tuffery is a Polynesian artist who was born in New Zealand in 1966 to a Samoan mother and a European father, and has Cook Island and Tahitian ancestry - he uses a number of different media in his artworks, which include prints, posters, woodcuts, lithographs, sculpture, set designs and performance pieces; explaining his reasons for working in many media, Tuffery comments 'I'm fascinated by everything I see around me. I like to have a go, interpret how I see things, because if you don't try you'll never know' (from an interview with Michel Tuffery in Mallon and Pereira, eds, 'Speaking in colour', Te Papa Press, 1997).
  • Some of Tuffery's work is highly political, such as his anti-driftnet series and his 'Asiasi II', which is a large articulated metal fish made from herring tins that comments on the overfishing of all edible species throughout the Pacific Islands.

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