Through the time spiral: ʻOli Ula

Stills from Through the time spiral: ʻOli Ula (2021). HD video, 12 min 30 sec.

Number nine Eden Crescent is along the road from Gus Fisher Gallery, beside the brick wall from which the spring Te Wai Ariki emerges. Until 1976, a beautiful two-storey house with twenty-something rooms, wide balconies and stained-glass windows stood here. The house was named ‘Oli Ula, in reference to a garland strung with the fragrant red flower of the Samoan ‘oli tree. Built in the early 1900s by my great-great-grandparents Gustav Kronfeld, a Jewish merchant, and Louisa Silveira of Lotofaga, the walls were adorned with measina. Louisa made a vibrant home for their ten children and Moana peoples arriving in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Through the time spiral: ʻOli Ula reconstructs this home using a su’ifefiloi methodology, reflecting the Sāmoan tradition of making flower garlands in which a mixture of flowers are sewn together and strung into a necklace, an ula [1]. The walkthrough is guided by a voiceover assembled from recorded memories of Moe (Gustav and Louisa’s eighth child) and his son Tony. Remaining faithful to their words, I bring them into the present tense and link their memories with my own words—stringing the flowers into the ula.

During the First World War, Gustav was interned on Te Motu-a-Ihenga under suspicion of aiding the Germans, spending several years separated from his family. Among my family’s archive from this period are messages that travelled between postal censors and military authorities; the family and the government; the island and ‘Oli Ula. The work imagines Te Wai Ariki as a witness to these unfolding histories, and utilises The Booth as a communicative portal able to send and receive messages across space and time.

[1] Albert L. Refiti, “Mavae and Tofiga: Spatial Exposition of the Samoan Cosmogony and Architecture” (The Auckland University of Technology: 2014), 38-42. Lana Lopesi, "Moana Cosmopolitan Imaginaries: Toward an Emerging Theory of Moana Art" (The Auckland University of Technology: 2021), 42-43.

Installed in The Booth at Gus Fisher Gallery during the exhibition 'I Multiply Each Day' (Dec. 2021 – Feb. 2022).