Recording date:

Polynesian artist, Michel Tuffery maps the collaboration and interaction on first contact between Tupaia and Cookie, his crew, the scientists and artists.

Michel Tuffery - Echoes of Cook


*Speakers: Michael Tuffery (M)

*Audience: (A)

*Location: National Library of Australia

*Date: 22 September 2018



M:        First thing is [Garana] 00:15 and you have to say it back to me. [Garana].

All:      [Garana].

M:        [Speaks Maori] 00:18. Okay so [speaks Maori] 00:20 or that mountain that you’re looking at is called [speaks Maori] 00:28 and actually I’m officially part of the [fano] 00:27 called the Cook Islands so if you know where the Cook Islands are this is my daughter, [Acoco] 00:42 and when we’re talking about collaboration and when we’re talking about our past or when we’re talking about our [fano] and around the way there was a lot of affirmation going on this morning for me. For my people because it’s just actually giving affirmation about it. Intellectualism is giving affirmation about our navigation skills because unfortunately in [speaks Maori] 1:09, out in the Islands we have the huge suicide rate. And I use my art and cooking and the crew as a vehicle to get everyone to talk to each other and unfortunately our people, our indigenous people, we have the highest stats as far as suicide goes, we have the highest stats of [in prison] 1:35 of our people and I start looking back and figure out where did it all start? Where did this position start?

So I’m starting with there’s my nanny there, Mary Whichman, she’s from Reatea [speaks Maori] 1:52 and my daughter, I take her on this journey back to Rarotonga just to check our [speaks Maori] 2:02 because our family genealogy is really important. From a western perspective yes, you got the family album but from our perspective we talk about our past and our family, how are we related to these people? And when Tupaia came to light, when Anne Salmond wrote that amazing book called The Trial of Cannibal Dog - I’m actually not a very good reader but George <inaudible> 2:31 who actually threw me this book said Tuffery, you need to read this, this is really important ‘cause I have dyslexia and it’s – I actually smashed this book in one day and I couldn’t believe it ‘cause it was the very first book I actually smashed out but what got me excited was this character called Tupaia and Tupaia was from [speaks Maori] 2:52 and that just gave me a whole lot of – opened up my mind and that actually – I started talking to the [Tamoreki] 2:56 ‘cause I work with a lot of at risk [Tamoreki] back at home.

When I talk about [Tamoreki], youth who don’t know themselves and the sad part is yes, our language has actually taken a real big hit, especially in Cook Islands, because of tourism and so basically I’m sort of envious of my daughter because she does <inaudible> 3:21 speaks Samoan, speaks <inaudible> and that’s why we’re trying to strengthen and that’s why this document - and when I came up to the submission, I was actually overwhelmed <inaudible> 3:32 in front of you talking to each other and actually those are the cues that actually gave me the inspiration to actually talk about this relationship, this beautiful relationship between Parkinson.

Now I’m just going to show you, so here’s <inaudible> 3:51. This is where my biological and father’s from and my nanny’s from [Rangatea] 3:54 and then my mum, my biological mum is from Samoa so basically when you go to the supermarket and you go and you look at the fruit salad, that is my maker. And I talked about [Toureki] 4:08, especially our indigenous ones, about their DNA, how special they are because we get <inaudible> from this perspective about education. But the great thing about art and the history, actually helps give them affirmation about who they are. There’s a lot of our people living here in Australia that don’t know themselves. This is the <inaudible> 4:35, this is actually my Hawaii and I always joke about - when I was going backwards and forward to Tahiti I always see the t<inaudible> 4:42 home from Aotearoa, turning up there, doing their ritual you know where they descended from, we talk about this <inaudible> 4:50. This is basically like the Dubai or the LA  and I want to keep it in simple terms, or the departure lounge going out to the Pacific.

This [marai] 5:01 still has that energy there and you know that you have this f<inaudible> in Aotearoa but basically this is our [marai] and in Samoa we call it [marai], it’s the energy centre. And when you go to a special place like this I always – and I call it a USB stick or the stone ‘cause all the objects around this museum and I go ‘round to these museums and they are USB sticks, they are spiritual and they’re still alive. And when we go to these particular places we always take the stone with us and we leave it there.

Here – in the middle here is the scent of Tupaia, this is one of his [fano]. We were interviewing – there was a three-part documentary on Tupaia and this is one of the descendants here, this is Tupaia’s – one of his [fano] or over here there's Paul Tatsall who’s actually a specialist from the M<inaudible> 5:59 perspective on Tupaia. And we were discussing what does that name, Tupaia, mean? And when we came there we had different interpretations and I’m not going to mention that but we had different interpretations from other people on what that name meant but when we got affirmation, we arrived at <inaudible> 6:19 forward.

And there was all these little things. I’m still learning and this is the great thing about this exhibition, the great thing about this exhibition is just giving the affirmation, it’s giving some artists – actually when we were walking around yesterday with Sam Neill I think he was overladen with affirmation and I woke up with a massive headache this morning because I was overladen with affirmation, more stuff. That’s probably one of my proudest moments, is actually interacting with the locals because the important thing about this documentary was to listen, to listen to what the locals had to say. Yes, we had that perspective from the west, we’ve heard those stories from the journals but you must remember our language, how we say it, that has a different perspective. That has a different way of actually seeing that. And this is just like again the importance of language.

<inaudible> 7:21 out there fishing. This is when <inaudible> waka ride from The Glamorous and again we were there as the film crew welcoming these seven canoes who’d done a survey, done all the way to San Francisco, come down the coast of Latin America and then come across the Galapagos. They had been out to sea for about seven months and we met these guys in Tahiti. And again talking about the sophisticated sites. Yes, we talk about Cookie but on that voyage Tupaia was trying to encourage Cookie to go up to Tonga and then come down. And in this documentary we talked about – I interviewed a guy called Greg [fakitaki] 8:03 Brightwell who has sailed from Tahiti back to Aotearoa and he was talking, he was laughing about the technology of those boats and then here’s the contemporary version or affirmation about that other side of it like navigation, star navigation, wayfinding. And this is the – now the new skills, the mobile skills.

Now I’m a big fan of teaching, I love my teaching and I think the collaboration and what’s inspired me is this relationship between Parkinson and Tupaia and when they started creating this watercolour together <inaudible> 8:50, that for me was the first step and the first collaboration. This is in Uawa in Tolaga Bay and this is called Tupaia’s Cave. And there’s – he left his little tag up there, this is still controversial. We were looking for his tag and there’s been a lot of discussion about the <inaudible> 9:12 that were left in this cave. I tried to ring the guys that actually reported this, the p<inaudible> in this area but I had no luck so I’ve been trying to get people to come and date this, carbon date this piece. This is when Parkinson saw land <inaudible> 9:30, were doing that – had that time there just in that little space there where Tupaia was able to exchange information.

Opoutama and Uawa in Tolaga Bay. And this is what I did, I did these like visual responses especially on tapa, tapa cloth, the significance ‘cause when the tapa cloth appeared they were willing to trade with it, it was actually something – yeah. Tupaia’s Spring. Now this is a collaboration between <inaudible> 10:10 people and we’ve just been at Tolaga Bay and this is actually response. I always talk about the very first Polynesian to take the first photograph, it’s a watercolour alongside Parkinson’s beautiful young man. And for me that is the first transition, this is the first reported transition – transaction between trade. <inaudible> 10:31, this piece of tapa but where did they learn this from? Now here's Tupaia recording that very moment on a h<inaudible> 10:40. And when I talk about using a h<inaudible> we’re combing through the history. And when we went to the British Museum we actually got to see this h<inaudible>.

This is an interesting bit and again I have a description of the hole in the wall and I won’t use that other word, it’s an interesting word but it’s the Maori version of it. And this is the whole series and we’re talking about the transit of Venus, the carving that actually ended up <inaudible> 11:13. Parkinson’s collaboration with Tupaia, the fauna that were actually collected, the transit of Venus, the f<inaudible> 11:21, the octopus because actually that’s actually from the School of Philosophy. R<inaudible> 11:28 is basically the centre. If you watch the tentacles go out they went all in different directions. And I'm right into [minums] 11:43. I mean the [minums] for me are facts and basically I don’t just draw on the paper I use shells or from those [minum] sites where <inaudible> 11:53 went just to prove a point. And I record, I do illustrations on these shells because at the bottom of those hills where Tupaia’s Cave was is this beautiful [minum] just below the cave on the opposite side.

<inaudible> 12:10 and again I’m using shells as metaphor. And this is a piece that we done in Wellington, I was talking about the <inaudible> 12:19, what was going on in that area to remind us human beings about our <inaudible>. Night-time shot. I’m using different vehicles on purpose because I’m not talking about this generation that I’m staring at right now, I’m talking about the younger ones and I’m trying to create this conversation about Tupaia and Cookie and Parkinson. Jandals, yes, now it’s the state of our ocean. They reported it then how it was and now we have this huge plastic problem. At the moment I’m working on this project with recyclers and actually looking at the state of our pelagic birds in Aotearoa and the Pacific.

There’s a big giant conch shell with jandals. And again the storyboards, what I do is have these storyboards to create these conversations especially for our Polynesians. <inaudible> 13:23 and again I started using these metaphors and as you walk up the stairs, you walk up the stairs, you see this fish, these items in his ear and there’s no illustration of Tupaia. Some people say there is so what I did is I started using metaphors or little symbols in Cookie’s ear and that was Tupaia trying to talk to him, give him direction. And then <inaudible> 13:51, the corned beef, cows. This is when he’s taking his stock. We put the <inaudible> on the last voyage <inaudible>. And so what I did was I <inaudible> the actual can, the corned beef can into these illustrations to actually - how much the landscape had changed, what was going on at that time. It was a whole animation series.

<inaudible> 14:16 I mean people are trying to think what the hell is the connection between the bull, Cookie and our people now? But it’s the state of our health. I mean in Samoa we have the highest stat as far as diabetes go ‘cause of processed food. We smash them up <inaudible> and again this is a performance <inaudible> so I make these beautiful big huge pieces of bulls and then I smash them up to get the people talking to each other. This is up in Brisbane <inaudible> 14:48 Cookie <inaudible> the first 15, there’s 15 different personalities, 15 different personalities in the Cook Islands, there’s 15 different islands. There’s a whole different series. And again I was trying to create like little scenes where you know like they had cell phone you know they were there and who was there? And it was interesting listening to the Tongan lady this morning and she was talking about this – we call it the T<inaudible> 15:17 and that island that she – and again it’s that who was there? And I’d say there was a lot of interaction between [Vicky] 15:27 and Samoa and Tonga so I was talking about the diversity of people that there.

This is again responding to the tapa, looking at the side profiles. This is up at Waiheke when I created this whole series when Cookie passed Waiheke Island. That was the next BP station so the BP stations I’m talking about is coming from Tahiti, coming all the way down to Rarotonga, Rarotonga’s the next BP station you stop off and then back – down to <inaudible> 15:57 and Waiheke Island so this is a piece, an acknowledgement from one of our captains at <inaudible> Island and again the stone, the stone here is actually from our village. And again looking at the state of the fish where we are now. You know I was looking at like how people have actually just - I was working up in the Solomon Islands and actually I was quite disgusted at what actually the fishing practices – I actually worked up in the Solomon Islands up in the rainforest for almost eight years on and off and I saw these huge fishing factories coming into Solomon Islands.

And again my job that I felt was to record what is actually happening now. We do these performance pieces like again this has got actually a smoker inside. It’s always – we always work together as a community when we do these performances. <inaudible> 16:58 again on the shells so that was the next stage. Print series and again the shells actually – those lines are like tree rings, they tell a story, there’s a story behind it. A mechanical turtle and again these are three-dimensional images ‘cause that – I was so overwhelmed when I walked through that exhibition yesterday and I was looking at all the illustrations and what I’ve done is just taking those images and I’ve made them three-dimension but talking about the now.

It’s <inaudible> 17:35 and Mark will remember this. Basically we went – so we did First Contact and so what I did is basically went through the collection and I wanted to turn Te Papa inside out because a lot of us don’t get the chance to actually look at the collection in the back stores so what I basically did, I got a whole crew as well <inaudible> this collaboration, using Cookie as the base, basically photographed, documented and we did a whole lot of animation. <inaudible> 18:07 And this is the best story here because basically we had these w<inaudible> and we wanted to – we wanted to play them because we wanted to hear the sound and I had to get a specialist <inaudible> come down and test drive these pieces for Te Papa. And then I had the audacity to say I want to take them outside and use them as part of my projection architecture for the First Contact and they all just what? You want to do what? I said I want to take the pieces outside because the gear is different from inside outside.

And so what I do is I do a lot of collaborations and so that’s why I’m so inspired with Parkinson and Tupaia with these two guys collaborating, colabbing, sharing, learning from each other. And so I got musicians, rappers, dance groups, this is <inaudible> 19:01 and then when we did this performance at Te Papa you’ve turned it inside out. We created this piece that went on for about a whole month and what we did is we took all the film, everything and we just brought it out to the audience and we created this beautiful audiotrack.

And <inaudible> 19:33 you guys to ask those questions because you know what? I’ve actually been overwhelmed by just even walking her yesterday with my wife and I, we were in the Uber car and we looked up and we saw this gigantic Cookie right in front of us and I was actually quite overwhelmed by the size of this dude. But what was even more exciting. Like I said before I was overwhelmed when we walked through that beautiful space with that beautiful energy and you had these books that were talking to each other. And seeing the real physical paintings ‘cause I’ve only seen them in books and a lot of – again Sam and I were actually conversing but I think we were both overwhelmed by the information so I’m going to leave a space for you guys to ask those questions.


A:        Thank you, Michael, that was wonderful, really fabulous. Can I ask a bit more about the documentary about Tupaia? Is that being shown? When - are we able to see that at some stage?

M:        Yeah so what we’ve done is we’re doing a festival cut and basically we’re trying to get prepared for next year because lot of it was like again done with love where a lot of it was just self-funded and a lot of people gave up their own time but it’s a different - totally different perspective from Cookie’s perspective that we’ve been listening to this morning but this is just affirmation for ourselves and for our [Tamareki]. And with that doc – beautiful documentary, you get to see or hear the locals’ perspective on the story, not just telling the story, how we’re related but what – how it impacted. And all the information that we’ve been listening to this morning for me it was just like affirmation about some of the <inaudible> 21:31 what they were saying this morning. Does that answer the question?

A:        Follows on from the previous one what’s it called?

M:        Mm?

A:        What’s the documentary called?

M:        Tupaia’s Endeavour. So everyone thinks it’s about a boat that came to that Tolaga Bay, thinks it’s Tupaia’s boat, he’s in charge and they were there for six days and he had the whole place, he was running the place but again it’s like seeing [fano] or seeing family that you haven’t seen for a long time and sharing that space and exchanging it because they were asking which <inaudible> 22:14 was going back? Did you see such-and-such go back? Because remember we’re talking about the prison, well the ones with the information now but we’re talking about the local view about which <inaudible> was going backwards and forwards. That’s the cool part.

A:        Is it true that a lot of Tupaia’s descendants are in the <inaudible> 22:42 Thames area?

M:        Oh you mean the seeds that were left behind by the crew as well? There are – that name, and that’s why I mentioned [Garang] 22:54, those names and Tupaia is actually still – those names are still floating around, that’s the cool part because I – my daughter was playing against the Australian team, the netball team, was the under 16 team and in the Austliaan team there was a name Tupaia at the back, one of the girls that came against my daughter, the New Zealand team. And I cracked up laughing as I chased her, I said how did you get that name? So I’m from Hamilton but my family are originally from the east coast. Go figure.

A:        Thank you very much, Michael. Can you tell us some more about Cookie and some of the objects that you’ve chosen to put in the foreground and the background of Cookie’s presentation?

M:        Okay so like I said I’m still on a jour – I think it’s – for all of us it’s a life’s work, it will never end, this conversation’s probably going to happen 50 years later, we were talking about it this morning and again I'm still learning and now the reason why I put that first photograph of my daughter, ‘cause we’re both on that same journey. And the objects – especially in Germany, I go back to Germany and again there’s a lot of objects there, when I come into contact – I don’t – sorry, Mark – I don’t wear the gloves because there’s no contact, there’s no energy and when you put your hands and when you take the energy from there that’s <inaudible> 24:25 she says you can’t do this. Said yes, I can ‘cause I’m one of the descendants and I’ve come here to actually hear this conversation.

And all the lonely pieces that are sitting in these basements are all talking to each other and waiting for us to turn up and it’s our job to turn up – well not self-appointed but basically what I’m trying to do is like open those door for our [Tamareki] that are come behind me or beside me. And it’s trying to open up that conversation to enlighten and empower. I’m into empowering people about what we are looking at and like I said there’s a lot – especially that piece – that watercolour that Tupaia did with the <inaudible> 25:07 or the crayfish <inaudible>. For me that was – like that’s a beautiful collaboration and that two artists are meeting together. Does that answer your question?

A:        <inaudible> 25:36?

M:        That was probably the biggest one that we’ve done, these - so a lot of it was like I didn’t know about Tupaia and like especially when we went up to Tahiti, actually from the Tahitian perspective in Tahiti, they thought he was a traitor so there’s different perspectives and that’s being open mind. And with the dance groups, again I’m enlightening them like why are we doing this? Especially in [Howiti] 26:00, they wanted to do a haka back to Cookie and talk about – I don’t know, they wanted to have this conversation so it’s just listening to them and their perspective and I think it was really important to give them the space – like we’ve been listening to <inaudible> this morning, their perspective. And I’ve been actually overwhelmed by just this you know just some of the affirmation, just affirmation again about <inaudible> reaction to Cook and his crew.

A:        Hello. Look, I’d just like to know a little bit more about the Tahitian memories of Tupaia. I can say that I did try to access the documentary and I think that it was – I got some kind of message up saying I was in the geographic region or something like that which I probably am but you were saying that some – that in Tahiti I should imagine there are many memories but there is a memory of Tupaia being a traitor –

M:        Yeah, that was a young man. That was a guy who was actually – I was quite blown away and I thought oh right, he’s a traitor? He’s from [Rakiatea] 27:19. Remember he came over to Tahiti and again it’s like they had ownership of their own state or their own island. It’s like <inaudible> where the <inaudible> about five different districts. We were warring with each other, it was almost like a civil war so it’s like everyone has their own perspective on Tupaia. Actually the watercolours - and actually that was a question I wanted to ask some of the guys from the museum ‘cause of the celebration happening next year we would love to see some of those objects, those original objects take their journey back home. That’s where they were originally conceived and where these images were actually created, especially objects of interest like the carvings coming back because the USB stick will open up this conversation.

And again yeah, there are different perspectives but actually you know what? We’re celebrating and just giving affirmation to the [Tamareki] for our kids about this new mobile <inaudible> 28:19 or the canoe and that’s actually waking up the navigation skills, wave skills and the historical side of things because a lot – again, we’re trapped into the old mobile selfie carryon and what we’re trying to do is give them an alternative education ‘cause I said we’ve got the highest stat of our people inside. But if we could find a way or a - different vehicles like this, like these four rooms to give affirmation about who they are. And again language is so important.

A:        <inaudible> 28:53 Tupaia’s Endeavour is available on Maori television <inaudible>.

M:        Yeah, there’s three parts.

A:        <inaudible> 29:02.

M:        I don't think it’s available over the creek. Yeah, I think you guys –

A:        Can we learn anything about Tupaia from Cook?

M:        Oh the relationship between the two of them? I think we can learn about ourselves because this morning we were learning about ourselves, about the relationship <inaudible> 29:31, the other [fano] over in the islands and talking about his relationship and it was – I don’t know whether it was jealousy or whether he wasn’t listening, that’s why I put this to these fish – that’s Tupaia trying to talk to Cookie. I mean this is an assumption you know just from talk or information I got from journals, like Anne Salmond like interviewing these people from their different perspective and they’re listening to the people back at home. And again it’s trying to find okay, what was the relationship? But you know what? I was actually more interested in the relationship with that beautiful young man, Parkinson and Tupaia. And then you got [Solemna] 30:14 and you got S<inaudible> and these – and again respect of his crew and respect to him because they have their documentation of ourselves. And we have to go back to those but then you got to listen to what the <inaudible> 30:25 say or how they see events. I can’t give you affirmation about what was the relationship between Tupaia, there’s still a lot of assumptions at this stage.

A:        Michael, I’ve been – from the moment I saw the designs that you did for our title block we knew they were right, they just felt right and I’ve been fortunate enough to see the <inaudible> 31:00 material that you provided to us. I’m interested in your artistic process for producing those beautiful motifs and whether you knew immediately which things were going to speak through you for that? Was it a struggle or did you just know which pieces of tonga you needed to represent graphically for us?

M:        Yeah, I already knew it and ac – you probably answered the question <inaudible> 31:27 right answer with this side when they were talking about objects. I already knew about the names, the conversation from the <inaudible> when The Dolphin almost sunk when they first arrived you know ‘cause they were swapping it for sex and pigs. And then looking at the <inaudible> 31:45, the speaking set, the <inaudible> and there’s a beautiful illustration up there, I'm holding it there. And then the designs on the [Atamera] 31:52 and yeah, when I was looking at those designs I thought yeah, it has to tell a story because as we were talking this morning we didn’t have the ABC or that type of language, we used metaphors and that’s the beauty of the language, it’s all spoken in metaphors. Actually even the designs of the [Te Tau] 32:09, again that’s actually almost like a birth certificate, well that’s documentation, it’s not an aesthetic design, it has a ritual behind it. Does that answer the question?

A:        Perfectly, thank you.

Male:   If you're interested in having a look at those designs just look on the <inaudible> 32:32 it’s just <inaudible> which goes underneath the <inaudible> and you can see those elements which Michael’s talking about. If there’s no more questions we’ll break now and we’ll be back at 3:30 but let’s all thank Michael.


End of recording