Greg Semu<br/>
Samoan born 1971<br/>
<em>The sighting</em> 2014–15<br/>
type C transparency, light box<br/>
110.0 x 232.5 cm (image and sheet)<br/>
Collection of the artist, Sydney<br/>
© Greg Semu, courtesy Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne
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Greg Semu
Samoan born 1971
Media Release • 5 May 16

Greg Semu: Raft of the Tagata Pasifika (People of the Pacific)

In a world premiere, renowned Samoan-born contemporary artist, Greg Semu, will unveil a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria featuring a series of powerful photographic works, The Raft of the Tagata Pasifika (People of the Pacific). Working with a cast of twenty-two indigenous actors from the Cook Islands, Semu restages two iconic European history paintings.

Displayed on large-scale lightboxes, Greg Semu’s work reimagines John Steele and Charles F Goldie’s painting, The Arrival of the Māoris in New Zealand, 1898, which was itself modelled on Théodore Géricault’s epic history painting, The Raft of the Medusa, 1818-19, which is an icon of French Romanticism.

‘Through the photographic lens, Semu’s work presents the collision of indigenous worlds and colonial imperialism,’ said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV. ‘Semu’s work grapples with Western art history and leads us towards a Māori understanding of the events surrounding their ancestors’ migratory voyage to New Zealand.’

Creating dramatic and gritty compositions of navigational voyages Semu’s work draws attention to the colonisation of the Pacific and the ongoing fight amongst Māori for recognition of their rights and ownership of their own story and oral histories.

Greg Semu: Raft of the Tagata Pasifika (People of the Pacific) is on display at NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Australia from 10 June – 10 September 2016. Entry is free. The Raft of the Tagata Pasifika is supported by Creative New Zealand and the Wallace Arts Trust.


This exhibition forms part of an in-depth focus on Pacific art and culture at the NGV in 2016. NGV International will also host two other major exhibitions of contemporary Pacific art, Lisa Reihana’s in pursuit of Venus, a live-action video work that restages the French neo-classical panoramic wallpaper Les Sauvages de la mer Pacifique (1804‒05), and Siu i Moana: Reaching Across the Ocean, an immersive exhibition of contemporary ngatu (Tongan barkcloths paintings) by Robin White and Ruha Fifita in collaboration with the women of Haveluloto Village, Tongatapu.

These will be presented alongside Art of the Pacific, an extensive collection display which honours the customary shields, figurative sculptures and masks that inspired the European Avant-Garde to invent new forms of Modernism, as well as a dynamic range of body ornaments, encompassing contemporary Polynesian lei, headdresses and jewellery, barkcloths and photographs of Samoan tatau.


Contemporary Pacific Art and Community Day

Sat 11 Jun, 11am – 3pm
Join in a celebration of Melbourne’s vibrant Pacific community and experience contemporary Pacific culture and art with music, performances, workshops and talks led by international and local artists and curators in this special program marking the opening of exhibitions Siu i Moana: Reaching Across the Ocean, Greg Semu: The Raft of the Tagata Pasifika (People of the Pacific), Lisa Reihana: in Pursuit of Venus and display of the NGV Collection, Art of the Pacific.
Cost Free
Venue NGV International