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As support continues to roll-in for the people of Tonga following last month’s volcanic eruption, it’s now the arts community’s turn to put their talent behind fundraising relief efforts.
A group of Pacific artists are doing their bit to raise funds for the people of Tonga, who now face a growing health crisis.
The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai volcano and the subsequent tsunami on January 15th caused widespread devastation – particularly to the nearby Ha’apai islands – while covering the Tongan capital, 65 kilometers to the south, in ash.
In Auckland, Tongan artist Benjamin Work was moved by what he saw.
“As Tongan artists, we were deeply impacted by the destruction and loss of life that our people experienced,” he says.
“We also knew that the heavy volcanic ashfall had killed most of the crops for food and plants used in the production of weaving and Ngatū (tapa cloth) making.”
Overwhelmed by the events in Tonga, Ben felt obliged to act. He contacted his good friend and artist, Elliot ‘ASKEW’ O’Donnell, who offered to help put together a fundraiser within their arts collective, known as TMD.
Along with TMD artists and with contributions from other Pacific artists and organisations from around the region, they set up an online purchasing portal called ‘Peau Kula’ which went live on Feb 10th.
“I purposely called the fundraiser Peau Kula (red wave). This was an opportunity to celebrate lea faka Tonga to a new generation who are not familiar with this ancient and poetic name we have for tsunami.”
“Names are intrinsic to Tongan culture, they are portals into our past connecting and reminding us of who we are and where we are from.”
Among the artists who contributed works are Tongan Terje Koloamatangi, who collaborated with poet Dietrich John Soakai, Dr. Sione Faletau, Sione Monū and Dagmar Dyck.
“We were so blessed to have the support of artists who carry a lot of mana in their respective fields; Elliot ASKEW O’Donnell, Shane Cotton, Darryl DLT Thomson, Nigel Borrell, Charles and Janine Williams, Jason REVOK, Sylvia Masters and Mark Cross.
“We are working with local artists Tanya Edwards and Serene Tay-Siasau who are both living in Tonga and have been involved with our Tongan arts events and community projects, using the arts as a vehicle to inspire, heal and bring change.”
Ben says he’s worked alongside the two artists in Tongan who will know firsthand, “where and how the funds are distributed” and that the funds go to families who are directly affected at this time.
“It is important for us to have the funds distributed by locals where they see the need rather than instructing them from abroad,” he says.
“It’s easy to get involved but it’s easy to miss out!”
All the art for the fundraiser can be found at www.tmdcrew.com/peaukula. All works will be available for one week or until they are all sold out.