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Kalisolaite Uhila

Kalisolaite ‘Uhila’s Biography

Last Updated:
2/12/2020, 10:24 am
Performance Artist
Harriet Friedlander Residency 2021
‘Uhila’s ideas come from exploring life expressing it in ways to be relatable to all people, which, in turn, provokes dialogue.

Kalisolaite ‘Uhila is an award-winning performance artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

Born in Tonga, ‘Uhila’s art practice centres on live performance, in which the expression of his ideas take place, unrehearsed, in gallery spaces and other locations outside of a traditional theatre environment.

His path to becoming a performance artist began as a print-maker studying at Auckland University of Technology. Studying a visual arts degree, he realised that he did not need paper to make a print but could bring image and sound together. He started to use his body as a tool and his first performance was using an antique saw to make marks on wood.

‘Uhila has gone on to develop a range of different projects, including sleeping rough at Te Tuhi Gallery for a week and Auckland Art Gallery for three months; spending days with a piglet in a pen for Pigs in the Yard at the Mangere Arts Centre and in Aotea Square; conducting the tide at Wellington's Oriental Bay; and in 2012 donning a black balaclava and green fishing net before leaping from a swing bridge into the Wamapu Stream then dragging himself back to shore.

In 'Uhila's experiential performances, he is not always the obvious subject, he may be completely invisible, disguised or inaccessible. ‘Uhila’s ideas come from exploring life expressing it in ways to be relatable to all people, which, in turn, provokes dialogue.

For his masters he explored the time aspect of ‘social structures and relationships’. His thesis was titled Maumau-taimi: Wasting Time; Being Useless. Exploring perspectives of wasting time versus time well wasted in the field of art together with an ongoing study of the construction of performance to understand the patterns and language hidden inside Body, which he recreates in his own contemporary art of performance art from past and future into the present.

His projects have won ‘Uhila a number of accolades including the Auckland Fringe Award, Visual arts in 2011, being a finalist in the 2014 Walters Prize and receiving the contemporary Pacific Artist Award at the Creative New Zealand Pasifika Arts Awards in 2017.

Speaking on ‘Uhila’s work, Jonathan Bywater from judging panel for the Harriet Friedlander Residency says "Kalisolaite ‘Uhila’s Mo’ui tukuhausia was picked as a finalist for the 2014 Walters Prize. The piece shares some of the impact of a benchmark endurance performance like Tehching Hsieh’s One Year Performance 1981–1982 (Outdoor Piece) but in ‘Uhila’s, being outdoors - living in the manner of someone socially adrift - is here and now more clearly a figure for the fate of the rough sleeper, the forces that give rise to that condition, and to their racialized body. Since, his work has continued to carry this force of commitment, bringing his position as part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Tongan diaspora into connection with audiences, putting his experience —personally, and so all the more powerfully metaphorically—on the line as something for us to reckon with."