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‘Uhila Moe

Langi Nai

Uhila Moe Langi Nai HEADSHOT

‘Uhila Moe Langi Nai’s Biography

Last Updated:
4/05/2023, 4:04 pm
Multi-disciplinary, Visual Arts
Arts Foundation Springboard 2023
Auckland-born, raised in Pelehake Tonga, with geneology connected to Tatakamotonga, Fua’amotu, and the island of Foa and Nomuka in Ha’apa.
'My Nena raises me in our family home, Kolopaea, in the village of Pelehake, alongside six of my older sisters and one older brother. Growing up alongside my Nena, I learned everything I needed to know about the traditional Tongan crafts and knowledge through listening, observing and making. She would direct me if needed, but most of the time, I learned by watching her. Everything you have read or seen throughout my practice is inspired by the younger me, as I wanted to use the knowledge and life lessons that my Nena taught and shared."

‘Uhila receives the Springboard award for Visual Arts, generously funded by the Edgar family.

With roots in Auckland, and Pelehake Tonga, ‘Uhila Moe Langi Nai is a multi-disciplinary artist. Her practice focuses on the Tongan koloa tu’ufonua ‘oku ‘iloa ko ia koengatu mo e kupesi (collection of women’s wealth known as tapa cloth and embroidered stencil). In her work, she explores kupesi, which belongs to the village of Pelehake, kupesi that holds and carries the history and story of her ancestors, attempting to trace back the origin of these most valuable koloa to the time of her great-grandmothers.

Her practice also looks at the Tongan term ‘heliaki’, a metaphorical language of ‘to say one thing but mean another.” For 'Uhila, kupesi is a heliaki but in forms and shapes, prompting her to wonder about the knowledge and wisdom embedded in their design and creation. Her practice also takes interest in the relationship between herself and the elders’ specialised knowledge and skills within their koloa (women’s wealth)'.

'Uhila completed the Bachelor of Visual Arts in 2018; and then Master in Visual Arts (First Class Honours) from Auckland University of Technology (2020). She has received multiple awards, including the BC Collective Indigenous Award, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki Award for high achievement (one-year gallery membership), AUT Research Masters Scholarship, Va Moana Pacific Spatial Postgraduate, and the Adobe Creative for Creative Use of Software Award. In 2015, she received first place at MAGS Art Students Exhibition, Pat Hanly Art Student Award and The Ara Lodge Fine Arts Award.

Uhila Nai will be mentored by curator, writer and artist Dr. Andrea Low.

Andrea Low is Associate Curator, Contemporary World at Auckland Museum where she co-curated the permanent exhibition Tāmaki Herenga Waka: Stories of Auckland. Andrea is a regular contributor of articles and publications that trace histories of Pacific peoples in Tāmaki and the wider Pacific. Prior to working at Auckland Museum, Andrea taught in the Anthropology and Fine Arts departments at the University of Auckland and at AUT in Spatial Design. Andrea has a PhD in Anthropology (Ethnomusicology), an MFA in Sculpture and a BA in English, all from the University of Auckland. Andrea is a council member of The Polynesian Society and Book Review Editor for the Society’s journal: Waka Kuaka JPS. She is also on the advisory board of Marinade: Aotearoa Journal of Moana Art, and a board member for Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery and Artspace Aotearoa.