Kalisolaite Uhila

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2 December 2020

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The Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi announce 2021 Harriet Friedlander Residency recipient, performance artist Kalisolaite ‘Uhila

The incredible Harriet Friedlander Residency of $100,000 to an artists to experience New York was awarded at Whakamana Hiranga the Icons celebration last night at Government House. The late Harriet Friedlander was a dedicated supporter of the arts, who loved New York, believing that the city nurtured artists.

She established this residency in 2008, and it is gifted every two years and sends an artist between the age of 30-40 years to experience New York. Her gift. in perpetuity, enables an artist to travel to New York with $100,000. This residency is not open for applications.

This year’s recipient is Kalisolaite ‘Uhila, 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 powerful works taking inspiration from his daily life – draws the viewer close into his perspectives and experiences of the world.

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.

Previous Harriet Friedlander recipients have included Lucien Johnson and Lucy Marinkovich, Mirian Smith and Christopher Pryor, Louise Potiki Bryant, Arthur Meek, Seung Yul Oh, and Florian Habicht.

About the Arts Foundation

Backing artists to make their mark. The Arts Foundation was established in 1998 to honour extraordinary New Zealand artists.