"Making Hiapo has been the only art form that makes me feel complete"
18 Oct 2021
Cora-Allan Wickliffe, a multidisciplinary artist of Māori and Niue descent, speaks about she has focused her efforts to revive the art form of Hiapo as part of Niuean Language Week.
Originally from Waitakere, Cora-Allan completed her Masters in Visual Art and Design in Performance from AUT (2013) and received a AUT Postgraduate Deans award for her research. In recent years her practice has focused on efforts to revive the art form of Hiapo, which has led Cora's work to be exhibited throughout Aotearoa and internationally including Australia, Niue, England and Canada. Her work is a part of major collections including The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Wallace Arts Trust.
Cora-Allan was recently awarded a McCahon House Residency (2021), Creative New Zealand Pacific Heritage Artist award (2020) Springboard Arts Foundation Award (2021) and was a finalist in the National Contemporary Art Award (2021) and Parkin drawing prize (2021). She works from her home studio in Swanson, West Auckland, is a founding member of BC COLLECTIVE and is a maker of Hiapo (Niuean Barkcloth) who is dedicated to sharing knowledge of Hiapo and creating resources for future makers.
Where did your journey with art begin?
My dad carved all our 21st keys and so I have always been interested in forms of creating, watching him make with wood was fun as a kid and I naturally am good at making tools as well. That has been helpful with my Hiapo practice. I have always been interested in art and learning about what I wanted to say has taken forever and sometimes I feel energized when I move into new thoughts and directions which spurs me to continue making my best work. Making Hiapo though has been the only art form that makes me feel complete and is easy, I don't mind sitting forever on the mat and beating. I will take long house of painting and really enjoy all the thoughts and mental toughness that has come from been a Hiapo maker.
What is your favourite art piece to date and why?
My current favourite piece of artwork to date is Pusi Urales painting 'O Le Faga' (2021) that I just purchased from Moana Fresh. I have been looking into female Pacific landscape painters and seeing how tapa is also a form of landscape painting which has made me look so deeply into my own Hiapo works. I love the art forms and visual expression from the Pacific and from indigenous communities they have always had my heart whenever I experience native artwork.
How does language and/or culture help form your artform today?
The Niuean community has been nothing but supportive of the work I do, being a contemporary maker often leads to conversations about materials and do I know how to make my own cloth. Maybe it's because I am young and heritage artists are old but as a maker in 2021 I have been able to access and learn knowledge faster with a wide global network and also people email with so many questions about Hiapo so there is so much need to learn and share. The language weeks are a big deal because I like seeing what the communities present and what is at the heart of each language week and I think Niue does a great job at having themes and competitions to coincide with the time. Niue has so many talented artists and even though we are small our networks are slowly getting larger with so many fantastic groups promoting Niue arts and crafts.
What’s a phrase or proverb in the Niuean language that speaks to you?
"Faliki e tau momoui he tau atuhau aki e Vagahau Niue" lay the foundations and give rise to vagahau Niue. That was last year's Vagahau Niue theme and I absolutely felt that in a time I was learning how and what to share about Hiapo. I just want to make sure I have solid knowledge to pass on and that it is useful.
What is a memory of using the Niuean language you’d like to share?
My grandfather would always say Hau when he wanted my son to come for a treat and they would sit opposite one another and share a KitKat. Our boy was one and this moment is always relived every time I hear the word 'Hau' even if nana is screaming it. I have been blessed to have amazing Niuean grandparents who were very present in my life and made sure we knew about Niue and enjoyed eating the delicacies from there.
How will you be celebrating (Niuean Language) this week?
We will be entering the dress-up Tau Toa Niue competition, we have a lot of Hiapo and I want to also include a belt made from hair. Spending lots of time in the museums I have this library of images that could help create an awesome outfit so lets see how it goes. A one-year-old and five-year-old may not cooperate but at least the Hiapo will look awesome.
Who or what are some of your favourite Niuean artists or events?
I love the national show day and my favourite artists would have to be at the moment Salle Tamatoa and Tunaga Funaki I think what they are doing with contemporary weaving is amazing. I recently saw paintings by Mark Cross who is a palagi painter living on Niue with his wife Ahi, these were of Niue in the past and the way he captures the island was so honest and the colour palette was warm and that's how Niue feels to me. I always enjoy all the Tupumaiaga workshops I have only been able to make one and my sister but they are always such a good vibe.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently doing a residency at the McCahon house and as the first Niuean artist I want to do a great job. I have curated a show in Germany called Ocean memories which includes Raymond Sagapolutele, Kereama Taepa, Darcell Apelu, Edith Amituanai, Louisa Afoa and Grace Iwashita-Taylor. It has been a year in the making and working via zoom and emails has been tough but German couple Rainier and Cornelia Leunig have been awesome to work with and I can't wait to receive images of the show installed. Ocean Memories - Kulturzentrum Faust (kulturzentrum-faust.de)