Latest News

Coming together – library sculpture reflects story of Onehunga2 min read

Apr 26, 2021 2 min

Coming together – library sculpture reflects story of Onehunga2 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Onehunga’s guided Art Bike Tour in February gave locals the opportunity to learn about the artists and stories behind some of Onehunga’s street art. One sculpture of regular interest is Hautaha, the steel piece outside the Onehunga Library, made by the celebrated Tongan artist, Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi.

The Pasifika-themed tubular sculpture was erected in February 2004, after the community sought ways to enhance the upgraded Onehunga space. The criteria requested that the piece should reflect local themes, and a number of skilled artists submitted their proposals for public voting – Filipe Tohi had the winning design.

As a master lasher, carver, painter and sculptor, Filipe adapted the method of lalava lashing into the three-metre -tall sculpture of stacked steel tube design. For many years he studied the Tongan traditional art of lalava (decorative rope lashing) and traveled internationally to teach the skill abroad. He is a world-renowned tufuga lalava; an expert in binding using coconut sennit (kafa processed coconut fibre).

The sculpture’s name, Hautaha, means ‘coming together’, and references the unity of people from early Maori to colonising Europeans, to migrating Pacific Islanders into the area.  “When envisioning the concept, I thought back in time to when Onehunga was a port – a place where people came together from different parts of the world. I interlinked and layered the steel tubes to reflect this story of connection,” says Filipe.

He has had public art on display in Japan, China, Fiji, and Tonga, and has exhibited pieces throughout the world, including Europe, the USA, the Pacific and Japan.  Throughout all his travels, New Zealand and Tonga remain his preferred places for work and leisure, and he recently held a joint exhibition, ‘Amui ‘i Mu‘a – Ancient Future at the Wallace Arts Centre at the Pah Homestead. (read about this on P?)

He says, “Wherever I go, I still long to be in New Zealand or back home in Tonga. I am blessed to be able to travel the world sharing my work with all the different people I meet. Europe is so large, and the distances you have to travel are so far apart, so it’s always good to be back home. Especially during these times.”

 (The Hautaha sculpture outside Onehunga Library)

(Inset to main photo: Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi pictured with his work on display at his recent joint exhibition ‘Amui ‘i Mu‘a – Ancient Future at the Wallace Arts Centre)