Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, 2018
Taking the form of a giant Pacific ula lei or necklace, A Flock of Blooms is made up of brightly coloured four-petal flowers of various sizes that glimmer with pinks, oranges, blues, greens and yellows.
Despite these vibrant symbols of the Pacific, the lei tells a story of the migration and urbanisation of Pacific Islanders in New Zealand. A closer look at the artwork reveals that the flowers are made of the reflective vinyl used in road signs, and perspex; materials that are drawn from urban environments.
Niki Hastings-McFall adapts western materials to produce A Flock of Blooms, which refers to the economic realities of life for Pacific Islanders in New Zealand cities, and shows how Pacific customary practice is transformed through the innovative use of new materials.
A Flock of Blooms was created by Hastings-McFall after a visit to see family in Samoa. The form of the artwork, the lei, is driven by Hastings-McFall’s interests in body adornment in the form of jewellery and her own cultural identity.
In an interview for her exhibition Danse in 2011, Hastings-McFall talks about her ideas on jewellery and explains that, “aside from the purely aesthetic worth there is usually always a narrative or history attached to jewellery that adds value far beyond the mere materials.”
“The narrative contained within an object has always intrigued me – how an inanimate object can record and encode so much emotion, history and information.” The narrative attached to A Flock of Blooms explores both the social elements surrounding the lei, and the materials that Hastings-McFall uses to communicate urbanisation.
Lei are customary garlands or wreaths that are seen throughout the wider Pacific. Usually taking the form of fresh flowers and fruits, lei can represent a number of qualities, from honour and love, to welcome and friendship.
The four-petal flowers that make up A Flock of Blooms have come to be associated with the art and culture of the Pacific. The iconic shape is a motif that originates from Pacific tapa cloth, tatau (tattoo) and carvings, and is commonly thought to represent a number of elements like the frangipani flower, stars and birds.
A Flock of Blooms was commissioned for the exhibition Botanica at the Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi in 2001, and can now be seen hanging high in the Cotton Building of Victoria’s Kelburn Campus.
Originally from Titirangi in West Auckland, Hastings-McFall is of Samoan and New Zealand European descent. After learning about her Samoan heritage later in life, her artistic practice reflects her entanglement with a Pākehā upbringing and her ties to the Pacific.
Graduating with a Bachelor of Visual Arts in Jewellery from the Manukau Institute of Technology in 2000, Hastings-McFall has exhibited both internationally and nationally, and has works in public and private collections.
Hastings-McFall’s technical expertise is translated through her art as she explores the ideas of material culture and storytelling through jewellery. Her works tend to reference customary motifs and imagery to explore themes of religion, urbanisation and colonisation within the Pacific
Materials: Perspex, road sign vinyl, steel fittings
Size: 2.4m x 1.3m
Location: Cotton Building
Registration: VUW Art Collection, VUW.2001.3