Dr Léuli Eshrāghi
Born 1986 in Yuwi Country, Australia
Lives and works in Garrmalang / Darwin, Australia and Tiohtià:ke / Mooniyang / Montréal, Canada
Dr Léuli Eshrāghi, Sāmoan artist, curator and researcher, intervenes in display territories to centre Indigenous presence and power, sensual and spoken languages, and ceremonial-political practices. Through performance, moving image, writing and installation, ia engages with Indigenous possibility as haunted by ongoing militourist and missionary violences that erase faʻafafine-faʻatama from kinship structures. Ia contributes to growing international critical practice across the Great Ocean and North America through residencies, exhibitions, publications, teaching and rights advocacy.
With artist collaborators Tommy Misa, Stelly Gapp and Kiliati Pahulu
Building on ongoing research into multilingual and international Indigenous considerations of genders, sexualities, pleasures and futurities, re(cul)naissance comprises a neon, fabric, water pool and moving image installation. re(cul)naissance proposes a future state of unmitigated wellbeing and unashamed pleasure for faʻafafine, faʻatama, queer, trans, non-binary and further peoples who have been violently removed from our erstwhile key roles in intellectual and ceremonial life in multiple Indigenous kinship systems.
re(cul)naissance, meaning stepping back, and rebirth through the end in French, takes form as an eight-limbed feʻe deity represented in ancestral and new motifs, on printed, iridescent fabric lengths that reach across the space. These converge over a neon circle and low water pool below. It is a ceremonial framework within which to honour precolonial human-animal kinship and cycles of life, pleasure, connection, survival and thriving before death and the afterlife, as well as the end of Gregorian shame-time.
Activated through performance and contemplation, this installation requires audience interrogation of subjects and positions rendered contentious – Indigenous pleasure, desire, softness, hardness, embodied knowledges predating militourist and missionary colonisation – outside of the architecture holding them. Audiences are required to meet the installation in states of undress or nudity, free from digital devices also, in order to hasten non-cannibalistic consumption of our movements and our bodies.
Filtered into the installation, Waremah (Cockatoo Island’s) natural light is tempered within the space to reverse the notion of the ‘Coming of the Light,’ that masks violent evangelisation undertaken by Euro-American missionaries around the world. Within this filtering, Indigenous kinships including multiple genders and sexualities, ceremonial performance practices and visual cultural expressions are returned from Western perceptions of savagery, deviancy and ‘Darkness’.
What do kink practices have to do with non-colonial Indigenous actions in the world? What does receiving and giving tactile pleasure have to do with mutual consent, respect and care in queer Indigenous kinships, beyond taboos imposed by Western missionaries and militourist/settler colonial agents? What does touch and sensing the world through embodied knowledge, softness, hardness, fluid states, openness, closedness teach us about how we might make worlds after Gregorian shame-time?
Archival research into colonial and Indigenous imaginaries of gender, sexuality, performance and wellbeing centred on the central Great Ocean archipelago of Sāmoa and neighbouring cultures, have culminated in the materiality, colour, shimmering movements and meditative practices that realise Indigenous existences in the installation. This includes activating Sāmoan and other Indigenous language concepts in the development of the performance and display, such as mālamalama, the process of understanding or enlightenment through close reading or attentiveness to symbiotic pō, the potential-filled night/origin of the universe, and lagi, multiple heavens from which all deities relate to humans and other kin animals.
Location: Cockatoo Island