In 2015 a group of Fijian women based in New Zealand and Australia were brought together to create new works for an exhibition inspired by veiqia (Fijian female tattoo), a practice that was stopped from around the mid-19th century and conducted in secrecy up to the early 20th century. The project involved an online research forum and time spent with Fijian collections in Fiji and New Zealand museums. The exhibition took place at ST PAUL St Gallery in March 2016 for the Auckland Arts Festival and coincided with the PAA XII International Symposium.
A series of interconnected events created the foundations of The Veiqia Project and started an ongoing quest. In 2008 Luisa Tora, Cresantia (Frances) Koya Vaka’uta, Ann Tarte, and Jakki Mua co-curated the exhibition, VASU: Pacific Women of Power. It was the first time a show of women artists was held at the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies at the University of the South Pacific. The project was a huge success and within the context of matrilineal custom and Pacific feminisms, the exhibition stimulated lengthy discussion around the lost art of female tattooing in Fiji.
In 2014, Dr Tarisi Vunidilo designed and implemented the inaugural Marama Ni Viti course for the Pasifika Education Centre in South Auckland. Luisa and Ema Tavola attended that 4-week course on Fijian women and leadership and cultural knowledge, from class facilitators Tarisi and Joana Monolagi.
Later that year, Luisa undertook an internship with the Pacific Curator’s Desk at Auckland Museum. During this time she worked on a number of projects which included selecting Fijian tattoo combs from the collection and writing a description that was then translated into Fijian by Joana for display.
After the Marama Ni Viti workshops, Luisa suggested to Ema and Tarisi that they undertake a creative research project on veiqia.
In 2015 Tarisi and Ema engaged with five Fijian artists Dulcie Stewart, Donita Hulme, Joana Monolagi, Margaret Aull, and Luisa Tora to participate in shared research activities and museum visits to inform the development of new artwork inspired by veiqia.
The Veiqia Project originally started off as a nine month project with an exhibition in March 2016 at St Paul St art gallery in Auckland. After the exhibition Ema left the Project to work on other projects. The rest of us continued to work together, as we knew we had to take The Veiqia Project home.
Joana Monolagi, Dr Tarisi Sorovi-Vunidilo, Margaret Aull, Donita Vatuinaruku Hulme, Dulcie Stewart, and Luisa Tora.
Past exhibitions include The Veiqia Project, ST PAUL St Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau (2016); The Veiqia Project, (Margaret Aull, Selai Buasala, Mereula Buliruarua, Elizabeth Edwards, Donita Donita Vatuinaruku Hulme, Katarina Lesumai, Joana Monolagi, Dulcie Stewart, Laurel Stewart, Luisa Tora and VOU Dance Fiji artists, Mere Rosi Navuda, Elizabeth Tanya Sidal, Bernadette Kaulotu Suiqa, Koleta Dravuni Tobeyaweni, and Ta’Arei Weeks), Fiji Museum, Suva (2017); names held in our mouths (alongside Sosefina Andy, Nikau Hindin, Louisa Humphry, Wikuki Kingi, Pacifica Mamas, and Kaetaeta Watson), Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau (2019); Marama Dina (Margaret Aull, Torika Bolatagici, Donita Vatuinaruku Hulme, Yasbelle Kerkow, Joana Monolagi, Dulcie Stewart, Salote Tawale, Luisa Tora, MC Trey aka Thelma Thomas, and Emele Ugavule), Campbelltown Arts Centre, Campbelltown, New South Wales (2019); iLakolako ni weniqia: A Veiqia Project exhibition, The Physics Room, Christchurch (2021).