Donita Hulme


Isa lei gauna mo ni lesu tale mai (2016)

Isa lei gauna mo ni lesu tale mai is a short form video work that asks, should we / could we / how would we go back to our great-grandmothers’ time?

Giving a nod to the legend of the Fijian sisters who took tattooing to Samoa, two modern day sisters are invited to share their memories and reactions to ceremonies of womanhood.

Sitting in a suburban Sydney backyard with life going on around them, each sister recalls the marking of their first menses, offering us two different experiences of what might be described as a ‘traditional” ceremony. What they have in common though is something much more modern– embarrassment.

When presented with images and information about veiqia, the sisters’ reactions diverge from one another. Awe from the eldest, shock from the youngest. An edge of yearning from one- Isa lei, gauna mo ni lesu tale mai. Barely disguised disdain from the other – Oilei na gauna, kua ni lesu tale mai.

Should we / could we / how would we go back to our great-grandmothers’ time?

For nearly a decade the artist, Donita Hulme has documented the energy and activity of what she describes as ‘suburban ceremonies’; traditional iTaukei rites as they take place in Sydney backyards, lounge rooms and community halls. She also has a special fascination for those ceremonies related to death and mourning in iTaukei culture. While this may sound maudlin, her subjects are not and they often surprise her with their humour and generosity.

Donita has a love of colour, moments and sound; and prefers to work in natural light.


Many thanks to the interviewed sisters, Vinaisi Maca and Anaisi Visi Vatuinaruku as well as their mother Emele Lode, brother Simeli Karacia, cousin Tai Kaveni and nephew Maciu Nacoke.

Editing mentor: Gary Paramanathan

Studio support: Information and Cultural Exchange Inc

Technical advisor: Jerome Pearce

Voice of reason: Salote Tawale