Ministry for Pacific Peoples — When art and health collide ­ When art and health collide ­ Skip to content

When art and health collide ­

When art and health collide ­

  • 12 Apr 2020
  • |
  • COVID-19
COVID19 doc Final Tuffery 3

With an overload of information about COVID-19 being disseminated, it is important Pacific and other vulnerable communities feel they are being spoken to directly. 

This is why Pacific Health Plus (PHP) is using artwork by Wellington-based Pacific artist Michel Tuffery to help inform communities about best practice hygiene for keeping safe from the spread of COVID-19. 

The Owner and Board Chair at the Porirua-based Pacific primary healthcare service John Fiso says of the 2234 people enrolled at PHP, 60 percent are high needs patients with chronic conditions. 

“Therefore, it is essential we inform our patients of good hygiene practices to keep the vulnerable safe and healthy. 

“We must go over and above to protect our Pacific communities.” 

The PHP team approached Michel, having worked with him before, to develop some images the organisation could use for sharing information which spoke directly to Pacific communities. 

Of Samoan, Rarotongan and Ma’ohi Tahitian heritage, Michel is not only a talented artist, but also a passionate educator who openly shares his kauapapa and knowledge to empower youth through residencies and workshops for school-aged children in New Zealand and abroad.  

Michel’s Handle with Care series, take inspiration from postal services, using Pacific and New Zealand postage stamps redesigned with individuals wearing face masks and rubber gloves, stamped over with a fragile sticker. 

The artist explains his series shows how fragile the Pacific community is, and that we really need to look after our elderly, and those with health conditions. 

“It is hard to know how you can help from isolation but as an artist, creating art to spread important messages, is how I can do my bit for my communities in this tough time,” Michel adds.

The images have been printed as posters and put up around the local community in the pharmacies and supermarkets as well as at neighbouring health clinics and on Facebook and websites.  

Michel’s prior work with PHP included assisting with youth engagement and therapy classes as well as decorating a mural outside PHP premises to brighten the otherwise severe surroundings of the building in east Porirua.  

Pacific Health Plus is still open, doing flu vaccinations, child immunisations and seeing patients using a variety of methods such as staggered appointments, video/phone consultations. 

Visit the Unite Against COVID-19 website for all you need to know about COVID-19 in New Zealand.