Linda Va’aleua (pictured) hopes her debut exhibition half is thought provoking and encourages people to contemplate what identity means to them.
With a Samoan mother, and Scottish father, Linda grew up in the West Auckland suburb of Te Atatu South, alongside many New Zealand European and Croatian families, but very few Pacific faces.
Although the Freelance Graphic Designer Linda has realised over time she is “enough and complete” as she is, and can proudly say she is Samoan, she has seen first-hand what it is to be multi-ethnic living in Aotearoa.
Her exhibition consisting of a body of work she first began in 1996 explores her journey of understanding who she is, labels used to define those with multi-ethnic backgrounds as "incomplete" or "not-quite".
“The pieces I have selected for this exhibition help to capture my journey thus far based on the expression of a glass being half-empty or half-full,” Linda explains.
“half is all about identity.
“The challenges you grow up with where you are not brown enough to be considered a real Samoan, and you're too brown to be white.
“The labels you are given of being afakasi (half-caste) and not knowing your language so you feel less than - incomplete.
“Or you are made to feel that way by others.”
Linda describes how a blood quantum talks about fractions, and how being “half-caste” is a Western mindset.
“I love how Māori view it - you are not half or a quarter or a 32nd Māori, you are Māori.”
Knowing many people struggle with issues around identity, and perhaps losing connection to their homeland, language, culture or aiga, she says she is hopeful half will encourage people to change their perspective.
“That you are complete, just as you are.”
While half is Linda’s first exhibition, art has always been a huge part of who she is.
At 25, she became the Art Director for the New Zealand Women’s Weekly, and she has also worked a lot with branding and logo design.
Currently, she is working on the design for a book coming out later this year for NUKU, a movement featuring 100 indigenous women from all walks of life, achieving amazing things.
It is only recently, she has picked up a paint brush once again, to express her creativity in a way which seems to run in her veins.
“Art is a huge part of the family I have been privileged to grow up in,” Linda says.
“My Mum's brother is Iosua To'afa, a renowned Pacific Artist based in American Samoa, and the first in Samoa to receive a Commonwealth fellowship to Brighton Polytechnic (United Kingdom) in 1972.
“His original artworks filled the walls of my childhood home.”
Her grandmother and aunty on her Palagi side of the family painted as well, and Linda grew up thinking it was normal to have art made by your family all over your walls.
“When asked as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was a Painter.
“I was heavily influenced by the fact my uncle was an Artist.
“I always excelled in art at school, as did my older sisters and many of my cousins, and there was no question I was going to study something in the Creative Arts or Design.”
Like any artform whether its music, performing arts, visual arts, poetry, writing, you need to have personal experiences to draw from, Linda adds.
“I want to create artwork that is authentic and personal to me, otherwise, I'm just painting things that look good but lack depth or meaning.
“Being Samoan has always influenced me creatively and it has always been evident in my artwork.”
Just as Linda hopes people take something away from her creations, she has also learnt a great deal from this experience.
“I realised it is never too late to start painting again and a good learning has also been the use of technology to showcase my exhibition.
“My husband Tovia was the one to suggest doing a virtual exhibition so I was not limited to timeframes and physical locations – people from all over the world have already viewed it.”