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Aussie artist reconnects with Cook Islands roots

Thursday 28 March 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Art, Features


Aussie artist reconnects with Cook Islands roots
Emerging artist, Cook Islander Morgan Hogg is a 2023 New South Wales Visual Arts Fellowship (Emerging) recipient and feels very fortunate to be allowed to visit the Cook Islands to learn first-hand about cultural art practices from renowned local artist Mike Tavioni. MELINA ETCHES/24032102

A Cook Islands Australian female artist is learning first-hand about Cook Islands cultural practices while working with one of the country’s cultural icons.

Artist Morgan Hogg, a 2023 New South Wales Visual Arts Fellowship (Emerging) recipient, feels very fortunate to be given the opportunity to visit the Cook Islands to learn first-hand about language and cultural art practices.

She is learning from and being mentored by renowned artist Mike Tavioni, a knowledge holder of traditional wood carving, tattooing and art practices, for two weeks.

Hogg is learning valuable knowledge about cultural art in her apprenticeship with Tavioni through his “Motifs of Nukutere”: Traditional images, designs, motifs, patterns and symbols.

“It’s been really nice to sit with Uncle Mike and learn from him … for him to be with us and to guide us,” she said.

“For me it was this passion of wanting to know who I was and the best way to do it was visual learning and being able to physically meet knowledge holders and have these memories in me.”

Hogg’s Cook Islands heritage stems from her mother, Mataakama Hogg, who is originally from Mangaia. Mataakama has also travelled to the Cook Islands with her daughter

Born and raised in Australia, Hogg said growing up she didn’t have a strong connection to her Cook Islands heritage.

“In Australia, it’s very hard to find anything about the Pacific and if you are born and raised there, it’s quite hard to understand your identity, who you are,” she said.

Hogg had also met Cook Islanders in Australia who had no idea about who they were.

She said Western Sydney has a large Cook Islands community with a sense of identity, “but it’s not enough to really fulfil you”.

After completing her high school, Hogg decided to pursue a degree in Bachelor of Visual Arts and Bachelor of Film at the University of Sydney.

In her second year, she began asking her mother more questions about her heritage such as: Where do we come from? What is our heritage? Why don’t we learn about it and why don’t we know the language?

Hogg also started making works about the sense of longing for culture.

“Which I know a lot of Pacific Islands artists do growing up in Australia, not knowing anything about it and feeling that disconnect between them,” she said.

In 2022, she completed her Bachelor of Arts with Honours and Bachelor of Film, before taking a year off last year. She is looking forward to starting her Masters this coming semester.

Last year, she applied for the Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship to travel to the Cook Islands. This opportunity allowed her to learn and understand about art practices and bring that knowledge back to share through her work.

Her work in the Fellowship exhibition represented the collection she had gathered over several years through listening and learning from knowledge holders in her family and community.

The initial focus of her artmaking was on screen and filmmaking, but due to Covid-19 and working from home, she explored other visual art forms.

Her art practice has since evolved, and she has experimented with many different materials, techniques and media.

This Fellowship offers Hogg a wonderful opportunity to teach people in the Pasifika community in Sydney about Cook Islands culture, helping them to learn more and connect with their heritage.