The Rat and The Octopus, which shares its name with a traditional Tongan folkloric tale, takes a step towards the convergence of past and present. Memories of this story were revived when Tupou discovered a book given to him in childhood by his grandparents on their return from a visit to Tonga. The work uses and repeats images from stories once passed down from generation to generation via the traditions of story telling - stories that are now kept alive through indirect means such as lost books. There is a very clear sense of loss in The Rat and The Octopus, of removal and distance in regards to the legacies of culture. Tapa, the Tahitian word for the bark cloth common to Polynesian and Melanesian societies, form the basis of nearly all Samuel Tupou's works as he uses its familiar designs to explore the chasms between traditional Tongan customs and life in the fast lane of the information super highway. Visually backgrounded and conceptually foregrounded, tapa provides a constant through which Tupou contrasts and attempts to reconcile aspects of his Tongan heritage with his experience of Australia today. He is isolated by a lack of knowledge in the language and traditional customs of Tonga and feels that through works such as these, disassembled heritage can be reassembled.
Image: Samuel Tupou, detail of The Rat and The Octopus, 2007.