Ruha Fifita



“...Ke pehe ‘ae ngaue’i hotau famili
Ke nofo ‘i he uouongataha moe fe’ofo’ofani
Koe palataisi ‘ia ‘oe mo’ui...” (extract from a poem by Akesa Fifita, January 2013).

Our grandmother - ‘Akesa Fifita - is a bountiful poet and artist, and our late grandfather -’Isileli Fifita- is remembered as a captivating orator and exceptional agriculturalist.

Our grandparents’ lives and words have taught us to look at the natural world with wonder, curiosity and reverence. To honour the interdependence of all things and to see ourselves as co-creators of the culture and communities we are a part of.

Our experiences together have taught us that who we are and who we can potentially become in the world is deeply connected to the sense of purpose, values, and dynamics that characterise relationships and interactions within one’s family and extended family as a distinct social space. A growing number of our family are learning about the role that collaborative art practices - which connect us to our homelands, our language and our ancestors - can play in shaping, elevating and enriching this space.

For the 52 Actions Project we share the process of testing a new design and different painting approaches as we work to add to a series of designs titled ‘Ko e Ngoue Manongi (The Fragrant Garden)’.

The process of creating ngatu is layered and rhythmic. Every stage builds and the quality of the step before and each attempt reveals new insights and questions regarding how the process can be further refined. In pursuit of this refinement and learning, we continue to create, enquire, grow and honour connections through this practice...

“...May you become as growing plants. May the trees of your hearts bring forth new leaves and variegated blossoms. May ideal fruits appear from them in order that the world of humanity, which has grown and developed in material civilization, may be quickened in the bringing forth of spiritual ideals.” (Abdu’l-Baha)

Artist bio


Ruha was born and raised in the Island Kingdom of Tonga and continues to engage with the Pacific region as an interdisciplinary artist, and through her work as the Curatorial Assistant for Pacific Art at the Queensland state Gallery |Gallery of Modern Art. In 2006, whilst still living in Tonga, Ruha co-founded ON THE SPOT Inc. (OTS) - a community-based arts organisation – with the initial focus of engaging youth in creative projects aimed at contributing to the achievement of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals at the local level. As an artist, she works closely with her siblings and extended family, developing a practice which focuses on collaboration, community engagement and connection with indigenous methods and materials. Her creative work has afforded her many opportunities to work, engage in discourses and exhibit throughout the Pacific region in settings such as the Auckland Art Festival, Pataka Art Gallery, The National Gallery of Victoria, and the Tjibaou Cultural Centre. The various endeavours she continues to engage in are linked as she consciously pursues opportunities to learn about some key questions, perhaps most simply summarised as; what is the role of religion, the role of young people and the role of the arts and artists in contributing to the spiritual and material advancement of civilisation?





Tui Kupesi: Sew base design on rubbing plate.

Kupesi designs are intended to be repeated and combined to create a variety of patterns. They are reused multiple times to communicate shared values and narratives.

“The being level speaks the language of art, music, color shape and pattern directly -- a language that requires no words -- is not limited by words -- nor does it have the specificity of words and thus cannot be broken onto parts that can be manipulated or analyzed by the intellect. It must be swallowed, whole not parsed, sorted and justified.”

(Thomas Campbell)



Koka’anga: Print kupesi tui (sewn design rubbing plate) and join layers of feta’aki (unjoined, unpainted barkcloth).

“The kupesi is a part of the tangible cultural heritage of Tonga, but it is the thought and the idea behind the kupesi that give life to the creative designs it reproduces. This is what makes it meaningful and interesting... Tongans admire the art of speaking and composing songs and poems. The use of indirect heliaki discourse in language is an art, for it is regarded as rude and coarse to speak directly. Likewise, with the design and creation of the kupesi, its meaning was heliaki. The background of the kupesi urges its beholder to wonder what it means, why it was made, and for whom it was made. Tonga’s ancestors placed much wisdom into the creation of their designs.”

(Fielakepa, Tuna Kaimanu Tonga. 2014. Kupesi: A creative tradition of Tonga, In Traditional Knowledge and Wisdoms. Themes from the Pacific Islands. UNESCO/ICHCAP)

"In short, no pattern is an isolated entity. Each pattern can exist in the world only to the extent that is supported by other patterns: the larger patterns in which it is embedded, the patterns of the same size that surround it, and the smaller patterns which are embedded in it."
(Christopher Alexander)



Tava draudrau (Fijian): cut/prepare stencils.

For this work we have experimented with a combination of printing methods using kupesi rubbing plates and stencilling.

(Thank you to our close friend and mentor Tamari Cabeikanacea from Moce Island of the Lau Islands in Fiji has gifted us with natural materials for this project and accompaniment in learning about use of stencils and the historic links between Tongan and Fijian ngatu-making)



Kesakesa (Fijian): printing on bark cloth using stencils.

Using stencils to print allows fine –lined designs to be replicated across large areas of bark cloth with great precision.




Tohi ngatu: Painting the barkcloth.

We use three natural pigments to explore how familiar ngatu-painting aesthetics and experimental techniques can be woven together to speak to new conceptual underpinnings.



Tohi ngatu: Painting the barkcloth.

As an outcome of this process we have been able to familiarise ourselves with the possibilities for this design ngatu. We have identified adjustments to make to the earlier stages and the potential for this design to speak to others in our collection.

The work itself was solely intended to assist us to collectively envision and refine design ideas towards a larger collaborative work and will subsequently be kept in the care of a family member.

Past Actions

07 Jun - 13 Jun 2021

Unbound Collective

31 May - 06 Jun 2021

OLC Art Collective

24 May - 30 May 2021

Naomi Hobson

17 May - 23 May 2021

Adrft Lab

10 May - 16 May 2021

Pat Brassington

03 May - 09 May 2021

Eddie Abd

26 Apr - 02 May 2021

Loren Kronemyer

19 Apr - 25 Apr 2021

Guo Jian

12 Apr - 18 Apr 2021

Kenny Pittock

05 Apr - 11 Apr 2021

Jannawi Dance Clan

29 Mar - 04 Apr 2021

Gillian Kayrooz

22 Mar - 28 Mar 2021

Nathan Beard

15 Mar - 21 Mar 2021

Pilar Mata Dupont

08 Mar - 14 Mar 2021

Michael Cook

01 Mar - 07 Mar 2021

Seini F Taumoepeau

22 Feb - 28 Feb 2021

Dani Marti

15 Feb - 21 Feb 2021

Lill Colgan & Sab D'Souza

08 Feb - 14 Feb 2021

Chris Yee

01 Feb - 07 Feb 2021

Rochelle Haley

25 Jan - 31 Jan 2021

Karrabing Film Collective

18 Jan - 24 Jan 2021

Nici Cumpston

11 Jan - 17 Jan 2021

Johnathon World Peace Bush

07 Dec - 13 Dec 2020


30 Nov - 06 Dec 2020

Raquel Ormella

23 Nov - 29 Nov 2020

Léuli Eshrāghi

16 Nov - 22 Nov 2020

Rolande Souliere

09 Nov - 15 Nov 2020

TV Moore

02 Nov - 08 Nov 2020

Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu

26 Oct - 01 Nov 2020

Ivey Wawn

19 Oct - 25 Oct 2020

Naomi Blacklock

12 Oct - 18 Oct 2020

Sancintya Mohini Simpson

05 Oct - 11 Oct 2020

Yhonnie Scarce

28 Sep - 04 Oct 2020

Ruha Fifita

21 Sep - 27 Sep 2020

Kaylene Whiskey

14 Sep - 20 Sep 2020

Adam Linder

07 Sep - 13 Sep 2020

Archie Barry

31 Aug - 06 Sep 2020

Min Wong

24 Aug - 30 Aug 2020

Hayley Millar-Baker

17 Aug - 23 Aug 2020

Erin Coates

10 Aug - 16 Aug 2020

Diego Bonetto

03 Aug - 09 Aug 2020

Tyza Hart

27 Jul - 02 Aug 2020

Larissa Hjorth

20 Jul - 26 Jul 2020

Louise Zhang

13 Jul - 19 Jul 2020

Henri Papin (Meijers & Walsh)

06 Jul - 12 Jul 2020


29 Jun - 05 Jul 2020

Rainbow Chan

22 Jun - 28 Jun 2020

Jason Phu

15 Jun - 21 Jun 2020

Abdul Abdullah

08 Jun - 14 Jun 2020

Patricia Piccinini

01 Jun - 07 Jun 2020

Brook Andrew

25 May - 31 May 2020


18 May - 24 May 2020

James Tylor