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Meet Samantha Tagaloa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Samantha Tagaloa.

Samantha, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My extended family is full of talented individuals who are some of the best musicians, performers/dancers, singers and athletes I know. They radiate a tremendous amount of compassion and strength and I’m so fortunate to belong to such a loving bunch.

Dancing, performing and drumming were my passions growing up but I never thought they would lead me to enroll in art school at Cal State University, Long Beach. In school, I experimented with mediums, choreographed performances, ripped up my paintings and created a community that remains very close to my heart.

Through my studio practice, I learned that process can determine a preordained plan. This is my drive to create. I learn more and more about myself when I’m in the studio. Being an artist gives me the freedom to wake up each morning and decide what is important enough to be made visible.

In my most recent work, I’ve delved into my Samoan culture. Studying my culture has led me to question my ancestral past, Western contact and colonization, and the post-colonial present. Both Samoan women and men wear tatau, or tattoo, whose motifs constitute one’s lineage, status, sexuality, and individualism. I build tattoo-like stamps and stencils, employing them into large, abstract, autobiographical paintings. Once complete, the works are cut into strips and woven together. The deconstruction and weaving of these works allow me to explore and understand how my culture has mutated through assimilation and my own interpretation. Drumming connects me to the Vā, where time and space is non-linear. I am seen and I will be heard.

Music and art making are the vehicles I use to explore how my identity permeates the binaries of western individualism and the moral mandate of my culture. My non-traditional painting practices allow me to create works that subvert, revitalize and reinvent my family’s history.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
As a female Samoan artist, I learned that indigenous art is classified as traditional, modern and contemporary. Each category contains different rules as to how the subaltern should and should not be represented. Representation is never proportional to communities and there is a deep concern for authorship – who represents whom and who has the power to represent. Being an indigenous artist commands me to explore the binaries of personal autonomy and the moral mandate of my Samoan culture.

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