Greg Semu

Born: 1971, Auckland, New Zealand

The theme of cultural displacement is a river that runs strongly through the photography of New Zealand born Independent Indigenous Researcher, Curator and Artist Greg Semu. It is a theme close to the heart as the artist embraces Samoa as his ancestral and spiritual home and has travelled the world since his early 20s in search of self. The significance of identity and the exploration of self weave their way into Semu’s work, with one of his first signature creations being a triptych created in 1995 of his naked body covered in Samoan Tatau titled Self-portrait with pe’a, Basque Road, Newton Gully. This series of photographs lead to his first solo exhibition titled O le Tatau Samoa, The Tattoo Art of Samoa and were acquired by the Auckland Art Gallery. In 2004 the Queensland Art Gallery also printed and acquired the series. In 2010 Queensland Art Gallery exhibited the works in a touring exhibition titled Unnerved: The New Zealand Project and published them in the accompanying catalogue.

Today Semu is still evolving the dialogue of cultural identity, and the viewing public is noticeably still fascinated, as in 2012 the Auckland Art Gallery commissioned him to revisit the original pe’a triptych and produce a corresponding triptych continuing the conversation. The Samoan Tatau clothes thebody from midriff to knees and is a complex cultural icon of Samoan identity that dates back several thousand years preceding Christi.