Cloud9: Ruha Fifita and the Unifying Tongan Art Form called Ngatu

Cloud9 is a podcast produced by Baha’i Teachings. Its aim is to feature interviews with artists and discuss what inspires them to make a positive contribution to the world. In this episode, Baha’i Teachings’ arts editor Shadi Toloui-Wallace interviews Ruha Fifita, a multi-disciplinary artist from Tonga. Ruha is of mixed Tongan and New Zealand heritage and now lives in Brisbane, Australia, where she works as an artist and volunteers in community based initiatives. 

For the past six years, Ruha has been exploring the Indigenous art form of Ngatu making, an ancient tradition that consists of pasting together tree bark and painting it through the use of carefully designed relief patterns. Historically a matriarchal practice in Tonga, Ngatu plays an integral role in every aspect of development, culture, ceremony and community life.

Ruha was first introduced to Ngatu at an early age by her grandmother. A chance encounter many years later with New Zealand artist Robin White sparked a series of collaborations that has landed her work in galleries and festivals across Australasia and the Pacific. At present, Ruha uses these large-scale art works to explore concepts such as prayer, conservation, collaboration, reciprocity, diversity and oneness.

If you enjoy this podcast, you might also like the Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson. You can listen to them here on Baha’i Blog.

About the Author

Naysan is the editor of Baha'i Blog and he has worked in various avenues of media for two decades. He’s passionate about using the arts and media to support and explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith and he has produced and collaborated on popular music projects like the "DawnBreaker Collective" and the successful Ruhi-inspired sequence of "MANA" albums. His experience as a producer for CNN was invaluable while working on a number of special projects for the Baha’i World Centre, including the "Building Momentum" and "Pilgrimage: A Sacred Experience" videos. If there’s a media-related Baha’i project out there, chances are that Naysan was involved with it somehow!

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