Julia Mapasua

A state of reimagining

Reconnection and belonging through mark making

Julia Mapasua’s project A State of Reimaging was conceived following the death of her mother, and explores reconnection and belonging through the art of mark making. It draws on photographs of her mother’s life, and the stories behind them.

“During my postgraduate journey,” says Mapasua, “I found out my mother was sick. Five months later, she passed away. My mother’s passing left me with many memories of her. I had old photographs taken of her in Samoa. These photographs were captured before I was born in a place unknown to me.”


Mapasua was left wondering about the stories behind these photographs. What was it like to live in this environment with its particular landscape, agriculture, and houses? What was it like living beyond the frame of the photographs? These questions led her to reimagine these spaces her mother inhabited through mark making.

“This project aims to explore mark-making as a tool of reconnection and belonging in the wake of the loss of my mother,” says Mapasua. “This project draws upon family archival photographic material to gather stories of different times and places together. These spatial imaginings tell a story filled with wonder.”


Collage is the explored medium of mark-making that brings these stories to life. Symbolic icons such as the flowers, trees and houses found in the original photographs are given particular weight and emphasis through the use of saturated colour. These saturated colours are derived from the surrounding environment of Samoa.

The aesthetic of each drawing was inspired by the Fob aesthetic we see within island homes or places. Fob stands for “fresh out of the boat”, and is a term used to describe the island style. “This style represents my mother,” Mapasua says. “It brings together icons that reflect her character and where she came from, represented through food staples, cultural objects and scenic landscapes.”

Initially inspired by the flower leis that are placed around a frame of a photograph, it is a way to bring honour and celebration upon someone. This generated repetition within the flowers and objects to mimic the construction of a lei and it’s purpose of dedication. The living rooms found in the homes of many Polynesian families are often adorned with many artefacts that reflect the particular culture, style and their descended place.

This set of spatial reimagining constructs a colourful memorial to Mapasua’s mother, celebrating her pride in her culture and the iconographic elements of pacific craft traditions that shaped a daughter’s memories of her mother.

Centre for Design Research
Te Kura Toi a Hoahoa
School of Art and Design

Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makau Rau,
Auckland University of Technology


Susan Hedges susan.hedges@aut.ac.nz
Mandy Smith mandy.smith@aut.ac.nz

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© Centre for Design Research, AUT University 2021