Ich Heisse Olga Hedwig Krause: Deutsche Kuenstlerin (ongoing series)

As a child of the Samoan diaspora in Aotearoa, I have a very clear understanding of my place in relation to indigeneity. I am a long distant relative of Māori but I am not tangata whenua / people of the land, I am in fact, indigenous to Samoa. My parents were both born and raised in Samoa. 

This series of propaganda works relates to the indigenising of my names, the names that were bestowed upon me at birth. 

My mother is almost certainly full Samoan emerging from the gafa (ancestral place of belonging) of Siumu and Fasito’o Tai. My father on the other hand is the product of Germany’s legacy in Samoa.

These works are a response to thinking about the colonial presence of Germany in Samoa around the time of my great grandfather – Henry Paul Krause (German/ English) who married by great grandmother, Clementina Godinet (Samoan/French). My paternal grandfather August (Aukuso) Krause was their only child. My father was born in Vaimoso on our ancestral land, his name, and the name of all his siblings were all non-Samoan – his name was Charles Augustine Krause. There was little to no semblance of ‘Germany’ in the cultural context of the Samoan he grew up in. 

For some reason, my parents named me Olga Hedwig Janice Krause. 

One of the underpinning ideas for this series of propaganda works, a lifelong performative project, is the notion that on paper, Olga Krause is a white German person. I have adapted a notion relating to war propaganda to the propaganda of the colonisation of my name by Samoan body. My illiterate German texts are evidence that I am not properly German, reinforcing the provocative nature of my claims. 

The statement is both fact, and sardonic humour. It stretches the truth and extends Samoa’s borders into Germany through the contestable site of my name and my body. I can state without hesitation: I am Olga Krause, German artist. 

This series of photographs are documents of some staged people and place interventions I made about 20 years ago

Samoan is a proverbial and poetic language that also relates to real-life practicalities. This series of interventions were made in response to the art system in Aotearoa at that time. I could not find a place where my art was considered worthy to be seen except in indigenous art spaces such as the famous (now defunct) Archill Gallery whose director at the time was one of the only Māori gallerists in the country – the late Terry Firkin (Ngāi Tūhoe). I made these works based on the Samoan proverb, Ua Tutusa Tau’au – We are of equal standing. 

The proverb quite literally means that our shoulders are at the same level or height. So, I decided that the series should be a series of staged traditional taupou (Samoan high-ranking daughters of the high chief) alongside white male professionals. The incongruity of them sharing the picture plane was intended to jar the viewing into querying the purpose of such a pairing. 

Me and My Salu Lima (2017) - Otautahi Christchurch for CoCA - curated by Khye Hitchcock and The Social (Audrey Baldwin)
Me and My Salu Lima (2017) – Otautahi Christchurch for CoCA – curated by Khye Hitchcock and The Social (Audrey Baldwin)

As part of the Summer Performance Art Festival mounted in Christchurch in Canterbury, that year, I was invited to perform in relation to the city, a city that was still just rubble from the major Christchurch earthquake in 2010 and 2011. 

We were asked to consider some form of performative action that related trying to lift the spirit of the devastated Canterbury region. One of the performances I devised was an endurance work which began at the Cardboard Cathedral, for me, it signified a point of departure that attempted to bring hope after the decimation of the Basilica and the Cathedral. This new, temporary cathedral building was an attempt to ameliorate the people who were distraught with their major landmarks being crumbled like biscuits at the fury of Ruaumoko (Māori deity of earthquakes). 

I started sweeping the path I chose into and through the city with my humble Samoan hand broom made from the spines of coconut palm leaves. I was referencing my own background coming from a father who was a labourer, but also paying homage to the thousands of our people (Oceanic Moana diaspora) who are looked down at in many of the domestic cleaning jobs. It has been the hands of our peoples’ labour that cities have been cleaned up and rebuilt. I am proudly from working-class stock. 

Malepe/ Kalepe (Break/Break apart) collaboration with Faith Wilson – 2015
Malepe/ Kalepe (Break/Break apart) collaboration with Faith Wilson – 2015

One of the major misrepresentations of Pasifika Oceanic peoples in film and television, stories and so on, is that Pacific people are passive, we are good church-going Christian people who smile and aim to please. This collaboration with my adult daughter, Faith Wilson, aimed to disable that narrative with our truth. We bashed and kicked Pinex boards until they shattered and broke in the performance. It was an aggressive performance, and it was far from smiles, hibiscus flowers, politeness and false representations of passive ‘island’ women. 

Malepe/ Kalepe (Break/Break apart) collaboration with Faith Wilson – 2015

Leafa Wilson – Biography

Leafa Wilson (Olga Krause) b.1966 in Tokoroa, Aotearoa New Zealand is a Waikato-based multi-media performance artist. She was the curator of art at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato from 2004-2021 and an independent curator of her conceptual art space – olgahedwig.

In 2018, Wilson co-curated the Morni Hills International Performance Art Biennale held in Haryana and Chandigarh, India, where she was invited to in the inaugural biennale as performance artist in 2016. She has made performative works at The Government Museum of Chandigarh, The Stupa in Kurukshetra, 2016 and 2018 working alongside international artist such as Sushil Kumar, Adriana Disman, Gustaf Broms, Guillaume Marin-Dufour, Anirban Datta, Taufik Riaz, Uma Banerjee, Tara and Razieh Goudarzi, Harpreet Singh, among others. In 2019 she was invited to participate in KIPAF – Kolkata Independent Performance Art Festival, Kolkata at the Government College of Art and the Kolkata Film and Television Academy. Wilson collaborated in 2019 with London-based performance artist, Helena Goldwater for their joint work: Making Time, held at Raven Row, London and hosted by the InterIsland Collective.

Wilson is represented in numerous private and public collections including The James Wallace Collection, The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato, and The University of Waikato.

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