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Object: Pisupo lua afe (Corned beef 2000)

This image has All Rights Reserved. Image © Reproduced courtesy of the Artist, Michel Tuffery

Title Pisupo lua afe (Corned beef 2000)
Production Tuffery, Michel (sculptor), 1994, Wellington
Materials tin, steel
Classification sculpture
Dimensions Approximate: 1150mm (Height) x 650mm (Width) x 2170mm (Depth)
Credit line Purchased 1995 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds
Registration number FE010516

Pisupo lua afe (Corned Beef 2000) is a sculpture of a small cattle beast. It is made from flattened corned beef tins that have been joined together with dozens of rivets. It was first exhibited in the landmark exhibition Bottled Ocean curated by Jim Vivieaere at the City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand, in 1994.

New food, new word
In the 1960s, former Chief Justice of Samoa C C Marsack wrote that 'when Samoans were first introduced to the wonder of tinned food, this was in the form of pea soup. As no Samoan word can end in a consonant, they tacked an "o" on the end and made the Samoan form of the English term pisupo, pronounced pea-soup-o. As time wore on and other edible matter arrived in tins, the generic term pisupo was used for all of it. Now it is more or less confined to tinned meat.'

For decades, pisupo has been a prestige food item eaten and gifted at feasts, weddings, funerals, and other special occasions in Samoan society. In this artwork, New Zealand artist Michel Tuffery comments on how an imported product has replaced local Pacific Island foods used in feasts and gift giving. Like many artists of Pacific descent living in New Zealand, the wider Pacific and its history are recurring themes in his work. Through Pisupo lua afe, Tuffery asks questions about the effects colonial economies have had on Pacific peoples and whether foreign intervention actually encourages independence or fosters dependency.

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