Fatu Feu'u


Fatu Feu'u (1946 - ) was born in Poytasi, Western Samoa. Feu'u told us the story of his becoming an artist: "My father is Feu'u Tuitapa from the Tuatagaloa family of Falealili. My mother was Povalu Taulealo, granddaughter of Paplii Fonoti Fatu of the Sapapalii village of Savaii. She died in 1989 in Wellington. The first ten years of my life was spent in the Poutasi village under the care of my mother, my grandmother Ulavao Tuatagaloa and my godmother Ailepata Meleisa. During this early age I spent a lot of time in the hospital. I was not allowed contact sport or even allowed to attend school in the village for quite some time. I used to observe the old people of the village making siapo (tapa), building canoes and houses, and weaving baskets and mats."

Feu'u used to draw with sticks of white coral on black rocks, imitating patterns of tapa and tattoo, and the shapes of houses and canoes. "I suppose these were my early art trainings", he says.

Feu'u's family moved to Apia for the children to attend Malifa Intermediate School and then Samoa College. It was there that the young Fatu found there that he really loved art, but there were no classes during this time. But "I made up my mind after reading magazines on art that I would like to be an artist like Picasso, the great European painter."

In 1966 Feu'u was sent to New Zealand by his family to find work and also to see if it was possible to attend art school. He had to work at two jobs at that time to pay the rent in New Zealand and to help my family in Samoa, so art classes were forgotten for a while. Also Feu'u married in 1968 and had a family so "my art was completely forgotten for about ten years, until I met up with some New Zealand artists and they encouraged me to do my own art form based on Samoan art. Then I found that Picasso was using African and Oceanic art as an inspiration."

Feu'u says "I made a turn around and concentrated on Polynesian content and form and in 1986 made my first exhibition using mainly images and motifs from my own Samoan culture. In 1988 I left the commercial art job which I had held for the last 15 years to pursue a career in the arts."