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TAUMOEPEAU, Latai; Dark Continent (performance documentation)

Latai Taumoepeau describes herself as a punake, a Tongan term describing performance artists, such as dancers, who use their body as their medium. Dark Continent 2015 is a set of still photographs that documents Taumoepeau over a period of 48 hours, as she slowly stretched and contorted her body into poses that enabled her to apply artificial colouring solution to her skin, using a small electric compression gun. Performed in Sydney, the work explores prevailing ideas of the Australian national identity – iconic sun-bronzed, beach-goers of European heritage. Focusing on the artificial tanning of a woman of colour, this work draws attention to Indigenous Australians and dark-skinned migrants – two groups, who, historically, are largely unrepresented in the national imagination. Engaging with issues of race, as well as attitudes towards the female body, the slow transformation of Taumoepeau’s skin raises questions around the markers of national identity.