Tongan Kupesi Meaning: Laumanu (Flock of Birds)

    Tongan Kupesi Meaning: Laumanu (Flock of Birds)



    Tongan Kupesi Design: Laumanu (Flock of Birds)

    Along my journey of reconnecting to culture, I looked back to some of my previous artworks from years gone by. My eyes landed on the bird kupesi motif  I had designed in my first pieces printed on glass and exhibited. Staring at the work I named Pacific Ocean Cultures, I saw the image start to blur and transform until all I could see was the bird design.

                    I remember looking through a book I was learning from and saw the designs had variations of other Polynesian symbols. So I decided to create my own, which resembled a bird. I started one with a triangle head, pointed outward to resemble a beak and head.   I then made two upside-down 'L' shapes to create wings that crisscrossed to give the impression of a fantail as some birds have.

                    The image on the surface of the glass morphed as it evolved into a more evolved version of the first one. It looked like a diamond head joined to a body and drawn like a long dress tie that came to a point to represent the tail. The wings bent at three points to look like wings in flight.

                    Feeling proud about designing my own kupesi symbol, I remember giving it a meaning of flock of birds to resemble community.

                    The image on the reflection then transitioned into what looked like a movie projected onto the glass, but it was a memory of my Kupesi Workshop Facilitator and me. She was asking about the different symbols I had made on the artwork. I explained I wanted to draw birds, so I made my design.

                    'This needs a name,' she said. 'It's your own kupesi, and it needs a unique name.'

                    So we looked up the Tongan Language Dictionary and found under a flock of birds the translations of laumanu.

                    I felt the seat beneath me in my study, and the movie-like memory faded into the artwork behind it. Creating my own kupesi and naming it in true Tongan Language style gave me a real sense of satisfaction.