Reflecting on The Ocean in the School’s Cover Image

Submitted by Ellen Palms on
Cover design: Toka Valu

The cover image for Rick BonusThe Ocean in the School is a piece of art done beautifully by former AES student Toka Valu. Here, he shares his thoughts about it:

Over the course of my life, my art has been a process of discovery, refinement, assertion, and celebration of my Tongan identity. The cover art for The Ocean in the School is a piece titled Hina teitei mate (“Hina nearly died,” from a chant that goes with the story) which follows the protagonist, Hina, as she wades through several obstacles in the sea (nearly dying in the process, hence the art piece’s title) just to make it ashore. Hina safely reaches the beach to be able to birth her twin sons, but at the cost of her mental fortitude.

This, to me, encapsulates a common theme in the experience of Pasifika students in academia, an experience that has been instrumental in my own development as an artist today. I explore legends and stories like these to reimagine the world through a critical Pasifika lens seeking to keep alive some essence of our cultures as our communities continue to establish deeper roots in these Coast Salish lands.


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