A Kiwi student has come up with an innovative way to show off her artistic photography - by using traditional Pacific tapa cloth.
Talita Toluta'u, in her 30s, has become the first Pacific Islander to achieve a doctorate degree in graphic design in a practice-led thesis. The "practice-led" label is different from a standard PhD, in that students are able to produce a body of practical work as part of their thesis - in this case, art.
Miss Toluta'u is of Tongan descent but grew up in Onehunga. She has spent the past four years working on her thesis, Veitalatala: Matanga 'oe Talanoa, which delves into the personal stories of three Tongan women in her life.
To illustrate their stories, Miss Toluta'u took up to 100 photographs of each of the women while speaking to them about various aspects of their lives.
She acknowledged that many of the stories she heard as a youngster - and those shared by the women involved in her thesis - had hugely influenced her art work.
"The stories of migration they told me as a child were not like those written in my social studies books, nor were they like the representations of Tongan people portrayed on the news items that flickered occasionally over the television.
"They were something different. Their talanoa [stories] are full of laughter, sadness, detail, memory and loss. There are secrets alluded to and experiences of something missing." To illustrate time and the change in a story, she layered the photos to show changing moods and emotions.
Miss Toluta'u travelled to her mother's village where a group of local women worked to make large pieces of ngatu - Tongan tapa cloth - to be used for her project. Using digital printing and a trial and error method, she was able to transfer her photographic imagery to the tapa cloth.
The cloth, made of bark and then beaten, proved to be a difficult medium to work with at times.
"Each [art piece] took several hours to set up and print. Because ngatu doesn't lie flat it had to be taped into place," she said. "We also had to cut the ngatu to fit the bed and then seamlessly add additional material after printing."
Professor of graphic design at AUT, Dr Welby Ings, acknowledged how Miss Toluta'u's work had been very much a new innovation.
"The printing on ngatu was done using a new approach to technology developed by Talita at the AUT textile design lab. It was a sublimation printing system."