On 21 March, the sun moved north across the celestial equator for the annual Autumn Equinox. It is one of only two days each year when the day and the night are of exactly equal length. This year, it also bore witness to a new performance by Kalisolaite ‘Uhila, Sun Gate: Ha‘amonga a Maui. ‘Uhila travelled to the eastern shore of the Kingdom of Tonga, where Ha‘amonga a Maui stands, casting its shadow across the ground, tracking the sun’s passage through the skies. The thirteenth- century stone gateway was once used by Polynesians as a sundial. To ‘Uhila, the gateway is a collaborator, alongside which the artist stood for the duration of the equinox, employing his own body as a sundial, an earthbound beacon for the rhythmic cycles of sun and earth.
Legends of Māui recounted around Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa frequently warn of the dangers of falling out of sync with these rhythms. With the effects of climate change being felt with increasing frequency and intensity, especially by island nations like Tonga, these stories ring with greater urgency than ever. ‘Uhila’s performance, staged as part of the World Weather Network project in collaboration with Artangel and Te Tuhi, is an exercise in submission to the sun: atonement in the form of attention, and a model for the kind of reparative action needed at a global scale in the face of climate emergency. For those who missed the performance or live stream of Sun Gate: Ha‘amonga a Maui, a recording of the work will be screened at Te Tuhi as part of of Huarere: Weather Eye, Weather Ear, curated by Janine Randerson, opening 3 June 2023.