Origins of Taboo is an exploration of ancient Pacific rituals and their modern counterparts. These artefacts depict the interconnection and diversity of three beautiful Pacific cultures - Māori, Tongan and my own Hawaiian. Origins of Taboo is a representation of the strength Pacific culture has within the English language and is also a chance to represent apart of my own kanaka (native Hawaiian) heritage within my practice as a young New Zealand designer.

Created in response to the student International Society of Typographic Designers 2018 brief Mark My Words which asked us to visually represent an English word which has origins within another language and culture.

We use taboo in many different contexts, often to articulate social stigmas but its Pacific origins can come as a surprise. The word taboo was the catalyst for my exploration into these ancient rituals that stem from my own heritage and being a young New Zealand designer examining our Pacific identity.

Taboo stemming from the Māori and Tongan concepts of Tapu and Hawaiian Kapu, offers an insight into the Polynesian influence within the English language today. These cultures are represented here in a historic sense with potential parameters for observing these traditions in a modern context. Bembo from the Monotype Corporation has been employed to link back to this historic period as does the colour, a marine blue which was the colour of the British Royal Navy uniforms worn from 1748 onwards. This marine blue also represents the deep and expansive ocean surrounding the Pacific Islands, which these cultures have traversed
for generations.


Calibre from Klim foundry was used to contrast Bembo, to remind us of the importance of our history in modern day Aotearoa New Zealand. These pieces can be viewed together or as separate artefacts. The melding of portraiture and type hint at the fluidity of Pacific culture within the English language.

This artefact is set out in a slow pace, a formal system to begin with which lays out the history of Taboo before creating contrast with a waiata (song) then culminating in an almost provocative reference to the modern effects of colonisation. This is the focal point of the artefact and runs right through each spread. After this the modern protocols for taboo are listed and a similar spread to the first one is repeated to show a cyclical nature.

Origins of Taboo is a reminder that our ancestors linger, influencing us still. These traditions, observed in their many forms, link us back to our history and refuse to be forgotten.



All Fonts Look The Same is a typographic exhibition happening mid October - more information to come.

Created for the New Zealand Film Commission's International Department - selection of images and creation of map on reverse. Images from NZFC image catalogue.