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Namsa Leuba lived in Tahiti, French Polynesia, for a little over 2 years and had the opportunity during this time to explore the islands of the archipelagos and meet the individuals who inhabit them. She discovered within their communities the "Mahu" (effeminate men) and "Rae Rae" (transgender women) who openly participate in Polynesian social and cultural life. Inspired by the paintings of Paul Gauguin, Namsa Leuba reimagines the myth of the "Vahine" in a pictorial manner with the series "Illusions".


Gauguin's paintings in French Polynesia had an influence on the development of the primitivist artistic movement, which articulated a visualization of the "Other" through a connection to nature. This myth of the "Vahine," as the Polynesian women are called, is historically rooted in Western search for the "original" and "authentic," believed to be found in distant cultures with a connection between the body, soul, and land. 


Like creatures between myth and reality, the figures imagined by the artist both stand out and blend into Nature as a sign of their belonging. In this effort to illustrate the exoticism propagated by Paul Gauguin, Namsa Leuba unites the Being with its environment, thus revealing its profound nature. Just as the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, identity constantly metamorphoses within the realm of the living with the Being that composes it. With her non-binary representations of gender conformity, the "Illusions" series challenges the stereotypes of feminine beauty as conveyed by images of the so-called tropical in modern art and questions our perception of gender identity.

Selected pictures from the series

Video 12:45 ©RTS



With her installation "Senses & Elements," Namsa Leuba explores new horizons through a new medium. Using the tufting technique, which involves continuously aligning different types and colors of threads on a canvas, Namsa Leuba alters the plane of her artistic expression's support. Similar to Henri Matisse's collages, the artist summons the senses to immerse themselves in her compositions through flat areas of color. In 1930, during his journey following in the footsteps of Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia, Henri Matisse set out to discover the primitive essence from which he would draw inspiration for his collages 16 years later. Indeed, as in works like "Polynesia, the Sea" or his coral motifs, Matisse revived the dreamlike impression of his observations underwater in the passes of the Polynesian atolls of Fakarava and Apataki when he began to lose his sight. With her carpets composed of flat colors, Namsa Leuba recreates the energy of "Mana" (spiritual force) that pervades the Polynesian atmosphere from her own inner inspiration. The artist thus weaves in her own way the connections between the Senses and Elements from which the Vital emerges and which emanate from the Sacred

Photo credit "Sense & Elements": La Ferme des Tilleuls 

Video animation: Ramonguilhem Boris

Sound: Bauchamp 

Production for the Théâtre de Vidy, Lausanne, CH

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