Toa`ipuapuagā (Strength in Suffering)
"Toa is a young Samoan woman, for the last 5 years, she has been experiencing the phenomenon of bleeding from her eyes and bloody scratches appearing on her body, legs, and arms. During the Easter weekend of 2015, this intensified with a full stigma where she experienced bleeding from the center of her hands, feet, forehead and a stab wound on her ribs. She bleeds from the places where Jesus had received wounds when he was placed on the cross. For weeks before she had been having dreams and visions that predicted an event would occur over this time. On Easter Saturday night, the night before Jesus rose from the dead, she passed out and was pronounced dead by those who surrounded her, the Falelatai bell was rung with the news of a death in the village. Two hours later she regained consciousness.
This is a story of a beautiful young woman who is experiencing something many struggle to believe. Originally from a Presbyterian church, Toa and her husband converted to the Catholic religion for them to fulfill their invitation they received to visit the Vatican in Rome. Stigmata is rarely seen outside of the Catholic church and hardly ever in the Pacific. During the Easter weekends since the first event and after she has been hounded by media and people wanting blessings from her and taking their sick children to her. She was called a miracle, a blessing to her village and Samoa. Her story was picked up by the BBC and on social media homemade footage and photo posts were liked and shared thousands of times. But she also received hideous online abuse and death threats. It divided Samoa those who believed and those who didn’t, those who believed it was the devil and those who believed it was an act of God. In this short film, the footage is a mixture of found footage online and footage obtained by my partner and I during the week she first experienced the crucifixion stigmata. We were staying three houses away and it has been a story I have followed closely since then."
- Artist Statement
Commissioned by CIRCUIT Artist Film and Video Aotearoa New Zealand with the support of Creative of New Zealand for Truth or Consequences, curated by Erika Balsom