A picture speaks a thousand words.
The giant painting of Jesus Christ, now on display at The Matthew Cowley Pacific Church History Centre, does just that.
Christ is depicted on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by children who are Maori, Samoan, Tongan, Melanesian, Cook Island and ‘Palagi’.
“I hope that when people see this painting, they will see what the Savior is all about,” Artist Dave Sotogi said.
“No matter where you’re from, no matter what culture you are or your ethnic background, He is the Savior of the world.”
New Zealander Dave Sotogi, who is half-Samoan, has been painting professionally for 15 years. He has artwork in galleries across the country and has painted for New Zealand celebrities, including Sir Graham Henry, Valerie Adams and Natasha Beddingfield.
The Christ painting is the first work he has done for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“When they told me the theme would be the Savior in the Pacific, I saw the idea straight away,” he said.
“I wanted to have all the ancient vessels such as the waka, the Vaka and the double-hulled ones that Hawaiians use in the painting. You see the vessels coming into the bay because they knew Jesus was there. But it is the kids who got there first.”
The painting took him around four months to finish. David’s father Fiu was also one of the labor missionaries who helped build the temple and chapels in Temple View.
Pacific Church History Advisors Tina and Lindsey Dil said the painting symbolizes people coming unto Christ in the Pacific area.
“Although they are little children, symbolically, we are children of God and we are all coming unto Christ. It sums up the message of the Pacific Church History Centre. Missionaries and members coming unto Christ and establishing the church,” she said.
The official name of the exhibit in the museum is ‘Unto the Islands of the Sea: A Pacific Testimony’.
“It is a vibrant, South Pacific image of Christ as opposed to the more traditional kind of image,” Sister Dil said.
“What I love about the final product is the vibrancy of colors and that it has a sort of Pacific intimacy that we can relate to as people in the Pacific.”
“It has had a great public response. Everyone recognizes it as a Pacific work and people are getting photos taken in front of it. I’ve seen how pleasing it is to the people.”
Dave has always loved drawing and creating. He was a Graphic Designer for 10 years until his cousin suggested he should try painting.
“I gave it a go and just started painting more and more,” he said.
“Within three months, I was painting full time. It was kind of inevitable I would do this because I was always drawing, creating and making things. It’s a God-given talent.”
He encourages others to pursue their dreams.
“If you love it, keep persevering. There has been ups and downs but if that’s what you want to do, keep persevering until you can produce a lot of good stuff. People from all over the world want me to paint for them and it still blows me away.”