Contemporary Rotuman Artists

Tonu Shane Eagleton Home Page

Tonu Shane Eagleton is the son of Kelera (Clara) Sitiveni; her parents are Tanu and Senia Sitiveni from Motusa.

Tonu is an environmental woodcarver whose work is featured on the Cultural Conservancy website , where he has been artist in residence .

He has been labeled an ecovisionary , and has taught ecological woodcarving at New College of California , where he is described as a Polynesian master wood carver , tree surgeon, environmental artist, educator and activist, and co-founder of the non-profit organization P.A.L. Foundation (Protect All Life), which specializes in salvaging trees for their highest use. His carvings have achieved world-wide acclaim and he has been generous in his support of American Indian groups .

Guided by his mission to heal the earth with his art, Tonu belongs to a rare class of artists that contribute to the evolution of human consciousness. His environmental art installations throughout the world engender a visceral reaction, as if the plights of endangered species become released through their artistic representation. Whether walking among his spirit healing poles carved from recovered wood in the decimated acid-rain forests in the Czech Republic or standing aside his thirty-three foot humpback whale with calf carved from a 2,000 year old redwood, his work engenders a sense of the importance of our taking responsibility for the survival of our planet, for our children's sake.

Few artists can take you through a visual journey spanning evolution, from inception to the now dangerous precipice upon which we delicately rest. Whether it be an intricately layered woodblock carving, a sports-car sized Galapagos turtle, a musical instrument, or a modem furniture design, Tonu's art provides dense layers for interpretation. And all of his wood carvings come from recycled wood. Tonu works intuitively through inspiration and attunement to the spirit of the trees, using his tools to release the objects and images that already exist within the wood. In addition to working with his self-made chisels and adzes, Tonu has become perhaps the most skilled chainsaw workers in the world.


Woodblock print by Tonu Shane Eagleton

Tonu's work has been received by some of the world's leading environmental and spiritual minds, ranging from Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nelson Mandela to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the internationally esteemed scientist Dr. David Suzuki, to the many indigenous tribes of North America, Australia, and Polynesia. His work was also featured as a central mantel piece to rock music's HORDE tour and has been honored and collected by many environmentally conscious rock acts, including Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam, Dave Mathews Band, and Blues Traveler. Tonu has also constructed entire art exhibits for blind persons, and has been invited by universities to develop and instruct students in his art.

Tonu is truly a global tribesman. Born in North Island, New Zealand to a Polynesian mother and English father, he left the South Pacific at an early age to explore the world. After travelling through Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, Tonu sailed to America aboard a small vessel, exploring the new world until he settled in the San Francisco Bay area. Here he has touched the hearts of many through his art and positive mental energy. While Tonu claims no country as his own (the Czech and Polish press referred to him as the "American Indian from the Polynesian Tribe"), he is clearly committed to and guided by his Polynesian ancestors. Their notion of the "Mana" guides his work - the spiritual energy that interconnects all things on earth. Tonu seeks to provide inspiration to those whose existence is threatened by cultural degradation, by environmental decay, and by neglect. His driving force a commitment that encompasses his life and all that is around it.


Woodblock print by Tonu Shane Eagleton

After many years with the people and trees of the San Francisco Bay Area, Tonu's enthusiasm for his work remain drenched in optimism and hope. The spirit of the trees within him continues its dance with the endangered species, Mother Earth, and the peoples of the world, He remains committed to establishing schools around the globe to teach his art and the manufacturing of his tools, to exchanging with native tribes of North America and Australia, and to helping trees, both as a tree surgeon and through the nonprofit to salvage fallen trees he co-founded.

He is moving to Hawai'i where he will teach woodcarving at Windward Community College.

Woodcarving by Tonu Shane Eagleton

Highlights from Past Projects (a partial list)

In 1992

Tonu carved a "Rock for Life Healing Pole," in Czechoslovakia. This pole was carved for a rock concert benefit for cancer research for children.

Billy Graham Presents commissioned Tonu to carve a Healing Pole to dedicate to the indigenous peoples of America. The pole stands at Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, California and is viewed by thousands each week.

In 1993

Tonu carved a 33-foot redwood tree as a tribute to endangered and extinct species for Peter Gabriel's World of Music and Dance (WOMAD) concert in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. The tree carving was a large interactive wood block. The event was attended by over 100,000 people and an estimated 15,000 people made rubbings from the pole during this one-day event.

In 1996

Tonu collaborated with the poet Laureate Robert Haas for the Watershed Festival to create the installation "River of Words" which toured around the country. The purpose of this art project was to have people interact with poetry carved into recycled wood and learn about the interface of nature and poetry. Tonu has been based out of the new Presidio national park in San Francisco for the past four years. He has worked on a variety of environmental art projects to help transform the former military base to a new type of national park dedicated to peaceful, creative use. Some of his San Francisco-based projects include:

In 1997

Through The Cultural Conservancy, Jon Larson, and other concerned individuals and nonprofit organizations, we developed the Kohola Project and organized a public ceremony on Crissy Field to honor the local indigenous peoples, the Ohlone, by gifting them with a 35 foot salvaged yellow cedar Healing Pole carved by Tonu Eagleton. In attendance at this special ceremony was the Presidio Trust board member Amy Meyer, Presidio National Park General Manager B.J. Griffin, and Golden Gate National Recreational Area (GGNRA) Superintendant Brian O'Neill.

In 1998

GGNRA Superintendant Brian O'Neil presented Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, a wooden sculpture from a piece of cedar recycled from a Presidio barrack as a gift from Golden Gate National Parks.

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown presented a gift, a wood-block print of a buffalo made by Tonu to the last African-American Buffalo Soldiers.

Tonu worked with the Ohlone Youth Camp at Pinole State Park, where he built a replica of a tule canoe with a special eagle head. Ohlone youth learned how to work with wood in a way similar to how their ancestors honored trees and plants.

Out of an old growth recycled redwood tree, Tonu carved a sculpture of the continent of Africa with a Lion emerging from it. This special sculpture was presented by the Head of the South African Summit at the Fairmont Hotel in San to the Mayor of Soweto who would bring it back to African to give to Nelson Mandela. This redwood sculpture is located in a special place in Nelson Mandela's home.

In 1999

Tonu brought a life-size humpback whale and other marine animal sculptors to the first Presidio Trust sponsored Earth Day. Jim Meadows, Presidio Trust Executive Director, gave a welcoming talk from the Whale Stage.

Tonu worked with a group of English youth-at-risk in northern England to teach them how to use wood and tools and to create a special community place resembling Stonehenge (a "Woodhenge") using recycled English hardwoods.

Tonu created four park benches out of recycled wood from the Presidio for the Presidio Trust to install in upper Fort Scott.

In 2000

As part of Tonu's healing work on military bases, he worked with a group of disadvantaged youth at Fort Ord in Monterey, California to teach them basic wood carving skills and to transform a recycled cedar log into a healing pole symbolic of the Monterey bay life and their own cultural traditions. The students created small models to incorporate into the final healing pole.

Over the past three years, four of Tonu's healing poles have been located at the Presidio Native Plant Nursery and are incorporated into their environmental education programs through the San Francisco Conservation Corps, Americorps, and the Site Stewardship Program.

Since 1997, Tonu has provided environmental artwork for the main stage of the annual Bioneers Restoring The Earth Conference and for the past two years has created the special Bioneers Awards that have been given to such environmental leaders as David Suzuki, Catherine Sneed, John and Nancy Todd, Henry Soto, Fritjof Capra, Terry Tempest Williams, Alice Walker, Julia Butterfly, J.L. Chestnut, and Rebecca Adamson.

Tonu has loaned three beautiful recycled benches (from a private collection) to the Presidio Alliance for use by community organizations and art shows.

Tonu created 10 special awards for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) to be presented to key community leaders in their Cultural Diversity Community Partners Program. These awards were presented at the NPCA conference, "Mosaic In Motion 2000: Embracing and Engaging All People" in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In 2001

In Reverence for the Ancestral Feminine, an art show of Tonu's original wood block prints featuring images of the ancestral and contemporary feminine spirit, are on display at the Thoreau Center for Sustainability West Gallery in the Presidio national park, San Francisco.

Tonu's wood block prints and a whale healing pole are featured at Lanuola, the Colors of Life, the 1st Annual Pacific Islanders Art Exhibit at the SomARTS Cultural Center in San Francisco.

Tonu just completed the wood frames for the McDonald Windows Project of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio. Recycled wood frames from the Presidio National Cemetery enclose new, beautiful mosaic windows re-created from shards of stained glass from the remnants of churches, cathedrals, temples, and synagogues destroyed in World War II.

Tonu is working with the Institute for Environmental Entrepreneurship and New College of California to develop an Ecological Wood Carving Concentration for their B.A. and M.A. Environmental Arts Program, the first of this type in the country.

Tonu has been commissioned by the Interfaith Center at the Presidio to carve a large healing pole that represents the world's faith traditions. This pole will be raised outside the historic Main Post Chapel in the Presidio of San Francisco. Tonu is aldo the co-founder of the Interfaith Artist Guild with Reverend Paul Chaffee, executive director of the Interfaith Center.

At the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, Tonu is developing an educational program for how to build recycled outdoor furniture and garden sculptor. He's also developing a small wooden replica of a watershed that will be used to educate people about the importance of water and watershed management.

In Hawai‘i 2002 - 2004

See article in Honolulu Advertiser 12 July 2004

Contemporary Rotuman Artists