I am humbled to be the recipient of the Contemporary Pacific Artist Award of the 2012 Arts Pasifika Awards, administered by the Pacific Arts Committee of Creative New Zealand.

For the past five months, I’ve been transitioning from full-time employment, working in the field of Pacific arts advocacy and curating, to self-employment. Working in a freelance capacity, it is at this time that recognition for my work as a Pacific curator carries significant value.

I had an emotional time at the Awards ceremony, trying to acknowledge everyone. I didn’t mention Jim Vivieaere or Epeli Hau’ofa, who have passed on and whose legacies provide ongoing inspiration for my work. I didn’t acknowledge the investment and support of my parents, Helen and Kaliopate Tavola, and my dear sister, Mereia Carling. I didn’t even acknowledge the artists in my life who are my sounding boards, mentors and collaborators, in particular my South Auckland crew Nigel Borell, Tanu Gago, Rebecca Hobbs, Leilani Kake and the excellent Fresh Gallery Otara brain box, Nicole Lim. But it was lovely to have a small South Auckland contingent in the form of Margaret Aull (honorary South Aucklander!), Donna Tupaea (Chair, Toi o Manukau), my partner Taka and Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai.

I have worked tirelessly for the past seven years and produced 80 odd exhibitions featuring almost 300 artists. I’ve enjoyed so much of the journey and draw such happiness from seeing the artists I’ve worked with go on to do great things. I thanked the Pacific Arts Committee, and Creative New Zealand for acknowledging the art form of curating. I feel it is a historical shift in thinking and represents a win for everyone who works behind the scenes – the producers, publishers, directors and editors – those who enable, empower and encourage our artists to take raw talent, mix it with skills and professionalism and create strong and robust platforms for Pacific expression.

Vinaka vakalevu Creative New Zealand and members of the Pacific Arts Committee!