October has been a bit amazing…
Since September I’ve been coordinating OTARAfest, a new annual event programme produced by Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) Faculty of Creative Arts; it ran from 18 October – 2 November and the inaugural programme included 11 stand-alone events delivered in and around the Otara Town Centre.
With a focus on revitalising the Otara Town Centre and creating opportunities for artists and the wider community to meet, share and reflect on contemporary art, talent and creative energy emanating from the local environment, OTARAfest was a refreshing and hugely rewarding project to be part of.
The programme was officially launched at the opening of Fresh Out of School, an exhibition at Fresh Gallery Otara featuring six new graduates from the outgoing Bachelor of Visual Arts degree programme offered at MIT Faculty of Creative Arts. The opening was a celebration of achievement for the students involved; we wanted to emphasise their commitment and hard work, and their new beginnings as qualified visual artists. The Gallery was filled with family and friends, music was provided by DJ Al’Goodie, a well-respected local DJ and radio personality and slow-cooked pork sliders, raw fish and smoked salmon bilinis were served courtesy of Lissy’s Kitchen.
Desire2Inspire, a local arts collective performed at the OTARAfest launch. With all its members currently engaged in youth work and related training, the two skits they presented were informed by lived realities for young people in South Auckland; managing peer pressure, the influences of drugs, alcohol and suicide, and the healing potential of faith and fellowship. I was so moved by their performances, their involvement and interest in the OTARAfest programme; it brought the community back inside the walls / windows of Fresh Gallery Otara and served as a reminder of the consciousness a local community art gallery should reflect.
OTARAcube was a new exhibitions concept that unfortunately launched two weeks behind schedule, meaning a performance work due to take place in the first weekend of the programme was sadly cancelled. However, its better-late-than-never arrival enabled the launch of its inaugural exhibition featuring Tongan artist sisters, Vea and Emily Mafile’o. The opening of their multimedia installation coincided with a special gathering of the Tongan art collective, No’o Fakataha at Fresh Gallery Otara on Friday 1 November.
An initiative of MIT Faculty of Creative Arts with support from the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board, the OTARAcube started life as a 20 foot shipping container; its design and customisation was undertaken by Nigel Burton (DVANZ). Now a permanent fixture in the Otara Town Centre, OTARAcube is located in the area between the Bus Depot and the taxi stand; site specific exhibitions and experimental art projects are planned to turnover on a roughly monthly basis.
OTARAfest provided a platform for a series of gathering and networking events, one of which heralded the beginning of the South Auckland Young Artists Network (SAYAN), a new movement based on the successful Youth Arts Committee at central Auckland community art centre, Artstation. SAYAN will meet fortnightly at Fresh Gallery Otara, contact Kirstin Whalen to go on the mailing list.
South Auckland Theatre Collective presented their first production, My Life, My Story, My South Auckland and got this sweet review, the wonderful P.O.T Productions delivered a beautiful re-worked and site-specific version of Pukepuke ‘O Tonga and OTARAwindow, a series of three outdoor window boxes on the exterior wall of Otara Family & Christian Health Centre, featured the work of Luisa Tora for the duration of OTARAfest.
I enjoyed so many facets of project managing this event programme, but one event in particular was an absolute career highlight. I had the privilege of working again with Tanu Gago, co-founder of FAF SWAG, a collective that advocates, promotes and endorses youth voices from South Auckland’s Pacific LGBTQI communities. Inspired by the American documentary film, Paris Is Burning, the first FAFSWAG Ball aimed to create a competitive platform centralising talent, performance prowess and safety in an accessibly priced, event experience unique to South Auckland.
The FAFSWAG Ball was affirming, electric, covered in glitter and tear-inducingly empowering!
As of 24 hours ago, I’ve also officially completed all the required outcomes for my Master of Arts Management degree at AUT University and I’m so relieved! I’m deeply thankful to my partner, my friends and family for helping me study and endure the financial hardship of committing to full-time postgraduate study, and especially to my mother, who has listened, advised and encouraged me to not give up, thanks Mum!
This weekend I’m showing two works in the annual King’s College Fine Art Sale and on Sunday I’ll be delivering a talk on Pacific art making and appreciation in South Auckland from 12.45pm, click here for more details.
Check out this track by Otara artist, Beelah – it is the soundtrack of Vea and Emily Mafile’o’s OTARAcube exhibition and was shot and recorded right here in Otara – love it!