Vineyard (2015) by Faafeu Kapeneta

Faafeu Kapeneta presents three striking new photographic works in That’s not Pacific Art, the second exhibition in the PIMPI Winter Series opening Thursday 6 August at Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio. I asked him about that Tongan vineyard life…

Thank you for being the only South Islander in the PIMPI Winter Series! How did you end up living and working in Marlborough and how long have you been there?

Thank you Ema for the opportunity. Long story short, my family moved to Marlborough after visiting relatives for Christmas in 2005. We have been living here for nearly 10 years now after moving away from Wellington. I’ve  been here for about a year and a half now.

The Marlborough region conjures up images of quintessential New Zealand landscapes and vineyards… the stuff of tourism billboards. Whilst Otara, South Auckland is perhaps the polar opposite of that world, there’s a similarity in the work you’re making now compared to what you made whilst living here during your degree studies. What are the things you like to capture that exist in both these disparate spaces?

I like the documentary approach to photography because I want my work to be raw and honest as it can be by not distracting the frame, purely observing and recording moments that gives people a very different Marlborough, a more grounded look at people who live and work here and not just the beautiful landscapes that the region is renowned for.

I’m thinking good jobs and limited big city distractions make working in Marlborough a pretty worthwhile opportunity for a lot of Pacific Islanders. What do you see as the benefits of working and living there, and are there things you miss or long for?

The most common thing that attracts a lot of Pacific Islanders to Marlborough was and still is the vineyard business. There are other jobs here and there but we, as Pacific Islanders living in Blenheim are renowned to be working out in the vineyards. In Marlborough, being a hot spot for tourism, you’ll likely see and meet a lot foreigners who come here for labour work. One of the benefits of living in Blenheim that I realised after moving back here was how it reminded me of my village in Tonga; countryside, quiet and slow pace lifestyle as opposed to the fast pace and noisy Auckland. There are couple of things I do miss though; the takeaways, access to Pacific Island foods such as taro or cassava and the Pacific art scene.

I’m so happy that this opportunity has inspired you to make some new work, I love what it adds to this exhibition, and to the wider PIMPI Winter Series. I’m wondering, what kind of things are on your art bucket list? What would you love to shoot, where would you love to show your work, and what kind of impact would you like your work to have?

In the near future I want to document some of the groups of Pacific Island workers who come here on a 3-6 months working Visa in the vineyards. I’m starting to look at landscape photography, and I’ve met quite a few foreigners and want to do some work with them. I want document other Pacific Island communities in other towns in the South Island and would love to show that work in South Auckland because I want people to know we exist and that you can make a good living in the smaller towns in the South Island.

That’s not Pacific Art
6-22 August
Featuring Faafeu Kapeneta, Ana Lakusa, Qingze Nan and Genevieve Pini.

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