About Ema

Ema Tavola was born in Suva, Fiji – her father, Kaliopate is from the village of Dravuni, Kadavu and her mother, Helen is from Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Spending most of her formative years in England and Belgium, Ema completed secondary school at Wellington High School in 1999. After two years of working in between Suva, Fiji and Wellington, New Zealand, Ema relocated to South Auckland to pursue tertiary studies in 2001. It was here she quickly became immersed in Pacific student body politics and volunteering with organisations such as Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust and Wahine Malosi. The gaps between Pacific audiences and gallery culture became the theme of her graduating dissertation; her art practice moved towards site-specific projects that engaged Pacific minds and sensibilities and the unique socio-political environment of Otara and South Auckland.

Ema’s first curatorial project was a joint exhibition of portrait painters Samiu Napa’a and Reagan Iosefa Samoa entitled, The Artists are described as…Polynesian Male at Otara’s Artnet Gallery. Early opportunities to work under the leadership of the late Cook Islands curator, Jim Vivieaere proved influential and Ema went on to curate a series of exhibitions at Artnet before the gallery was closed in 2005.

In 2006, she secured the role of Pacific Arts Coordinator for Manukau City Council. In what was largely an advisory position with a minimal budget, she was instrumental in the adoption of the old Artnet Gallery as a Council-operated Pacific arts facility. A series of community consultations ensured the community’s aspirations were reflected in the new facility’s ethos and Fresh Gallery Otara was opened in May 2006.

Producing a new exhibition every three weeks, Fresh Gallery Otara became a turbine for new Pacific art set within the unique context of South Auckland’s dominant Polynesian urban environment. Utilising networks from art school, Tautai Trust and community relationships, Fresh Gallery Otara’s programming was varied and youthful. After working sole-charge for almost three years, an operational budget, additional full-time staff member and three year commitment to fund the Manukau Pacific Arts Summit were secured. Running from 2010-2012, the Pacific Arts Summit was a series of multidisciplinary events programmed around the Gallery’s anniversary.

Noted nationally and increasingly internationally, Fresh Gallery Otara events became successfully integrated into the regional arts landscape, most notably with the 2011 Auckland Arts Festival exhibition, Ngā Hau A Whā – The Four Winds – a solo exhibition by Otara artist, Leilani Kake. Outside of Fresh Gallery Otara, Ema has developed curatorial projects for Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts and ARTSPACE and in 2012, performed the role of Associate Curator for Home AKL at Auckland Art Gallery.

Ema was the Fijian Representative on the Pacific Arts Committee of Creative New Zealand from 2007-2011. In 2012, she established a freelance practice undertaking projects for various organisations including Auckland Council, Auckland Art Gallery, Toi O Manukau and Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT). She regularly lectures at tertiary institutions in Auckland and Hamilton and in 2013, started teaching a semester-long paper entitled, Pacific Art Histories: An Eccentric View at MIT Faculty of Creative Arts in Otara.

Ema attained a Master of Arts Management degree from AUT University in 2013 and is currently working on freelance projects in between blogging and making art.

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 Ema Tavola
Exhibitions | Writing | Speaking

Master of Arts Management [2013] – AUT University
Bachelor of Visual Arts [2002 – 2005] – University of Auckland

Grants + Awards
Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Arts Grant [2017] – Auckland Council
Pacific Arts Committee Quick Response Grant [2016] – Creative New Zealand
Pacific Arts Committee Quick Response Grant [2014] – Creative New Zealand
School of Art + Design Postgraduate Research Award [2013] – AUT University
Bachelor of Visual Arts Alumni Award [2013] – University of Auckland
Contemporary Pacific Artist Award [2012] – Creative New Zealand
Pacific Arts Committee Quick Response Grant [2012] – Creative New Zealand
Cultural Exchange Grant [2009] – US Embassy (NZ)

Project Manager, Auckland Diversity Project [2016] – Creative New Zealand
Lecturer – Pacific Art Histories: An Eccentric View [2013-2015] – Manukau Institute of Technology
Pacific Arts Committee Strategic Assessor [2012] – Creative New Zealand
Co-Editor – SOUTH Issue 2 [2012] – Toi o Manukau
Associate Curator, Home AKL [2011-2012] – Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
Pacific Arts Co-ordinator / Manager – Fresh Gallery Otara [2006 – 2012] – Auckland Council (previously Manukau City Council)
External Assessor, Taipei Artist Village Residency [2011] – Asia:New Zealand Foundation
Pacific Arts Committee – [2007 – 2011] – Creative New Zealand
ARTsource Selection Panel [2008] – Arts Regional Trust
External Assessor, JENESYS Residency [2008] – Asia:New Zealand Foundation
ARTsource Selection Panel [2007] – Arts Regional Trust
Pacific Arts Committee External Assessor [2006 – 2007] – Creative New Zealand
Manager, ArtNet Gallery [2004 – 2005] – Wahine Malosi Charitable Trust
Pacific Nations Mentor [2002-2004] – Manukau Institute of Technology
Visual Merchandiser, Wai Tui Surf [2001] – Asia Pacific Management Ltd
Creative Director, FijiVillage.com [2000] – Communications Fiji Limited
Production Assistant [2000] – Fiji Television

Kaitani, The Physics Room, Christchurch [2017]
Dravuni: Sivia yani na vunilagi – Beyond the Horizon, New Zealand Maritime Museum, Auckland [2016]
The Veiqia Project, St Paul St Gallery 3, Auckland [2016]
PIMPI Winter Series, Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio, Auckland [2015]
between wind and water, Enjoy Public Art Gallery, Wellington [2015]
Concealed Ancestors, Papakura Art Gallery, Auckland [2013]
WWJD, Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland [2012]
Nga Hau E Wha – The Four Winds – A solo exhibition by Leilani Kake, Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland [2011]
YOU LOVE MY FRESH – A solo exhibition by Tanu Gago, Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Auckland [2010]
Native Coconut, Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland [2010]
Fiji Times, The Salon, Auckland [2009]
FRESH09, Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland [2009]
Small Axe 09, Artspace, Auckland [2009]
SOUTH/CENTRAL, Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland [2009]
South Style, Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland [2009]
For Fiji, Ever Fiji, Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland [2009]
FRESH08, Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland [2008]
Meat & Lollies, co-curator, Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland [2008]
Fresh Gallery Otara turns 1!, Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland [2007]
The Real Fiji, Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland [2006]
Tasi ae afe; One but a million, Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland [2006]
(Re)Locating Home, Alliance Française de Suva, Fiji [2006]
Mana Wahine 2005, Duende, Auckland [2005]
South Contained Unit, Otara Community Courtyard / ArtNet Gallery, Auckland [2004]
The Artists are described as… Polynesian Male, ArtNet Gallery, Auckland [2004]

Published Writing
‘Common Moments: Instagram Portraits by Vinesh Kumaran’, Art New Zealand Issue #156 (Summer 2015-16)
‘When stars align’, LOCALISE edited by Ioana Gordon-Smith and Lana Lopesi for Whau Arts Festival (2015)
‘An enduring rootedness’, The Listener February 16-22 [2013]
‘My Pacific & My Auckland’, Metro July – August [2012]
‘Urban Pacific Art and the Role of Fresh Gallery Otara’, Home AKL catalogue, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki [2012]
‘The Paradise Economy’, Foreign Objects catalogue, Fresh Gallery Otara [2011]
‘Rebecca Ann Hobbs: Movement and Connection’, Eyeline Number 74 [2011]
‘Women, Water and The Moon’, Nga Hau E Wha – The Four Winds catalogue, Fresh Gallery Otara [2011]
‘Liquid Lady Swagger’, manu toi; artists and messengers catalogue, Mangere Arts Centre – Nga Tohu o Uenuku [2010]
‘Poly-Virtual-Hypnosis 101’, manu toi; artists and messengers catalogue, Mangere Arts Centre – Nga Tohi o Uenuku [2010]
‘Safe Space’, VASU: Pacific Women of Power catalogue, University of the South Pacific [2008]
‘What do your tattoos mean?’, Tattoo: Respond – Response #2 catalogue, curated by Colleen Altragracia & Carolyn Milbank [2008]
‘Fiji: To you. For you. About you’, Kurunavanua catalogue, solo exhibition by Torika Bolatagici, Collingwood Gallery, Melbourne, Australia [2007]

Speaking Engagements
Presenter, ST PAUL St Curatorial Symposium [2016] – AUT University / Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland
Presenter, Contemporary Pacific Arts Festival Symposium [2015] – Footscray Arts Centre, Melbourne
Guest Lecturer, Curatorial Strategies (Master of Arts Management) [2014] – AUT University, Auckland
Guest Lecturer, Department of Art History [2013] – University of Auckland
Presenter, Pacific Arts Association 11th International Symposium [2013] – University of British Columbia, Canada
Guest Lecturer, Faculty of Education [2013] – University of Auckland
Guest Lecturer, Department of Art History [2012] – University of Auckland
Panelist, Younger Than Jesus, 2012 Curatorial Symposium [2012] – St Paul St Gallery, Auckland
Panelist, Emerging Entrepreneurs, PACIFICA National Conference [2012] – AUT University, Auckland
Guest Speaker, Soul Food [2012] – Media Design School, Auckland
Panelist, Faculty of Creative Arts Orientation Symposium [2012] – Manukau Institute of Technology, Auckland
Guest Lecturer, Curatorial Strategies (Master of Arts Management) [2012] – AUT University, Auckland
Guest Speaker, Manukau Institute of Technology Faculty of Creative Arts Graduation [2011] – Botany College, Auckland
Guest Lecturer, Fono Tagata Pasifika [2011] – Manukau Institute of Technology, Auckland
Guest Lecturer, Department of Art History [2011] – University of Auckland
Guest Lecturer, Curatorial Strategies (Master of Arts Management) [2011] – AUT University, Auckland
Discussant, Failing, Falling, Flying – Rebecca Ann Hobbs exhibition Public Programme [2010] – St Paul Street Gallery, Auckland
Panelist, Visual Arts Lab, ARTspeak Pasifika [ 2010] – Auckland Town Hall, Auckland
Panellist, Emerging Trends in Contemporary Maori and Pacific visual arts in Aotearoa New Zealand, Art in Oceania: Historical Perspectives, Contemporary Issues [2010] – City Gallery Wellington, Wellington
Guest Speaker, Curating Pacific Art Forum, 2010 Manukau Pacific Arts Summit [2010] – Fo Guang Shan North Island Temple, Auckland
Ema Tavola in conversation with Shigeyuki Kihara, 4th Auckland Triennial Public Programme [2010] – ARTSPACE, Auckland
Panelist, Curating with Brown Hands, Toi Whenua Maori Artists Wananga [2010] – Te Mahurehure Marae, Auckland
Panelist, Visions of building Pacific representation through the arts, ‘An Oceanic Imagination: A Tribute to the life and Mind of ‘Epeli Hau’ofa’, Pacific Research Cluster Symposium [2009] – University of Otago, Dunedin
Guest Lecturer, Elam School of Fine Arts [2009] – University of Auckland
Guest Lecturer, Introduction to Pacific Art [2009] – University of Auckland
Presenter, Urban Pacific Art in Aotearoa New Zealand, 97th College Art Association conference [2009] – California, USA
Guest Speaker, Center for Race and Gender, University of California Berkeley [2009] – California, USA
Guest Speaker, Art History Department, University of California Santa Cruz [2009] – California, USA
Guest Speaker, The Arts at Marks Garage [2009] – Honolulu, Hawaii
Presenter, Pacific Island Media Association conference [2008] – AUT University, Auckland
Guest Speaker, Fiji Art & Artists [2007] – O’Kaioceanikart Gallery, Auckland
Guest Speaker, Fiji Youth Careers Expo [2007] – University of Auckland
Guest Speaker, Urban Pacific public programme [2007] – Randolph Street Gallery, Auckland
Guest Speaker, Auckland Fiji Youth Forum [2006] – Onehunga, Auckland
Guest Lecturer, The Message [2005] – Manukau School of Visual Arts, Auckland
Presenter, Emerging Leaders’ Forum [2005] – Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Suva, Fiji
Guest Lecturer, Indigenous Issues [2004] – Manukau School of Visual Arts, Auckland

ColourMeFiji – Pacific arts commentary from 2006-2012
Ngā Hau E Whā – The Four Winds – A solo exhibition by Leilani Kake at Fresh Gallery Otara (March 2011)
Diasporadic679 – A group exhibition of Fiji women artists in Otahuhu (October 2011)
Fiji Times – A group exhibition of Fiji women artists in Auckland (October 2009)
Losing Rèmy – A blog about processing loss

Television Appearances
Tatau / Ink, Fresh [2011] – TVNZ
Multi Media Artists
, Tagata Pasifika [2010] – TVNZ
Fresh Gallery Otara / Mangere Arts Centre,
Tagata Pasifika [2010]- TVNZ
Fresh Gallery Otara / Otara Market, Pacific Pulse [2009] – Australia Network
Fresh Gallery Otara, Pacific Beat Street [2009] – Drum Productions
Fresh Gallery Otara, Mai Time [2007] – TVNZ
(Re)Locating Home, Fiji One News [2006] – Fiji TV
Art Takeaway, Tagata Pasifika [2005] – TVNZ
South Contained Unit, Tagata Pasifika [2004] – TVNZ
Gender Equality – Directed and presented by Ema Tavola, Get Set [2000] – Fiji TV

2 Responses to “About Ema”

    • Ema Tavola

      Not anymore 🙂 I did that for 18 months or so but finished in June of this year. I do regular appearances on the Pacific grassroots station, Radio 531pi, as That Art Lady – a nickname I was bestowed by Fresh Gallery Otara kids 😉



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