Detail, “Untitled” (2017) by Kulimoe’anga Maka | Photograph by Hōhua Ropate Kurene

Kaitani

Featuring the University of Canterbury Fijian Students Association and new work by Kulimoe’anga Stone Maka
Curated by Ema Tavola

24 November – 24 December 2017
The Physics Room
, 209 Tuam Street, Christchurch


In Fijian, kaitani refers to one who is from outside, or from another community, province or country.

As the culmination of curator, Ema Tavola’s residency with the University of Canterbury Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies, Kaitani interrogates the presence of Pacific art in the contemporary gallery space.

Accompanying her curatorial manifesto, a short video made during her residency reflects Tavola’s long-held interest in the creation of safe space and genuine engagement of Pacific peoples, their ways of seeing and being, art histories and cultural narratives.

In the work of East Christchurch-based painter, Kulimoe’anga Stone Maka, multisensory memories of Tonga are embedded in his mark making technique. In recent paintings, paraffin lamp smoke-stained canvas captures the ephemerality of time and space in brooding, galactic landscapes of blackness and whiteness and everything in between.

The exhibition’s soundscape pays homage to the unifying act of singing as a group. The Fijian song, Vanua Domoni was sung on the occasion of this year’s Fiji Independence Day by students and community members at the University of Canterbury. The song lyrics reflect a deep love and longing for Fiji, and evokes the pride and identity of Fijians both at home and away.

Tavola’s curatorial manifesto has been written as a result of her residency and copies will be available for the duration of the exhibition. She will discuss her manifesto in the context of the exhibition, along with exhibiting artist Kulimoe’anga Stone Maka in a talanoa / conversation at 1pm, Saturday 25 November.

  • More about Kulimoe’anga Stone Maka here
  • More on Ema Tavola’s curatorial practice here
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I organised a small-scale exhibition of three Fiji artists for Fiji Day here at the University of Canterbury. It was a make-shift effort in the Pasifika Lali Room where we held three Fijian Language Week inspired talks. The works framed the events including a Fiji Day celebration hosted by the Fijian Students Association where a meke was performed by Christchurch Fiji community kids. I’m grateful that the works of Joseph Hing and Margaret Aull gave these events and their audiences an opportunity to consider different ways of seeing Fiji and Fijian identity. This is the text I wrote to accompany the works:

To mark the anniversary of Fijian Independence from British colonial rule in 1970, Fijians celebrate ‘Fiji Day’ on the 10th of October. In Aotearoa, the Ministry of Pacific Peoples instigated the Pacific Languages Framework in 2007 to encourage the skill and fluency of Pacific language use amongst New Zealand’s Pacific communities. The week surrounding Fiji Day is acknowledged in New Zealand as Fijian Language Week.

Stimulating Pacific language development and retention has become a government initiative presumably because language is a key factor in cultural knowledge and identity. Communities who see themselves as strong and resilient, culturally rich and meaningful, have potential and agency. The opportunity for wider New Zealand society to engage and interact with Pacific cultures is an important process of interculturalism and so whilst Pacific language events can be and often are tokenistic gestures of social inclusion, there remains to be some value in the conscious awareness of different ways New Zealanders see and experience the world through language and expressions of identity.

In this small collection of photographic and mixed media works, three artists offer insights into their worldviews as Fijians.

Photography by Joseph Hing

Both within and beyond his professional capacity working as Senior Communications Assistant for Unicef Pacific, Joseph Hing has developed an astute knack of talking story through his social media presence (Twitter: @Viti_Kid, Instagram: @joseph_h84). In an era of citizen journalism, Hing’s photographic snapshots and cleverly crafted captions about events, places and observations of culture and flux have deepened and engaged international interest in the lesser seen sides of life in Fiji and Oceania.

Hing’s Suva is big skies and busy streets, textures of forgotten urban surfaces in stark contrast with the flowing curves of their natural landscape. In moments of balance between climate, commerce and culture, Hing draws references and traces of our past into the present, highlighting the precarious thrusts of Suva city, Fiji and Oceania into the future.

In our rapidly changing world, Hing’s work makes an important contribution to the digital visual archiving of Suva from the perspective of local eyes on local vistas. Void of any specific editorial narrative, Hing’s work is about appreciation; there is a romanticism to these records of everyday life. Hing speaks to the casual beauty and natural swagger of Suva city, the ‘New York of the Pacific’, a welcome and refreshing subversion of the stereotypical visual rhetoric of tourism, rugby and natural disasters

Full Tide (2017) by Margaret Aull

Margaret Aull is a Waikato-based painter, curator and arts manager whose Māori (Te Rarawa, Tūwharetoa) and Fijian ancestries frame her interests in the notion of tapu / tabu, a cultural construct embedded in most indigenous frameworks. Catholicism and totems, tohu / signs, warnings and ritual are mashed up in photo[copy]-graphic detail and hand-made brush strokes. Aull mixes acrylic paints with Fijian ochre and gold leaf, paper and found textures to create deluxe dreamscapes, which are as rich in the flesh as they translate through screens disguised as careful digital collages.

In two small works made specifically to honour Fiji Day at the University of Canterbury, Aull makes reference to the Fijian ritual of mourning for one hundred nights, and the colloquial language and centrality of yaqona (kava) drinking in building relationships and strengthening familial bonds.

Ema Tavola is the 2017 Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies Artist in Residence. She is a South Auckland-based practicing curator of Fijian and Pākehā heritage, and currently researching and writing a manifesto exploring modes of decolonising Pacific art curating.

Tavola’s curatorial approach comes by way of a visual arts practice. She has worked in painting, photo media and collage in recent years and has been fixated on the Fijian forms of civavonovono (breast plates) and war weaponry, and the politics of their visibility in international Museum collections. Through both curating and making, Tavola interrogates shifting value systems, power and ownership, and symbols of mana and presence for Pacific people as both artists and audiences.

This small exhibition was produced with support from the artists, Margaret Aull and Joseph Hing; Peter Sipeli (ArtTalk); Fiji Students Association, University of Canterbury; Steven Ratuva and Lydia Baxendell.

 

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I wanted to visit the Henri Matisse show at Christchurch Art Gallery because I’ve loved his work since I was a child. We had a print of the iconic Icarus in our home growing up and I was raised in Belgium where European painters and sculptors of the 20th century dominated my ideas of art and making. 

The exhibition showcases Matisse’s illustrated art book, Jazz (from the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales), and includes 20 colour stencil works and over 70 pages of hand-written text. Christchurch Art Gallery locates the collection firmly within an Aotearoa frame of reference by positioning Matisse’s work alongside two Cook Islands Tīvaevae and an installation of New Zealand artist, Richard Killeen, each of which employing a similar ‘cut-out’ aesthetic.

In the case of the two tīvaevae, the reference of this seemingly simple juxtaposition is a significant one. Matisse travelled to Tahiti in 1930 and spent a month in Papeete where he took photographs, drew in his sketchbooks, swam in the lagoons and acquired Tahitian textiles for his collection. His Tahiti trip is said to be the strongest influence on his art book, Jazz, which was first published in 1947.

In positioning these Tīvaevae in the context of Matisse, considering one was made in the 1890s, and the other in the 1980s, we see Matisse as part of a Pacific art continuum that is punctuated with exchanges and borrowing between Oceania and the West, Eastern Polynesia and Aotearoa.

There is an equalising effect that happens here. Curatorially, this is a nod to Moana aesthetics that gently subverts the problematic idea of primitivism, and the politics of ‘heritage arts’ and their place in the realm of the Gallery and the contemporary art world.

I’m particularly inspired by this curatorial positioning of Matisse in the context of where we are in the world because this felt like a significant oversight and lost opportunity in Auckland Art Gallery’s recent showing of The Body Laid Bare, an exhibition which also originated at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and co-curated with Tate. Auckland Art Gallery didn’t present any curatorial offerings that positioned the exhibition in the South Pacific, and whilst the show was full of important and interesting work, it felt isolated and elitist. This is an interesting review.

There was however an outreach effort by Auckland Art Gallery to create some form of localised commentary about the exhibition in the form of video interviews with Pacific artists. The series was produced for online circulation and Leilani Kake and I used the opportunity to offer some insights towards how this exhibition and its themes could have been programmed in a way that genuinely engages non-traditional audiences:

Christchurch Art Gallery, CoCA and The Physics Room have been creative sanctuaries on this trip. I’ve visited again and again, and the experiences have been rewarding and affirming. Thank you to all the staff who have engaged me, and my daughter, in conversation, greeted us warmly, given us time. It means a lot.

I’m one month into my residency at the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of Canterbury.

One month into the thinking and research, reading and sharing that is informing my manifesto. Having been extracted from my comfort zone, removed from my community, the feeling of somewhat isolation, sometimes loneliness, has underpinned and magnified my thinking around the people of my work.

I’ve been asking myself, what is the whakapapa of your practice?

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South Auckland has been so good to me, but I have a deep longing to return to Fiji. Being away from home(s) has deepened the desire to retrace my migratory footprints back to my tūrangawaewae.

Fiji is always in my thoughts.

In writing a manifesto, my primary migration dream of coming to Aotearoa to get qualifications in order to open an art gallery in my hometown, Suva, is at the forefront of my mind. The post-migration / de-migration dream is now to open sister galleries/hubs in South Auckland and Suva, with a studio residency offered in Kadavu.

The manifesto feels like an important part of this de-/re-/post-migratory dreaming.

Flying Fijian drua, suspended in the foyer of Te Ao Marama, School of Māori and Indigenous Studies

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It is going on a month since I relocated my life to Ōtautahi Christchurch with the aim of producing a manifesto of Pacific curatorial practice as the outcome of my residency with the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of Canterbury. 

In living between suburban Rolleston and inner city Tuam Street, I’ve now settled into an office space at the School of Fine Arts, where I spend my days. It is everything I need and more, and I keep thinking about the blessing and privilege residencies present to creative practitioners.

My friend Margaret Aull is currently at the Gathering of Indigenous Visual Artists of the Pacific Rim at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington (USA). She travelled with a delegation of Māori artists and they’ve spent days sharing knowledge, making work, experiencing the world of the mana whenua. It looks amazing. I keep thinking what a privilege it is to have time to make, and share, and exchange stories with other like-minded creative people.

In comparison, my residency has been quite a solitary experience so far, apart from my little companion, who is keeping my heart warm.

I set myself an ambitious task in writing a manifesto. I felt it needed to be structured academically being that this is a research residency, so I made a plan of the areas of enquiry I would pursue using the library collections here at the University.

I’ve had a lovely introduction to the Macmillan Brown Library. In the Library’s special collection stores, surrounded by old paper and hand stitched spines, the smell of the books was intoxicating; a sensory experience of literary history. There seem to be books about everything, but it makes me think about the things that are not written, the language of culture and knowledge that exist in oral histories and in people, in time and space.

Being in the School of Fine Arts has thrust me down memory lane, thinking back to my first year at art school in 2002, aged 19. Last week I sat in on a seminar of postgraduate presentations, invited to offer up critical insights as a visiting “academic”. The experience was invigorating, and revealing; I felt and continue to feel somewhat vulnerable and philosophically lonely in this environment. Not for my lack of professional experience or intellectual capacity, but for the lack of relevance and reflection I see and feel, as a Fijian and Pacific Islander, in the art world and its schools of thought.

Last week, I transcribed almost the entire talanoa which took place at #RealTalk: Safe Space / Best Practice, an event I produced as part of ARTSPACE’s Amor Mundi programme. The concept of safe space and best practice underpin my work, and the idea of writing a manifesto of curating Pacific art. Listening to the insights from panellists Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake and Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai, along with significant commentary from Hūfanga Dr ‘Okusitino Māhina, has been emotional, affirming and uplifting.

This week, I’ve ben trying to consolidate my position… 

The lack of presence of Pacific people and ways of seeing in the mainstream art world should not be a revelation to me; I’ve spent the last decade creating and fostering an unapologetic alternative world that decentralises the gaze and re-authors the narrative of our presence.

In this process of finding space to stand in between academia and art, missing my community, and trying to articulate why the mana of the visual language that resonates with me sits with the people/audience, and the time and space it belongs to, I’m starting to get some traction.


The image above is by Jeff Banube for The Pew Charitable Trusts. It depicts Vietnamese fishing boats that were burned miles off the coast of Palau after they were caught illegally fishing in the country’s waters. Read more here.
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I chose to drive to Ōtautahi Christchurch from Manukau, South Auckland to feel the distance between my frame of reference and this place.

When I arrived to Aotearoa in 1998 to go to Wellington High School, the first evening news bulletin I watched told of a spate of violent attacks by white supremacists on non-white international students living in Christchurch. This year, almost 20 years later, was the first time I’ve visited Christchurch, and reflected on how much that initial story of racism and violence shaped and framed the way I have perceived, and feared, this region.

I’ve lived in South Auckland for 15 years now. Ironically, it’s an area which carries the burden of similar media-driven negative perceptions. For me, the place I’ve called home for most of my adult life, is safe space: culturally rich, effortlessly diverse, where creative expression thrives. I’ve been able to work as a curator of Pacific art from my South Auckland base since 2004. My opportunity to come to Christchurch for the 2017 Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies Pacific Arts Residency has been on the basis of writing about that practice; I intend to research and write a manifesto of curating Pacific art, facilitate some good talks and do some making and mapping too.

 

 

I drove from Manukau to Paekākāriki by myself. I have a very limited range on my car stereo so tuned into whatever was going. The discussions on talkback radio were upsetting, and I quickly chose silence. Metiria Turei’s admission of benefit fraud had inspired passionate reactions from callers, some spitting the terms ‘mowrie separatist’ and ‘self serving activist’ with such venom, I felt triggered. I spent time reflecting on the majestic landscapes I was driving through, thinking about colonisation and what Tangata Whenua have lost, and gained, as New Zealanders. I thought about how important environmental protection is to me, and social justice, and thought about Metiria, a lot.

I arrived at my Aunty’s house in Paekākāriki just in time for a perfect home cooked meal, shared with my cousin and niece. Paekākāriki is more and more feeling like a home away from home. When I did the 2015 Summer Residency at Enjoy Public Art Gallery, the base for me and my daughter, and the artists and their partners, was my cousin Anton’s house in Paekākāriki (it was the hardest, and most rewarding collective effort). Stopping off in Paekākāriki en route to Ōtautahi Christchurch for another residency mission felt symbolic and affirming.

 

 

Cousin Anton took over driving for day two of the mission. We caught an 8am ferry from Wellington and the harbour was glassy and the rising sun was #nofilter stunning. It was a good morning; fresh coffee, crisp air, crossing the waters to Te Waipounamu.

Whilst thinking of the Beast of Blenheim got me a bit spooked in Blenheim, we went on to encounter what felt like a miles upon miles upon MILES of stop-and-go roadworks. The road to Ōtautahi Christchurch, via Murchison, was lined with cones, and notably ‘manned’ by a lot of women. The views were at time exquisite, and the distinct lack of humans started to feel very apparent. We drove through the snowcapped mountains of the Lewis Pass, and alongside dramatic river beds that all looked like Speights ads were filmed there.

After hours of traversing relatively human-less picture postcard landscapes, the land started to get more controlled… irrigated… politicised. Urbanity intensified as we approached the country’s second biggest city… suddenly we were surrounded by lights, contemplating sculpture and an unusual, enormous bridge structure.

Two massive days of driving, hundreds of kilometers, a lot of coffee, mountains, weather systems, two sunrises and two sunsets… a bit of ‘would you rather’ madness, and lots of insights from my cousin Anton, always down for an adventure. Thank you, cuzzie.

Cuzzie Driver

So here goes… three months in Ōtautahi Christchurch!

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Clothe Your Eyes You Rude Dude (2014) Mixed media Serene Timoteo NZ$715

This work by West Auckland-based artist and educator, Serene Timoteo was made as part of a response to Selina Tusitala-Marsh’s poem, Two Nudes on a Tahitian Beach, 1894:

Two Nudes on a Tahitian Beach, 1894

Gauguin,
you piss me
off.

You strip me bare
assed, turn me on my side
shove a fan in my hand
smearing fingers on thigh
pout my lips below an
almond eye and silhouette me
in smouldering ochre.

I move
just a little
in this putrid breeze
hair heavy to
fuscous knees, still
I’m the pulse
on the arm of this wall
and I’ve drawn her to me again.

Here she comes.

Not liking that she likes me
not liking you, but knowing that she
likes me, not liking you
liking me, but she
likes me and sees me,
but not you,
because you
Gauguin,
piss us
off.

This work is currently showing at Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery until 19 August 2017 for the 2017 PIMPI Winter Series.

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“Mātua” (2015) by Pati Solomona Tyrell

Pati Solomona Tyrell is in the midst of a surge of interest in his work and ideas; his practice as an emerging lens-based artist is evolving with every opportunity to perform, present and articulate his position. For Lovers Rock, the final show of the 2017 PIMPI Winter Series, Pati has contributed a work that speaks to things that keep him grounded…

Congratulations on so many great achievements in your practice – a mega solo show at ST PAUL St Gallery, work in the 2017 Pacific Dance Festival, performances in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and an upcoming season of your solo work, Fa’aafa at Basement Theatre! How do you stay grounded and what keeps you well?

I like to get away from Auckland for a weekend and spend time with my family in Hamilton. I am always at peace when I am at home, something about sharing space/time with my family is healing, it refuels my energy and silences the business of big shows. There is nothing like talks from your parents to remind you what is important in life and bring your mind to a focus. Also a good feed of mum’s Sunday To’onai cooking keeps me well. LOL.

Your portraiture practice is a collaborative act with the subject of your photographs; as the photographer, what does that process feel like, to create an image, a representation, and what is considered in selecting a final image?

Collaboration is a sacred space for me. Images have power and #RepresentationMatters. When photographing others I understand that I am capturing more than a just portrait, I am capturing their identity, stories and mana. I think it’s important to give time to sit with people to ask what they are comfortable with and what would make the environment an unsafe place for them to practice.

Collaboration for me is about reciprocity, a constant sharing of energy, ideas and trust. I know this is an uncommon practice for photographers but for me it is important that the people I photograph are involved in each stage of image making, from the birth of the concept, the production process to the selection of the final image.

In terms of the kaupapa of Lovers Rock as the observance of unapologetic, radical self love, what does self love mean for you and where does it sit within your practice?

I’m a fat, hairy, femme, queer Sāmoan. Unapologetic, radical self love is me reminding myself on the daily that these descriptions are not negative. We are constantly fed images of what we should look like, what is beautiful, what is desirable, it’s fucking toxic. Unapologetic and radical self love is protection, and rejecting these media constructed ideas of existing. Being unapologetic is an important part of my practice, I am always putting myself in front of the camera, using my body to portray and challenge ideas, opening myself up to be critiqued not only by others but from myself as well. 

Your work “Mātua” in Lovers Rock features your parents, and as a relatively new parent myself, I feel like that environment of love and nurturing we create for our children, particularly in the early years, is such a vital foundation for life and for self love. Tell me about this work…

Mātua for me was an exploration of my identity. I was learning about living in the space between in my gender, culture, geography and time. This is a celebration of starting to be comfortable with myself and where I sit in the world. Understanding that I navigate a space that isn’t traditionally male or female. Understanding that I am a gift of my mother and father. Understanding that learning about my Sāmoan culture is a life journey and to not give myself so much shit about it. This work for me represents a lot of learning I am doing which I do with the full support of my parents who love me.


Mātua has been produced as a limited edition of A1 size (594x841mm) poster prints for Lovers Rock. The edition of 25 are priced at NZ$100 each. The exhibition is on at Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery, 507 Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland until 19 August.

Interested in purchasing a copy? Get in touch with Ema Tavola (Curator) here:

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Manuha’apai Vaeatangitau is the full name is the artist commonly known as Manu Vaea. The 19 year old Tongan visual artist and poet has responded to the themes of gentrification and cultural transformation in the PIMPI Winter Series exhibition, #CHANGES with a series of rose-tinted, hand-drawn illustrations about the erasure of memory and the emotional detachment of displacement.

Manu, your four hand-drawn works in #CHANGES feel so personal; they give us such intimate insights into family spaces. What was it like to draw, in painstaking detail, these memories?

Upon drawing these, I felt sadness. That’s just it, an overwhelming sadness. I had decided upon the exclusion of a large part of my family’s facial features and some figures completely so that it would feel a bit emotionally off-kilter/detached because I guess that’s what gentrification does on that level. How are you supposed to feel about a place you once came from, that doesn’t technically exist anymore?

Your work makes a vital contribution to this exhibition because it demonstrates what the ‘end game’ of gentrification can look like. What was the experience like for your family to be displaced and relocate to another community, presumably much further away from the environment they were familiar with?

My family weren’t and still aren’t so interested in the politics of displacement and gentrification; I attribute this to it being something they must’ve become accustomed to, living in New Zealand. So, I guess that’s why, as I looked through the old photographs from Mad Ave and further began to illustrate them, I felt so upset.

My family had actually moved from Mad Ave shortly before the process of gentrification had begun, but it’s that thing of being able to locate yourself within a time and place. A whole community of families had existed there, a culture had developed there and these are the things that you don’t see in those articles dogging Mad Ave or honestly any other area with a low socio-economic decile.

Gentrification happened to everyone, so in turn, everyone one was displaced together and recreating these communities wasn’t too hard. I think the physical erasure of these low socio-economic areas that both my family and many others grew up in, as I mentioned before, leaves a lot of people really emotionally detached. I think it also slowly but definitely eventuates in the erasure of memories.

I became aware of your practice through my lifelong fangirling of all things FAFSWAG, what does it mean to be part of this collective, and how does that influence or empower your individual practice?

Ah! FAFSWAG. It means a lot to be a part of the collective. The members of this collective were the first to actually want to sit down with me and discuss things I had always wanted to discuss. FAFSWAG has given me huge opportunities to create/perform/be and I’m mad thankful. In regards to my individual practice, I’ve made sure not to really expect too much and feel pressured to overachieve because I need to take care of my spirit/body/mind first and well, I’m only 19. Lol. FAFSWAG, however, is one of my greatest support systems and I feel really indebted towards a lot of the members.

I know you’re currently studying visual arts at AUT University, having moved from studying animation, what are you loving about making art without a kind of commercial orientation?

Yes, so I’m currently sitting a Bachelor of Visual Arts and what I love about the lack of any kind of commercial orientation is that I’m creating things that I feel wholly responsible for. In saying that, it also means that I take full responsibility if my work looks like shit. I think that even that is good for growth though. I also just appreciate that I get to speak on whatever I want, whenever I want and I am always in complete control of what I share with others. Trying to head down a more traditionally lucrative career path (going to Media Design School) was honestly a really bad mistake which manifested itself in many ways physically, mentally and spiritually.

It’s so good to have those things in check at such a young age. Manu, what are your art dreams… what is the ideal art life for you?

Hmm, art dreams. I haven’t really thought about it properly. Its all just been go from the jump so I’ve taken everything as it came. I think really what I want is to travel, create outside of my comfort zone and ultimately return to Tonga.

Check out Manu Vaea’s new work in #CHANGES until Friday 28 July at Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery, 507 Great South Road, South Auckland.

The 2017 PIMPI Winter Series has been produced with support from the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board.
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