Posts from the ‘Exhibitions’ category

I’m working with an awe-inspiring group of women on a curatorial project for the 4th International Biennale of Casablanca. A successful grant application from Creative New Zealand was announced earlier this month, and we came together this past weekend to talanoa in real time.

The working title of the project is A Maternal Lens, it will include new work by Margaret Aull, Leilani Kake, Julia Mage’au Gray, Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai and Vaimaila Urale. The exhibition project will open in Casablanca, Morocco in late October.

I’ll write more in the coming months about this project – it’s hearty. I just wanted to share that this weekend’s wānanga in Whaingaroa was filled with the sounds of the ocean and bush, the energy of an exquisite sunset and life-giving sunrise; it was restorative and invigorating. We missed Julia, who was in Australia making marks, but I’m feeling so positive about this project and its unique approach that privileges the roles of mothers / parents (M is for Mothers in the PIMPImanifesto).

I can’t wait to see it come together.

This review of the recent exhibition, Wantok at Māngere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku was originally written for ARTtalk (Issue 12), Fiji’s independent online art magazine.

As a curator, I view exhibitions in a few different ways. I think about the artwork and its medium, its politics and its placement. The artist – their positionality, their background and their message. The lighting even, the layout and feel of the Gallery. I think about the curator and their agenda, the experience of the audience, and often, the relationship of the exhibition themes to the exhibition’s site; who is this exhibition for?

Wantok is a group show of new work by nine Melanesian women artists, including the work of its curator. Produced for Māngere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku, Wantok is part of the Gallery’s commitment to celebrating the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the landmark moment Aotearoa New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world to grant all women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. Māngere Arts Centre is a local government funded facility situated in the South Auckland suburb of Māngere, well known for its large, youthful and well-established Polynesian population.

The exhibition’s curator is Luisa Tora, a Fijian writer and visual artist who now calls Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland, home. She has invited artists to make new work around the theme of “decolonised views of beauty and mana through the lens of spirituality and symbolism associated with hair in Melanesian cultures”. The artists all live in Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and represent ancestral connections to Fiji, Tokelau, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Granada (Caribbean), the South Sea Islander community, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

In the case of the arts landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand, where Oceania is commonly viewed and understood through a Polynesian lens, this presentation of Melanesian diaspora experience requires context. This can be done effectively with well-crafted artwork labels and interpretive text, but this is absent from the show and the potential to diversify public perceptions about the wider Oceania region and the richness of Melanesian diaspora experience is frustratingly lost. Whilst much of the work in the exhibition is fighting hard to have space to be understood and interpreted, so many nuances of the artists’ approaches, thinking and themes are lost by not offering audiences ways for this work to be heard.

However, there is presence in the space. The presence of Melanesian women, of brown skin, and the clear control of those bodies and that representation in front, and behind the lens. And with four different video-based works in the two galleries, the exhibition is noisy! There are voices, conversations and laughing coming from the works of Torika Bolatagici and Salote Tawale, but a watery soundtrack emanating from a large-scale projected video work by Tufala Meri (the creative partnership of sisters, Molana and Reina Sutton) fills most of the exhibition’s soundscape.

Torika Bolatagici’s striking Tadrua Series (the space between) (2018) is six large scale portraits of strong, brown skinned women and girls with curly hair maintaining mesmerising connections with the camera. They are larger than life, a kind of feminine futuristic visual anthropology of Oceania. Whilst each image represents the same upper part of the body, each subject holds themselves differently; there are anthologies in the stories behind their eyes, equal parts strength and vulnerability in their postures, and pride and presence in their hair. In the accompanying video work, Tadra (to dream), the subjects are filmed resting on the acrylic kali, a kind of futuristic Fijian headrest made in collaboration with Lienors Torre and Shaun Bangay. The object itself sits unassumingly in the corner of the gallery on a plinth; set on a motion sensor, and with an internal sound device, occasionally women’s voices emanate from it, talking story about hair and rituals.

The stories and conversations from Bolatagici’s kali informed another collaborative aspect of this ambitious project in the form of a performative response by Ayeesha Ash and Emele Ugavule (members of the Sydney-based Black Birds collective). Marking the opening of the exhibition, Ash and Ugavule’s performance was meditative and graceful. They moved through the space, filling the room with Fijian vocal harmonies, amplifying the hair as an extension of the body and in its cutting, a significant act of bodily and emotional detachment. Their performance gave life to the space, connecting the artwork on the walls, to the audience who had come to greet it.

Jasmine Togo-Brisby’s large scale lightboxes depict photographic portraits of herself, her daughter and her mother, each with long curly hair adorned with a model sailing ship on top of their heads. Their gazes vary, and their garb is Victorian and formal. Without any context of the artist’s South Sea Islander genealogy and the history of the black birding slave trade in Melanesia, these works are perplexing, but confusing. Despite providing audiences with no context for this work and its themes, the light box is a beautiful medium that makes photography pop, commanding your attention.

Tufala Meri is sisters Molana and Reina Sutton. Their work includes five installations of domestic-like assemblages of photographs and objects, furniture and books, and a performative video work that is presented as a large scale full wall projection. In the video, the sisters initially appear to be very aware of the camera, holding poses with a large wooden bowl with characteristic Solomon Island shell inlay around the rim. They are standing next to a beautiful stream, on rocks, wearing similar neon patterned dresses and bare feet. The audio is watery, there is laughter and a woman’s voice. The sound of scrubbing, or rubbing can be heard, hoots and children’s giggles. It becomes clear that the video does not match the sound, but the two are related. The sisters gradually become more relaxed, and the shots tighten to capture closer views of their faces and actions. Suddenly, we see a photograph, another Melanesian woman – the sisters’ mother. The photograph is in the wooden bowl, it is carefully removed and placed on a rock, along with flowers and mementos.

Splashes and a sporadic deep rhythmic beat can be heard, almost like hearing the deep bass coming from someone’s headphones. The voices and laughter are joyful. We hear the presence and closeness of the water and the children… we hear a time and space, and we see another. The sisters play with each other’s hair, they laugh and splash and the light on the water running across boulders is almost golden. They use the wooden bowl to drench each other’s hair, which is thick and curly. The audio gets quiet, we see but we can’t hear. There is no more sound, just visuals, symbols – tattoos – body language, and land. The video ends with a final shot of the stream.

In conversation with Reina Sutton at the Wantok opening, I learned that the audio is from a home video of their late mother, shot in the Solomon Islands in 2008. It captures their mum at the river with her cousins, laughing, washing and the mesmerising beat that can be heard is water drumming. The work, Tufala Meri Blo Tiu lays the audio of their mother’s video over their own ‘home video’, filmed in Aotearoa New Zealand.

I spent time feeling mesmerised by this work and moved by the loving homage to their mother. I love that the scale of the video projection means their mother’s face is so large and present in the gallery, a beautiful and heartfelt dedication. Tufala Meri created a space for sitting, resting and being comfortable, which I appreciate; they effectively invite audiences to enjoy their work, be comforted and to listen and hear their message.

In a similar audio / video mash up, Salote Tawale’s video work, Polite Disguise (2018) overlays the sound of conversations between women about hair and othering with a series of performative Western beauty rituals. Tawale carries out the removal of her own hair via tweezers, scissors, hair clippers and adhesive strips. It is high definition, sometimes clumsy, and at points almost cringe-inducing and painful. In between her performative hair removal processes, the video intersperses popular hair product advertising jingles and YouTube-like vlogger cutaways. The work is shown on a monitor adorned with a large black and pink artificial flower garland that obstructs the corners of the screen, a confusingly unnecessary addition.

Dulcie Stewart’s series, Flora vitensis; drauniulu edition (2018) feels like the quietest work in the show. Stewart uses reproductions of botanical illustrations overlaid on the faces of Fijian women from ethnographic photographs, many of which exist in archives around the world with no biographic information about the subject. Stewart calls into question the visual ‘silencing’ of these women by rendering them nameless, disconnecting them from their past and their future. Interspersed with these photographic assemblages are a series of hand-drawn botanical illustrations of plants from Fiji, named Flora vitensis. In contrast to the ethnographic portraits, Flora vitensis are documented thoroughly, depicting their history and plant-based genealogy, uses and properties.

There’s a diplomacy about Stewart’s work, simultaneously thoughtful and confronting. She brings her interests in literature and archives, paper and records, together beautifully. She is both protector and promoter, reframing histories written about us but not for us.

The work I’m reluctant to mention, because curators being both author and artist in their own exhibitions is problematic, is a video portrait by Luisa Tora. In a topless self-portrait, Tora is superimposed against a galactic moving backdrop full of shooting stars, moons and planets. Her hair throbs outward from her head like a woolly halo, her stance stoic and defiant. Her gaze is not directly at the viewer and there’s an almost Mona Lisa like quality to the emotion or lack of emotion in her face. It’s a work that engages and titillates a lot of people because it’s ‘cool’, but for me feels like an unnecessary addition to the exhibition and something you might find if you type ‘God complex’ into a gif finder.

My friend Nigel Borell, a fellow curator, shared with me his appreciation of this show, noting that Auckland audiences appreciate the different framing of Pacific Islander experience. Whilst we are different, we have a shared imperialist histories and hair is a vessel for colonisation carrying ideas of shame and beauty, pride and presence. Nigel is right.

This exhibition could not be closer to my core as a Fijian woman curator living in South Auckland. Many of these artists are respected friends and peers, and their collective presence in the gallery is life-giving. I’ve spent hours in the space, because being close to these representations of Melanesian diaspora experience is affirming and empowering. Despite the lack of interpretive text and artwork labels, there is value in the presence of these works.

Curate is derived from the Latin term cūrā(re) meaning to care for, attend to. Luisa Tora cared enough to devise the concept of this exhibition, and Māngere Arts Centre offered space to bring it to life. The caring can’t stop at that; audiences are essential in enabling artwork to arrive, to be heard and to land. The dialogue between artwork and audience is what leaves the impression and changes culture. Hopefully the exhibition’s upcoming publication will deepen the impact of Wantok, but perhaps the most significant repercussion of this show is the connections forged between the artists and their efforts to be present in this space.


Featuring Torika Bolatagici with Blackbirds, Dulcie Stewart, Molana & Reina Sutton, Salote Tawale, Jasmine Togo-Brisby, Luisa Tora
Curated by Luisa Tora

21 April – 26 May 2018
Māngere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku, South Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

My beloved land forever beckons
Go Fiji Go
Until my last breath

~ English translation, lyrics from Vanua Domoni

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

I’ve been a visitor in Christchurch for three months, dreaming about home. I came with the intention of writing a manifesto about curatorial practice but hadn’t realised how much the distance and isolation from my community and my community of practice would affect me.

I came to understand how much the people of my practice come first.

Being based at the University of Canterbury, I took the opportunity to participate in the Fijian Students Association. We worked together to produce a celebration for Fiji Independence Day on October 10th, a programme of talks and an exhibition in the Pasifika Lali Room within the School for Māori & Indigenous Studies. Our Fiji Day event included reflections on Fiji history and language, an item by local Fijian youth who performed a meke (traditional Fijian dance), chicken curry, a Fiji Day cake and the singing of Vanua Domoni by some of the active members of the Fijian Students Association.

At our Fiji Day event, the lyrics of Vanua Domoni from were displayed on a projector screen for the students, and the audience, made up of fellow students, staff and members of the local Fijian community, to sing along. The lyrics of Vanua Domoni speak of a love and longing for Fiji, the beloved land. As an unofficial anthem of our Fijian rugby teams, the song evokes the pride and identity of Fijians both at home and away. The unifying act of singing together is collectively uplifting, a sharing of common purpose, a form of devotion.

I’m interested in space that is created when Pacific ideas, voices, culture and language are central. I’ve built my curatorial practice around the interventions that can be manifested in New Zealand art galleries and museums to challenge Eurocentric cultural norms for ways of seeing, interpreting and valuing visual language. In the current climate within the arts and cultural sector, diversity measures are increasingly part of the arts funding paradigm but thinly veiled programming efforts towards social inclusion still too often reinscribe power inequalities. The act of enabling Pacific artists and audiences, and other minority communities, to participate and contribute to publicly funded spaces and events, is an act of sharing power and decolonising the time and space around our arts, cultures and people.

Kulimoe’anga ‘Stone’ Maka and I spent time during my residency discussing the influence of the Pacific on Western fine art since Tonga’s first encounter with Europeans in the 17th century. We shared origin stories and unpacked the clues of re-imagined historical narratives and their Biblical parallels. In sharing my anxieties of working in such Pākehā dominated spaces and places, our discussions on danger and beauty, metaphor and symbolism in Tongan and Fijian arts and culture, helped ground my thinking.

In his signature style, Maka’s large-scale smoke painting entitled, Mafoa e ata (Dawn), reflects everything we had shared. It is imbued with the memories of his Tongan childhood, of watching his mother mastering the method of smoking barkcloth to achieve deep, dark colour plains. It is all the tensions and synchronicity of his relationship with Western abstract art. And it is the messy space between the polarised worlds of darkness and light, white and black, us and them.

My theory of curating is grounded in the transformative act of reflecting the world I share with Pacific people, creating safe spaces for real talk about the complexities and deviancies of contemporary life. Curating is, in essence, building protections and modes of transmission around our narratives. Kaitani has been a restorative process of re-valuing the principles that guide me, the artistic enquiry that excites me and fresh air for encountering new ways of seeing.

Kaitani runs from 25 November – 24 December 2017 at The Physics Room, 209 Tuam Street, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Ema Tavola has lived and worked within the creative sector in South Auckland, New Zealand since 2002. Her research is practice-based and concerned with curating as a mechanism for social inclusion, centralising Pacific ways of seeing, and exhibition making as a mode of decolonisation. She was the founding curator of Fresh Gallery Ōtara, where she produced satellite projects for ARTSPACE and Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, in addition to advising on exhibitions for Auckland Art Gallery and Auckland Museum. She was the first curator awarded the CNZ Arts Pasifika Award for Contemporary Art (2012) and recipient of the 2017 Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies Residency at the University of Canterbury.

Kulimoe’anga ‘Stone’ Maka was born in Patangata, Tonga and migrated to New Zealand in 1997 aged 26. During his studies at Manukau School of Visual Arts, he began exploring traditional Tongan mark making techniques using smoke as a medium. His ambitious and experimental painting practice has evolved into a unique form of Tongan abstraction earning him numerous accolades and acquisitions in both public and private collections. Whilst balancing the demands of parenting a young family, Maka has been working from his East Christchurch-based studio for the past decade.

The University of Canterbury (UC) Fijian Students Association was officially affiliated in 2017. There are just over 80 students of Fijian heritage currently studying at the University. The students featured in Kaitani are Akili Namuaira, Peni Apisai, Curtis Fatiaki, Josefa Tabua, Sai Saukuru, Filimoni Waqainabete, Isei Vuluma, Epeli Bogitini and Filipe Batiwale.


Special thanks to Professor Steven Ratuva, for opportunities to flex my thinking and understand wider contexts for my work. Vinaka vakalevu to Lydia Baxendell for support, tips and understanding of balancing curator life with toddler mum life. Thank you to the University of Canterbury staff who helped me feel welcome. Ofa lahi atu to the Wong famili, the Aniseko famili, and the grounding energies of Lanuola Mereia Aniseko. A big thank you to Jamie, Fiona and Hope, and the spirits of The Physics Room – it has been a privilege. 

Works List

Mafoa e ata (Dawn) (2017)
Smoke on canvas
Kulimoe’anga ‘Stone’ Maka

Vanua Domoni, Fiji Day 2017, Canterbury (2017)
University of Canterbury Fijian Students Association
Video by Ema Tavola

PIMPImanifesto (2017)
Written by Ema Tavola with support from Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake and Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai. Graphic design by Nicole Lim.

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


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

In another PIMPI #RealTalk session, a panel of locals will discuss impacts and observations of creeping gentrification in South Auckland to add voice and depth to the themes of the exhibition, #CHANGES, currently showing as part of the 2017 PIMPI Winter Series at Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery

Ōtāhuhu is changes, hard. What will our future look like? What changes bring value to our communities, and what threatens the culture and sense of place we know and love?

Meet the Panel

Sherrick Hulme

My name is Sherrick and I am the eldest of 7 siblings. I’m primarily of Sāmoan / English decent. I was born in Auckland, New Zealand. I am a recent graduate with a Bachelor of Social Practice, majoring in Community Development. I love building community and seeing individuals flourish. I love my family and I love God.

Qiane Matata-Sipu

Qiane Matata-Sipu is of Māori (Te Wai ō Hua, Waikato-Tainui, Nga Puhi, Te Arawa) and Cook Islands (Rarotonga, Mangaia) descent. She is a storyteller and social commentator using journalism, photography and activism in both her career and art practice. Proudly born, raised and schooled in Māngere, she is a staunch advocate for South Auckland and the retention of our unique culture and environments. Living in the historic papakainga of Ihumātao, Qiane has a whakapapa connection to one of the oldest Maori settlements in Aotearoa and, is a founding member of Save Our Unique Landscape, a mana-whenua led group working to stop further desecration of historic lands by urban development. Qiane has spent years documenting Pacific and Māori communities, the people and culture of Māngere and more intimately, the Ihumātao papakainga, surrounding historical landscapes and the people of Makaurau Marae.

Kenneth Tuai

My name is Kenneth Tuai, I am of Tongan descent and a local resident of Ōtāhuhu since the 1980’s. I’m a town planner by profession, previously worked as an advisor to the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board for six years and have recently moved to Auckland Transport as an Elected Member Relationship Manager. As a Ōtāhuhu local I am deeply interested in the changes taking place due in part to recent investments and its impact on the local community. As a town planner, I’m fascinated by how this fits into the ‘big picture’ of how Auckland deals with the issue of population growth. And as an amateur history buff, I’m engrossed with how we’ve learned from lessons of the past and how we support the shaping or mediating of better outcomes for current and future communities.

Join the panel in conversation with curator Ema Tavola for a strong dose of #RealTalk. Get updates on Facebook here.

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

Leilani Kake has made five digital prints for the experimental group show, The Perpetual Flux of Transitional Otherness currently on at Olly in Auckland’s Mt Eden. She explains some of the thinking around these works here…

On July 9th 1863, Governor George Grey issued a proclamation ordering all Māori living in the Manukau and areas closer to the Waikato district to recite the oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria. Any Māori who did not comply were forcibly removed and seen as colonial antagonists. Three days later on July 12th 1863, British Imperial troops, led by Lieutenant-General Duncan Cameron, crossed the Mangatawhiri River and into Kingitanga controlled lands. This was the vanguard of a government sanctioned armed attack and land grab in the guise of punitive justice. December 1863 saw the land confiscation law passed which deemed any tribal land where the owners had ‘engaged in open rebellion against Her Majesty’s authority’ to be confiscated (raupatu). In 2011, member of parliament Hone Harawira called for a change in the wording of the oath of allegiance asking for it to include or replace the reference to the Queen with the Treaty of Waitangi, believing it be more relevant to serve the people rather than the Queen.

Swallow series (2017) by Leilani Kake

My new experimental series titled Swallow reflects how, as a whole, the 1863 campaign of terror is evident in the historical and systemic discrimination that is still deeply entrenched in our government today. The symbolism of the mouth and moko kauae represents the Māori voice; my voice, re-telling New Zealand history to new audiences and questions whether or not to take the ‘prescribed medicine’ of the coloniser as this is still a bitter pill to swallow.

The Swallow series consists of five digital prints (pictured above) measuring 420x594mm. The works in the exhibition, The Perpetual Flux of Transitional Otherness are Artist Proofs from an edition of two. They are sold unframed and priced at NZ$300 each.

The exhibition is open at Olly, 537 Mount Eden Road, central Auckland, until 1 April 2017.

Want to know more? Send us a message here:


South Auckland-based photographer Emily Mafile’o is currently crowdfunding to support the costs associated with staging an impressive large scale solo exhibition at Mangere Arts Centre – Nga Tohu o Uenuku due to open next month. I’ve made a small donation and want to encourage everyone to consider supporting this great project. I got in touch with Emily to find out more…

Emily, I can’t believe we’ve known each other for 15 years! In that time we have both seen lots of change and growth… I’m still fighting for the cause but I’ve learned a lot along the way from the wars I waged in my fiery twenties! And you have consistently, and quietly, been documenting and producing series upon series of photographic work about the Tongan space, famili and cultural connectedness. Thinking back, it has been a real privilege to see your practice evolve. Have there been key events or shifts in your thinking that have inspired you to keep making? 

Malo ‘aupito. It has been a journey of ups and downs, but my love for documenting my people has kept me going. I believe a key event for me was when I finally became comfortable / secure with who I am, my cultural identity, and I have my photography to thank for that. It allowed me to find this space / va, place.

I also need to acknowledge my sister Vea. She is the person who has kept pushing me over the years, especially when I would question my practice or I didn’t think I had the right or ability to keep going.

It is important to me that we take responsibility in documenting our own culture, it is also important for me to keep fighting for photography in Contemporary Tongan Art.

On a more intimate thought and one that is a pure passion, the documentation of my people who are often not valued in being documented. My people behind the scenes or who are brushed under the fala. My people who choose to live outside of what it is considered to be the ‘norm’ in Tongan culture.

It’s the celebration of what it is to be a Tongan in 2017. The many different people that make up the Tongan culture.

I’m so excited to see the work in your upcoming exhibition, Tonga’s Strength-Hold Is Its Heart opening at Mangere Arts Centre next month. I worked with my Dad last year on an exhibition project that took me back to our village for the first time in 10 years and it was the most personal, most meaningful project I’ve ever produced. Like so many of your projects, I had the opportunity to work with my sister and involve our children and it really felt like my creative practice was playing a role in bringing the family together and creating an archive of our past, present, and future. What was it like working with your Dad on this project?

My Dad, Saia Mafile’o is someone in my life who I find interesting, frustrating, adore and at times totally crazy, but I love him dearly. Vea and I are extremely lucky with our famili and their support with our creative projects. My famili and Dad are all used to either Vea or I having a camera with us. This trip to Tonga with our father, which included all of my immediate siblings and our children was the first time in many years we had all stayed under one roof with him. It was extremely precious. It was also crazy as Vea was also filming her documentary Paper Run on Dad too. It was filled with lots of bittersweet moments for our famili.

It should also be pointed out that my Mother and my Step Dad Robert also go to great lengths to support us with our creative practices, we are extremely lucky.

A solo show is a lot of work – congratulations on harnessing the energy, inspiration and drive to take up the opportunity! We’ve talked about the sacrifices that artists often make to manifest their ideas, and I’ve seen you time and time again put in mad hours, invest so much personal resource and go above and beyond for your practice and those you’ve supported. How much has gone into this solo show?

Anything I work on consumes me. All my energy from the moment I decided to do the project goes into it. Writing up the project, the prep before going to Tonga, making the funds to get there and during our time in Tonga. Vea and I have always worked on several projects at a time when we are in Tonga, as it is a huge luxury, gift, opportunity and financial sacrifice to be there. So balancing out time amongst our projects and famili is extremely important. For me personally, it is also conserving my energy and making sure I use to the best of my ability due to my SLE. I have made / make personally, sacrifices over the years for my art practice in regards to how I live life, my poor son included.

The times I’ve seen Mangere Arts Centre filled with energy and life is when the community brings it; I know your exhibition will hold meaning and mana with so many local audiences here in South Auckland. What are your hopes for the show?

That it brings my Tongan people in the doors. That it makes my father, my famili and my people proud. That it shows an intimate form of contemporary Tongan photography, not the ‘normal’ documentation of an event. It is my father, my famili and my experiences at Toloa.

Thank you Emily, for your time and your work. This project holds so much meaning and mana and I want to encourage as many people as possible to consider donating to your crowdfunding campaign to support your printing costs!

Malo ‘aupito, ‘aupito Ema.

Donating is easy on the Boosted platform and every dollar counts! Check it out here…

Click here to donate!


I’ve been given the opportunity to run a series of exhibitions at Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery in Ōtāhuhu.

After this month’s successful Art Auction exhibition, the second exhibition is collection show, specifically, my own collection. It includes works that I own, that I’ve bought and been gifted, and works that have never been collected that live in limbo between showings.

In part, the work I’ve accumulated over the years gives me a lot of joy and I want to show it off and give it some air. But I’m also interested in what it represents as a snapshot of South Auckland art history. Each work is representative of a relationship, a show, a project that has happened in / because of / in honour of South Auckland.

More details coming soon.

In the meantime, check out works by Emory Douglas, Faafeu Kapeneta, Cerisse Palalagi, Sangeeta Singh, Dan Taulapapa McMullinGary Lee, Siliga David Setoga, Torika BolatagiciRaymond Sagapolutele, Niutuiatua Lemalu, Louise Stevenson, Antonio Filipo and Tanu Gago.

Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery is currently open from 7am – 3pm, Monday to Friday. It’s located at 507 Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland.


Le Malelega a le To’alau ECE in collaboration with PIMPI are excited to present a special fundraising auction of new Pacific Art at Ōtāhuhu’s Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery!

Almost 20 visual artists have generously donated artworks from photography to prints, paintings and even videography services to support the local Samoan bilingual Early Childhood Centre.

The mission of Le Malelega a le To’elau is to provide quality early childhood education learning and care for Pasifika communities using Samoan language and culture to promote their cultural identity and enhance their success in life.

Initiated by Parents’ Voice, the parents association of Le Malelega a le To’elau, funds raised will be directed towards awesome and enriching experiences for the Centre’s children and their hard working teachers!

The artworks will be displayed at the newly rebranded Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery on Great South Road in Ōtāhuhu for two weeks leading up to the Auction Night hosted by the excellent Yolande Ah Chong!

Pop in to check out the artworks and grab an excellent coffee, a cheeky treat or a great value lunch! Yum!!

  • More information on the artwork coming soon
  • Registration is now online here
  • Keep up to date with event developments on Facebook here


I wrote a response to the 2015 Summer Residency project, between wind and water, produced last year with artists Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake and Luisa Tora for Enjoy Public Art Gallery. The Third Enjoy Five Year Retrospective Catalogue is a beautifully produced, thoughtfully designed publication chartering the last five years of Enjoy’s impressive art history. Pick up a copy for NZD20 here.


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