Posts from the ‘Pacific Art + Artists’ category

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

you piss me

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
piss us

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

“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:

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.

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.

  1. Whakatūpato, Waitohu series (2017)
    Mounted digital print, edition of 2
    Qiane Matata-Sipu
  2. #BeingUsed (2017)
    Acrylic on board
    Lilia Rakoia
  3. Pacific Laundromat (2017)
    Digital print
    Konile Fusitua
  4. How to pack a plate at a Polynesian function (2017)
    Digital print on vinyl, edition of 1
    Lisiate Wolfgramm
  5. Why Lady (2017)
    Paper collage
    Ema Tavola
  6. Think not what the ghetto can do for you but feel, with your heart, what you can be of the ghetto (2017)
    Brazilian mahogany
    Sean Kerrigan
  1. Birthplace
    Acrylic on board
    Lilia Rakoia
  2. Rules of Engagement: The Personal Space (2017)
    Digital print on vinyl, edition of 1
    Lisiate Wolfgramm
  3. Hokonga, Waitohu series (2017)
    Mounted digital print, edition of 2
    Qiane Matata-Sipu
  4. 1990, 84 Madeline Ave (2017)
    Ink on metallic paper
    Manu Vaea
  5. 1991, 84 “Mad” Ave (2017)
    Ink on metallic paper
    Manu Vaea
  6. 1989, 84 “Mad” Ave (2017)
    Ink on metallic paper
    Manu Vaea
  7. 1995, 84 née “Mad” Ave (2017)
    Ink on metallic paper
    Manu Vaea
  8. How to pronounce Polynesian names (2017)
    Digital print on vinyl, edition of 1
    Lisiate Wolfgramm
  9. Sina’s Bucket (2017)
    Digital print
    Konile Fusitua
  10. Evangeline (2017)
    Digital print
    Konile Fusitua
  11. Mahi haumi, Waitohu series (2017)
    Mounted digital print, edition of 2
    Qiane Matata-Sipu

Read more about the artists and artwork here.

#CHANGES curated by Ema Tavola | 10 – 28 July 2017
Panel Discussion: #RealTalk Gentrifying South Auckland
2pm, Saturday 22 July

Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery, 507 Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland

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I wrote a short text to accompany Fāgogo, the very impressive first solo exhibition of Sāmoan lens-based artist, Pati Solomona Tyrell at ST PAUL St Gallery (8 June – 21 July 2017). For the first time, my writing was also translated into Te Reo Māori, and that makes me so happy! Pati is featured in the third #PIMPIWinterSeries exhibition, Lovers Rock opening 29 July at Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery in Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland.

Photo by Raymond Sagapolutele

Manifesting fāgogo

The theme of this year’s national Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa (Sāmoan Language Week) was Ma’au i lou ofaga. Maua’a lou fa’asinomaga – Keep your identity alive to thrive. It’s the one week in the year that Sāmoan language, culture, imagery and pride punctuate everyday life, particularly for Pacific people, those who engage with Pacific people, and in and around Pacific spaces.

Other weeks of the year, Sāmoan language and culture take their place on the margins of New Zealand society, although due to size and scale of the resident population, relatively closer to the centre than other Pacific languages and cultures. For Sāmoans, and other Pacific peoples who enjoy a dedicated national language appreciation week in New Zealand, keeping our unique, increasingly complicated, and diasporically disjointed identities alive, and thriving, is a challenge that is faced 365 days a year.

Pati Solomona Tyrell has approached the concept of fāgogo, the practice, context and content of Sāmoan fables, as the foundation of his debut solo exhibition. Through the sharing and validation of oral histories, collective belief systems and behaviours, fāgogo configures the connection between individuals to their past, and to the realm of super humans, ancestors and deities. The practice emphasises the roles and responsibilities of Sāmoans and the transmission of knowledge and knowing, to the continuum of the Sāmoan world.

We learn through repetition

In diaspora, a world where fāgogo and the transmission of indigenous knowledge are relegated to decontextualised, antiquated, mythological or academically cited practices, we learn that our past is disjointed from our present.

In diaspora, the enduring effects of cultural and spiritual colonisation take form in our health and wellbeing, our communities and perceptions of self. We learn from our collective behaviours, shaped by our environments, economics and systems of education.

In diaspora, the identities of Sāmoans and other Pacific Islanders have been mixed and mashed, chopped and screwed. We learn about being ‘enough’ and not enough, of identity as compartmentalised, as the sum and absence of parts.

In the context of mainstream New Zealand, the presence of Pacific Islanders is often barely visible. We learn repeatedly that our presence is excluded, marginalised, silenced or misunderstood. When fāgogo and practices that centralise indigenous knowledge are performed, in homes and safe spaces, in language and ritual, the continuum of indigenous knowledge unfolds, carefully, vulnerably, intentionally.

This exhibition is an intervention

It is not photographs on walls, it is more than lighting and equipment, it is not talent and direction. Fāgogo wakes up the intrinsic presence of our ancestors in our bones. Tyrell has assembled an archive of portraits that command audiences, the art world, students and educators to hear the call: it repeats – presence, visibility, pride, knowing. Presence, visibility, strength, mana. Presence, visibility, respect, talanoa.

This exhibition is an intervention.

Beyond being just sitting subjects, Tyrell’s community, representing the fullness of the spectrum of gender, sexuality and belonging, are present as collaborative, conscious partners. The moment captured amongst racial, cultural, professional and playful tensions is the act of being seen. These portraits are configured around the creation of dedicated space for the physical presence and facilitation of visibility, for talanoa and the brokering of knowledge transmission. In this, Tyrell’s rich and ambitious public programme is central to the activation of the exhibition’s thematic context.

In the current zeitgeist, the thirst for diversity and otherness in the arts is palpable; visibility of Pacific art and artists is increasingly evident in programming for public galleries and museums. New territories have formed where negotiated power and presence also expose the systemic inequalities and neglect that diverse artists and audiences have historically experienced. But this exhibition and its consciously crafted facilitation of presence is an oasis of glorious brown self-love, a safe space, a fully charged dreamscape of power and presence, a proud portal to motherlands, other lands and Pulotu.

Ema Tavola
May 2017

Te Reo Māori translation by Stephanie Huriana Fong

He whakatinana i te fāgogo

Ko te kaupapa o Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa (Te Wiki o te Reo Hāmoa) ā-motu i tēnei tau ko Ma’au i lou ofaga. Maua’a lou fa’asinomaga – Kia ora tō tuakiri e ora nui ai koe. Koinei te wiki kotahi i te tau e whai wāhi nui ai ki ngā mahi o ia rā, ko te reo, ko te ahurea, ko ngā tohu Hāmoa hoki, tae atu rā anō ki te tū whakahī hei Hāmoa. He pēnei pū mā ngā uri o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, mā te hunga mahi tahi ki ngā uri nei, ā, tae atu anō ki ngā wāhi e noho nei hei wāhi motuhake ki ngā uri o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa.

I wiki kē atu o te tau, ka whai wāhi noa te reo me te ahurea o Hāmoa ki ngā tahataha o te porihanga o Aotearoa, heoi anō, nā runga i te rahi me te whānui o te horapa o ngā uri Hāmoa kei konei e noho ana, he kaha ake te rangona, tērā i ētahi atu reo, ahurea hoki o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. Ki ngā uri o Hāmoa, ki ngā uri o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa kē atu kua whai i tētahi wiki motuhake i Aotearoa hei whakanui i ō rātou reo, he wero nui te whai kia ora, otirā, kia ora nui ai ō tātou tuakiri motuhake, matatini, nakunaku anō, ā, he wero e rangona ana i ia rā o ia tau.

Kua whakatau a Pati Solomona Tyrell, ko te kaupapa o te fāgogo, arā, ko ngā tikanga, ko te horopaki, ko te kiko anō o ngā pūrākau Hāmoa, hei tūāpapa mō tana whakakitenga takitahi tuatahi rawa. Mā te tuku me te whakamana i ngā tāhuhu kōrero ā-waha, i ngā whakapono me ngā whanonga ā-iwi, ka hua i te fāgogo he hononga i waenga i te tangata me tōna nanahi, otirā, me te wāhi ngaro, arā, te wāhi e tau nei ngā tipua, ngā tūpuna me ngā atua anō. Ka whakaūngia e te tikanga nei te mana nui o ngā tūnga me ngā kawenga o te Hāmoa, o te tukuhanga o te mātauranga me te mōhio anō, ki te oranga tonutanga o te ao Hāmoa.

Mā te tōai tātou e ako ai

I te ao e noho wewehe nei ngā uri i ō rātou kāinga tūturu, he ao e whakaitihia ai te fāgogo me te tukuhanga o ngā mātauranga taketake hei tikanga horopaki-kore, hei mea hanga tawhito noa, hei pakiwaitara waihanga noa, hei tikanga kōrero mā te hunga pūmātauranga noa, ka ako tātou, kāore he hononga i waenga i tō tātou nanahi me tō tātou nāianei.

I te ao e noho wewehe nei ngā uri i ō rātou kāinga tūturu, ka kitea ngā hua auroa o te tāmitanga ā-ahurea, ā-wairua anō ki tō tātou hauora, ki ō tātou hapori, ki ō tātou tirohanga ki a tātou anō. Ka ako tātou i ā tātou whanonga ā-iwi, he mea auaha e ō tātou taiao, e ngā tikanga ōhanga, e ngā pūnaha mātauranga hoki.

I te ao e noho wewehe nei ngā uri i ō rātou kāinga tūturu, ko te tuakiri o te Hāmoa me uri kē o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa kua whakahanumitia, kua kopenua, kua wāhia, kua kōwiria. Ka ako tātou mō te ‘nawhe’ me te kore rānei i nawhe, ka ako anō mō te tuakiri hei mea e taea ana te wehewehe ki ētahi wāhanga motuhake, hei tapeke, hei mea tatau.

I te horopaki o Aotearoa auraki, he nui tonu ngā wā me uaua ka rangona te awenga o ngā uri o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. Hoki atu, hoki atu tātou e ako ana, ko tō tātou mana ka mahue, ka takahia, ka whakangūtia, ka pōhēhētia rānei. Ka whakatinanatia ana te fāgogo me ētahi atu tikanga e whakamana ana i ngā mātauranga taketake, ki roto i ngā kāinga me ngā wāhi haumaru, i roto i te reo, e ai anō ki ngā kawa, ka tukuna tonutia te mātauranga taketake i runga i te whakatonu, i te whakaraerae, i te takune anō.

He whakataunga tēnei whakakitenga

Ehara noa i te whakaahua ki runga pakitara, i ngā rama me ngā taputapu, i ngā pūkenga me ngā tohutohu. Ko tā te fāgogo he whakaoreore i te mana o ō tātou tūpuna kei ō tātou iwi tonu e tau ana. Kua whakaemihia e Tyrell he kohinga whakaahua e whakahau nei i te whakaminenga, i te ao toi, i te ākonga, i te kaiako anō, kia rangona ai te karanga: ka tōaitia – te awenga, te kitenga, te whakahī, te mātau.
Te awenga, te kitenga, te kaha, te mana.
Te awenga, te kitenga, te whakaute, te talanoa.

He whakataunga tēnei whakakitenga

I tua noa i te noho hei kaupapa whakaahua, ko te hapori o Tyrell, he mea whakatinana i te whānuitanga o ngā momo ira tangata, o te hōkakatanga me te whai wāhitanga, kua whai tūranga hei hoa mahi ngātahi, mōhio anō. Ko te wā i kapohia ake i waenga i ētahi whakatete ā-kiri, ā-ahurea, ahakoa ngaio mai, ngahau mai anō, ko te kitenga tonu. Kua whakaaturia ēnei whakaahua e ai ki te whakaritenga o tētahi wāhi motuhake e whakatinanatia ai, e ākina anō ai te kitenga, te talanoa, otirā, te tukuhanga o te mātauranga. Nā runga i tēnei, ko te hōtaka tūmatanui rangatira, awhero nui anō a Tyrell kei te matū o te whakatinanatanga o te kaupapa matua o tēnei whakakitenga.

E ai ki te hā o te wā nei, e kaha rangona ana te hiakai nui ki tēnei mea ki te kanorau, ki te rerekē anō i te ao toi; e kaha haere ana te kitea o ngā toi me ngā ringatoi o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa ki ngā hōtaka a ngā whare toi me ngā whare pupuri taonga. Kua hua ake he taumata hou, ki reira huraina ai e ngā whiriwhiringa mana ngā pēhitanga me ngā whakahapatanga kua rangona e ngā ringatoi me ngā whakaminenga kanorau i mua. Heoi anō, ko tēnei whakakitenga, me te āhua i āta whakaritea ai te awenga me te mana, e noho nei hei āhuru mōwai e whakanui nei, e whakamana nei i te kiri parauri, he wāhi haumaru, he whenua moemoeā e rangona ai te mana me te awenga, otirā, he ara whakahī ki te kāinga tūturu, ki whenua kē, ki Pulotu rā anō.

Ema Tavola
Haratua 2017

Photo courtesy of

This Saturday is the first public programme event of the PIMPI Winter Series – a night of speed networking! To mark the occasion and honour the first exhibition, Hello, my name is Vinesh, exhibiting artist Vinesh Kumaran is giving away a customised portraiture session for one lucky networker! 

This inaugural event will loosely use the format of speed networking. It responds to a need for more spaces and opportunities for Pacific artists working entrepreneurially to meet, share and inspire each other to build a community of Pacific creative entrepreneurial practice.

Those in attendance at Hello, my name is: Speed Networking Night can drop their business card in the tanoa to go into the draw to win the opportunity to develop and shoot a special customised portrait with Vinesh free of charge, and example of which can be seen above. Vinesh made this portrait of Tu’itupou Aniseko at his home in Ellerslie; for more examples of Vinesh’s portraiture work, check out

WHAT: Hello, my name is: Speed Networking Night
WHEN: 6pm, Saturday 1 July 2017
WHERE: Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery, 507 Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland

This event is part of the PIMPI Winter Series, produced with support from the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board.

The first exhibition of the 2017 PIMPI Winter SeriesHello, my name is Vinesh opened at Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery on Saturday 17 June. Photos were taken by Gopal Aupouri and Julia Mage’au Gray – thank you! The public programme event for this exhibition is a speed networking night, South Auckland stylee – it’s on Saturday 1 July, mor details coming soon!


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The 2017 Pacific Dance Festival launched last night in Māngere, South Auckland with a showcase of new and recent works by five women choreographers, Ojeya Cruz Banks (Guam), Tepaeru-Ariki Lulu French (Cook Islands), Julia Mage’au Gray (Papua New Guinea), Losalio Milika Pusiaki (Tonga) and Tia Sagapolutele (Sāmoa). 

The poster, featuring an image by Julia Mage’au Gray, who features in the upcoming PIMPI Winter Series exhibition, Lovers Rock, reflects the refreshing regional diversity of this year’s programme. This image of the unique storied markings of Papua New Guinea tattoo on curving brown skin, juxtaposed against concrete and right-angles, is part of Mage’au Gray’s series, Mela out of context, made in response to her recent relocation from Darwin, Australia to Auckland.

The photographic element of Mage’au Gray’s practice was further explored in her choreographic work in the programme, Found Words. As a solo dance work, Mage’au Gray herself performed in response and harmony with a video projection of powerful stop-motion performances, and a moving audio track featuring the late, Dr Teresia Teaiwa reading her poetry, including her iconic, Fear of an Estuary…

Fear of an Estuary
By Teresia Teaiwa

I think I know what a coconut feels like after floating for so long in salt water
And suddenly entering an estuary
This sinking feeling I’m feeling it again
This sinking, sinking feeling

Have you ever heard of a coconut drowning?
I am afraid of estuaries
Somewhere told me they are rich feeding grounds for sharks
I’m not afraid of sharks
I am afraid of estuaries
If I were a coconut I would not want the ocean to meet a river
If I were a coconut you would be salt water
In calm or storm I could always float with you breathe in you until you met fresh water
And then I would sink, sink, sink

If I were a coconut and you were salt water
I would sink, sink, sink when you met fresh water
I would sink, sink, sink

But the wise one said I will not drown

© Teresia Teiawa

The voice and presence of Teresia Teaiwa, who passed away suddenly and tragically earlier this year, was triggering of so many tears. I was left reflecting again on the deep impact Teresia made on the writing and thinking about Oceania and what a privilege it was to know her. I was left with salty tears, and Teresia’s words – We sweat and cry salt water, so we know that the ocean is really in our blood (Teresia Teaiwa, As quoted in Hauʻofa, Epeli. We are the Ocean: Selected Works. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2008).

The large scale projection screen at Māngere Arts Centre was ideal to experience Ojeya Cruz Banks‘ short dance film, Tåno’ shot on location in Guåhan/Guam. Her words, representing a Chamorro and Micronesian perspective, and the solo dancer’s arching body in crackling, shady vegetation, with a tar seal highway and the ocean in the background, shot almost as if from the point of view of the forest, made this work mesmerising to watch.

Tai Akaki by Tepaeru-Ariki Lulu French evoked the ocean in beautiful, waves of movement and rhythm, deep hues of blue in lighting and textures. The work spoke to the urgency of rising sea levels and the connectedness of our Islands with a pan-Oceania vocabulary of movement.

Photo courtesy of Raymond Sagapolutele

Tia Sagapolutele’s work, Ave was a force! Part Parris Goebelesque fierceness blended with the grace, awareness and sometimes awkardness of negotiating Sāmoan culture, its practices, stories and boundaries. An energising, heart thumping mash-up of siva Sāmoa, voguing, badass formations and brown girl magic!

Photo courtesy of Raymond Sagapolutele

The final performance of the night was a Tongan extravaganza! Choreographer, Losalio Milika Pusiaki, bought an intergenerational, feast of epic whole-community proportions! I loved it! All colour, no compromise on the length and presence of each component of the story. The men danced, the women danced, the children danced; the costumes from hair comb to ankle ornamentation were exquisite. There is no doubt, Tongans don’t do things by halves. I felt so close to this work, seeing traces of the relationship between Fiji and Tonga, in movement and regalia, in its truth and connectedness between past, present and future.

Photo courtesy of Raymond Sagapolutele

Thank you to Pacific Dance New Zealand; this opening night was uplifting, inspiring and moving. I’m not someone who engages much in the world of dance, but having this festival here in Manukau, South Auckland, and being able to support and share space with these brave creatives, dancers, storytellers and musicians, it means a lot.

Vinaka vakalevu!

Don’t miss out – tickets still available here!

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