Posts from the ‘Talks and Workshops’ category

I’m currently at Heritage Deferred? Colonialism’s Past and Present, an international symposium delivered by the Goethe-Institut and Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz at Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. I spoke this evening on a panel alongside the excellent Chika Okeke-Agulu and Barbara Plankensteiner in response to a wonderful provocation by Okwui Enwezor.

I took the opportunity to respond to the symposium’s theme by speaking about the Fijian female tattoo revival in a way that felt comfortably right in this setting. Here’s what I delivered:

Ni sa bula vinaka. Thank you for this opportunity to be here.

My name is Ema Tavola; I am a curator and work in the spaces between Museums and academia, audiences and artists. I usually find myself in the position of being a mediator between communities of expectation. This territory can be rough terrain.

I don’t arrive at this event with a doctorate or much internal experience from the museum world. But I want to share a story, from the source. To use my time to talk story, to talanoa – our indigenous format of dialogue.

I have dreamt about tattoos since I was a child and when I was 18, I started tattooing my body. I used to be a bit embarrassed about my first tattoo, but it was the end of the 1990s and it was in the small of my back. I was living in between Fiji and New Zealand, and New Zealand’s cultural renaissance had inspired a boom in the culture and discourse around indigenous tattoo.

Fiji’s tattoo culture was something I first encountered at Fiji Museum. Like much of the Museum’s content, objects and displays represented the past; things disconnected from our modern day realities. The description of heavily inked loins, markings on the face and arms, back and chest, all sounded otherworldly. There was no photographic evidence, and illustrations of two young girls in short liku (skirts) with marked skin, almost felt fictional. Tattoo wasn’t something that was part of my upbringing as a Fijian.

Moving to New Zealand, my mother’s motherland, to pursue tertiary education in the early 2000s removed me from my known context, and my body of tattoos continued to grow. At first, I committed to the discipline of just one tattoo a year. During art school I uncovered more information about Fiji’s tattoo practice, and as my feminism started to take form in my writing and art, the Fijian practice of female tattooing continued to fascinate me.

I remember reading an article in the Journal of Fashion Theory during those art school years, about how a tattoo is what sits between me and you; a deeply political act particularly when worn on subjugated bodies. As a mixed race, diasporically disjointed Fijian living in Auckland, perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, tattooing my skin became a powerful language to define my own body, my position and what sustained and supported my identity; a way for me to control the conversation.

Until I met Julia Mage’au Gray, I had only been tattooed by men. Gray is a Papua New Guinean-Australian tattoo practitioner from Mekeo, Central Province. She started tattooing after making a documentary about tattoo in Mekeo; the project became a research journey which took her across the Pacific, talking tattoo to wearers, makers, historians and commentators. I was interviewed by Julia in 2012 for her documentary, Tep Tok, and she started tattooing me in 2014.

As Melanesian women, the conversations with Julia about the feminine nature of tattoo culture across our region, started to breathe life into my curiosity about Fijian female tattoo. In 2015/16, I co-curated The Veiqia Project with Fijian archaeologist Dr Tarisi Vunidilo, leading a creative research process with five Fijian women artists using archives, collections and collective learning to inspire a body of new work for an exhibition.

That project started a conversation in Fiji about our historical female tattoo practice. The exhibition project was delivered in New Zealand, and the artists involved all live in diaspora. Whilst the second iteration of the project returned to Fiji Museum, the nature of exhibition creation and arts appreciation in New Zealand and Fiji are not underpinned by mutually transferable value systems. Museums and galleries still serve a ‘community of taste’ and whilst social inclusion and audience diversification is a hot topic, these spaces are still not accessible, safe spaces for the majority of Fijian and wider Pacific Islander audiences.

Instead of continuing my association with The Veiqia Project, I continued working with Julia, talking about how to wake up the practice of female tattooing amongst Fijian women. It wasn’t through art exhibitions, workshops in art centres, or papers at symposia; it was in practice. Talking about our marks, wearing our marks, talking to people about our marks; this is what revival looks like. It was happening slowly as Julia was approached again and again by Fijian women keen to be marked in Julia’s special visual vocabulary informed by the tattoo practices that link Fiji to the Melanesian world. Social media’s ability to enable connections and storytelling across the world has been critical in our revival.

After starting the process of being marked myself, first on the back, on the arms and thigh, I took the step of marking my face in 2017. Having decided to reverse migrate from New Zealand to Fiji at the end of that year, Julia suggested to me that it was time to finish the set and tattoo my loins. I had never considered going all the way, because the nature of working with a male tattooist on such intimate areas would have broken too many taboos.

With so little visual and descriptive evidence of Fijian tattoo practice, and having been deemed so thoroughly heathen by early missionaries, the idea of our indigenous practice had just about disappeared from cultural memory. This year, Julia tattooed my loins and I shared the process with filmmaker, Lisa Taouma for her documentary, Marks of Mana. I shared and continue to share photographs of the process and the finished work, because our revival will not happen if information is gate kept. My body is clothed in the marks that connect me to not only a process of cultural revival, but to an act of conscious decolonisation, in body and mind.

The largest collection of Fijian tattoo tools sits at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University Cambridge in the UK. Earlier this month I visited them with Julia. We made arrangements with Dr Karen Jacobs, and the Museum welcomed us in the way that British people do. We accepted that at no point did they ask about who we were, where we were from or why we were there. We accepted that we were simply ‘source community’ people, interested in things from our past.

I was overcome with emotion seeing our tools. I have been involved in the dialogue about tattooing our bodies as Melanesian women for most of my adult life. Whilst I’ve seen similar tools at Auckland Museum and Fiji Museum, seeing these tools, so far from home, lonely, cold, I was filled with sadness and anger.

Our tattoo practices have been rendered invisible through the process of colonisation. When missionaries told our women to cover their skin, our bodies became invisible, neglectfully excluded from the written histories of our existence. Gradually, women stopped marking their bodies. The generational impact of this erasure is that the cultural memory of our tattoo practice has almost entirely disappeared.

Our revival of Fijian tattoo is now dependent on practice. Through Julia Mage’au Gray’s tattoo work, Fijian women are waking up the memories of our bodies. Marking our skin is the act of reinscribing the importance of our bodies, a sovereignty that colonialism erased.

Without cultural memory, the tools of our practice become tangible anchors; they have such incredible value to us as Fijian women, and in my humble opinion, should be returned to us.

Repatriation is not something I have much scholarly knowledge of. But I wanted to share this experience, as a necessarily autoethnographic insight. It is expensive and emotionally taxing to visit our cultural heritage in colonial institutions. It is offensive that the social protocols around our objects are still determined by colonial norms.

Empowering women and girls, empowers communities. Learning about a practice that was dominated by women – only women marked, and only women and girls wore the marks – has transformative implications. The process is a healing, decolonising act.

Colonial institutions have done their job. To some extent, those early accounts, despite being at times troubling to read, are what has aided the recovery of our indigenous knowledge. For this, there is gratitude. But the process now is to remove the barriers, and enable indigenous communities to benefit from the cultural heritage which has been borrowed from them.


Tomorrow I’m speaking on a panel entitled, Materialities, Colonial and Post-Colonial Narratives alongside Richard Drayton (Rhodes Professor of Imperial History, King’s College, London, UK), Nydia Gutierrez (Chief Curator, Museo de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia), Chika Okeke-Agulu (Professor of African and African Diaspora Art, Princeton University, Princeton, USA), moderated by Eva Bentcheva (Goethe-Institut Fellow at Haus der Kunst, Munich).

I’m live tweeting from this event too – tune in @colourmefiji


#RealTalk- safe space best practice (5)

I was invited to create an event for Artspace’s AMOR MUNDI conversation series and took the opportunity to present a panel discussion with three of my peers who work hard every day creating platforms, channels and space for diverse indigenous communities to participate in the arts. I was able to also locate the event not in central Auckland, but closer to home in South Auckland.

#RealTalk: Safe Space / Best Practice seeks to unpack the notion of safe space within the context of curating and programming arts and culture in Aotearoa. The panel draw on experience working at the interface of institutions and communities, navigating the tectonic plates of cultural difference and the tricky terrain of social inclusion.

At the heart of Kolokesa U. Māhina-Tuai’s curatorial practice is her strong foundation of Tongan indigenous knowledge and practice. This gives her a unique understanding and appreciation of the depth and breadth of Moana Pacific arts when applied through their own respective lenses, and informs her relationships and collaborations with artists from different island nations. From museums and galleries to grassroots community organisations, and through exhibitions, events, commissioned works, conferences and publications, Kolokesa champions the importance of a holistic and cyclical perspective of Moana Pacific arts that is rooted in indigenous knowledges and practices. She currently works as Project Curator Pacific at Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Leilani Kake (Ngā Puhi, Tainui, Manihiki, Rakahanga) is an artist and educator. She holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts and Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Arts from the Faculty of Creative Arts, Manukau Institute of Technology, and a Master of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland. Leilani’s arts practice is rooted within New Zealand and Cook Island Māori ideology, speaking to the universal human condition of identity, culture, tradition and change through deeply visceral personal stories. She currently works as Gallery Coordinator at Papakura Art Gallery, a community arts facility in South Auckland.

Tanu Gago is an artist, photographer, producer and queer activist currently working as the community engagement coordinator Pacific for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation working in HIV prevention. He is a founding member of the Love Life Fono Charitable Trust set up to drive community-led social development for Rainbow Pacific communities. Tanu is also the creative director of the FAFSWAG Arts Collective.

Our event is being held this Saturday 13 May from 2pm at the old Ōtāhuhu Library, a mixed use community facility located at 12-16 High Street.


The venue has been offered to us by the current tenants, Ōtāhuhu-Māngere Youth Group, who have worked hard to create a safe space for local young people. Post-event refreshments are provided by Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery, site for the upcoming PIMPI Winter Series!

#RealTalk: Safe Space / Best Practice endeavours to be family friendly event, childrens’ activities will be provided and parents room facilities are available.

This event has been made possible with the support from Artspace, Ōtāhuhu Māngere Youth Group and Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery.

100% free, all welcome!

I was privileged to be invited to speak briefly at the opening of Taku Tāmaki – Auckland Stories South at MIT Manukau yesterday. This awesome little exhibition is open for the next year and I love it! Check it out next time you’re in South Auckland. My korero went a bit like this:

I want to acknowledge the speakers who have come before me, it’s my privilege to be standing up here as a local, an artist, and a proud resident of Ōtara-Papatoetoe, South Auckland.

A blog post about the voice and involvement of ‘source communities’ in the curation and management of objects and stories from indigenous peoples has stirred up anger and outrage, sadness and frustration in the past week. Tiffany Jenkins’ polarising perspective has inspired broad commentary about authorship, ownership, racism and privilege which is too often found just below the surface in the international Museum space.

I want to acknowledge Simon and Kelly, Kolokesa and Amiria, an inspiring team of conscious and caring professionals who represent a new era of Museum practice. Bringing this show to us here in Manukau shifts the focus, it re-aligns the centre… an act that quietly changes the game of Museum practice in Aotearoa. Thank you.

It was my privilege to be consulted in the development of this important exhibition. I want to thank the team for listening, accommodating for me and my toddler, taking time to hear and appreciate the nuances of living and working, and feeling proud of being a South Aucklander.

I want to acknowledge the whole team who has created this exhibition – I know that time and energy has gone into every aspect of what we see here, your consideration and attention to detail, your skill and expertise, elevates our stories and I’m grateful for your efforts.

I wanted to acknowledge too that… I’m here on purpose. I choose to live here. This is my place to stand, not by accident, but by informed choice. I migrated to Manukau, not to New Zealand, or Auckland, to this place, and I’m still here because this place gives me life, it settles me, reminds me where I came from and where I can go.

I love feeling so close to the Pacific, I loved being a student and later working at an institution which prides itself on raising the bar of Pasifika achievement. Pacific people feel at home in Manukau because we see ourselves, our norms, our culture and languages represented in our environments. And that helps.

It makes all the difference when our stories and experiences are celebrated, not for overcoming adversity, but for making massive strives for our communities on national and international levels.

I appreciate that this exhibition highlights the socio-economic, political and historical forces that shape our lives here in Manukau. These factors affect and inspire so much of the vibrant culture of creative expression, of visual and performing arts, of music and spoken word that are proudly coming out of our art centres, our churches, homes, halls and neighbourhoods.

I learned my craft as a curator here at MIT; I learned to appreciate the value of creativity and the value of my position, my space, my voice and context. MIT opened doors to me I hadn’t even considered, and I’m incredibly proud to take this institution with me wherever I go.

Although I now find myself working outside of the Arts, Manukau reminds me every day that art is a vehicle to talk about people, and culture and belonging, and when those things are in the foreground, when those stories and nuances are heard, reflected and honoured, a community thrives, and that’s where I want to be.

A last acknowledgement; to Vinesh Kumaran, the photographer, creative visionary whose talent I’ve been privileged to feed off for the past decade – thank you. And to my colleagues from Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura – I’m on a new journey of service and celebration with you, for the love of South Auckland, thank you for your support.

Vinaka vakalevu, fa’afetai tele lava, malo ‘aupito.

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The Veiqia Project Fiji Museum event, 19 Sept


Event Enquiries

Tanu Gago’s new work for Between Wind and Water is a follow-up from his 2010 three-channel video installation, YOU LOVE MY FRESH, a work developed for the Manukau Festival of Arts first shown at Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts in Pakuranga, East Auckland.

Since 2011, Tanu has worked predominantly in photography but his kaupapa has always been to acknowledge, represent and celebrate the unique positions and shared experience of his communities in South Auckland. Making photographs that reclaim the gaze, his work and the projects that have emanated from his practice, give voice, presence and mana to people, places and spaces that are generally otherwise unrepresented in New Zealand mainstream media and art history.

Five years on, The Sound of the Ocean is the sequel to YOU LOVE MY FRESH. An uncomfortable historical reminder of embedded colonialism and media power, stereotypes and expectations that still linger in coded interactions with critics and academics, curators and haters.

Concerned with authorship and representation, past and present, this work remixes found footage from the Internet with Google imagery of Pacific peoples history in New Zealand. The Idea is to re-author the past decade of Pacific media representation, using my own Pacific lens and perspective to tell my own story.

This is the informal Pacific history according to me.

Here’s a taste:

The full three part video work has been created for Between Wind and Water; Tanu will discuss his work and ideas at an Artist Talk on Thursday 22 January at Enjoy Public Art Gallery – all welcome!


Artist Talk: Tanu Gago
5.30pm, Thursday 22 January

The residency of Between Wind and Water artists will take place from 10-24 January 2015; the exhibition will be on show until 31 January.


Enjoy Public Art Gallery is located on the First Floor, 147 Cuba Street, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand.

 Between Wind and Water has been produced with support from

BWAW sponsors1


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I was invited to speak at the 40th Pecha Kucha Night in Auckland last week, an acknowledgement of six years of collaboration with Pecha Kucha Night New Zealand founder, Luka Hinse.

In 2008, I was part of the first Pecha Kucha Night in South Auckland, presented as part of the Manukau Festival of Arts. I went on to curate and contribute to four more excellent Southside events at Metro Theatre, Mangere Arts Centre and a very special outdoor event in the Otara Community Courtyard in 2011. I’ve loved being involved with this inspiring event format (20 images x 20 seconds), Luka’s vision and his deep respect for South Auckland.

My presentation last week was entitled, Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies. I wanted to speak about some current projects and the idea of community. Here’s how it went down…

01The title of my presentation is a reference to a line in a Tupac song… Real eyes, realize, real lies. This is a self portrait I did on one of the days that I listened to Tupac all day. When I realised that none of my friends appreciated Tupac the way I did growing up, I realised I needed new friends. His political and social commentary has influenced me for almost 20 years.


I used manage a community art gallery in South Auckland called Fresh Gallery Otara. Otara is a community I’ve lived in and around for the past 12 years; it’s a home away from home, a piece of the Pacific once removed. This was one of my favourite gatherings welcoming Emory Douglas of the Black Panther movement, to South Auckland in 2009. He returned last year to exhibit at the Gallery, but Fresh now is not what is used to be.

03I’m part of an collective called Oceania Interrupted, which was established by a very dynamic and passionate primary school teacher called Leilani Salesa. She initially called together Māori and Pacific women to participate in an artistic intervention to raise awareness for the plight of West Papua.

In a performance called, “Rise of the Morning Star” the West Papuan flag was raised 15 times at traffic intersections on Auckland’s Queen Street on West Papuan Independence Day, December 1st.


The number 15 is symbolic in reference to the high profile case of political prisoner of Filep Karma, who was sentenced to 15 in jail for raising the West Papuan flag. The plan became to do 15 interventions or Actions in and around Auckland and South Auckland to raise awareness and create discussion around West Papua, freedom and what can be done as New Zealanders.

Action 2 took place at the Otara Market in December 2013.

05 Auckland’s Pasifika Festival was an ideal space to create visibility for the plight of Pacific people using Pacific bodies. This was Action 3 entitled, “Free Pasifika – Free West Papua”. 14 women with bare feet and bound hands, dressed in black lavalava adorned their faces with the Morning Star flag and marched silently from village to village.

06Oceania Interrupted draws women together in different capacities – there are those who put their bodies on the front line, to perform and confront; those who hand out fliers and talk to the staring public, and those who work quietly behind the scenes. A project to make an Oceania Interrupted T-shirt was undertaken by MIT Faculty of Creative Arts student, Katarina Katoa.

???????????????????????????????With support from the Faculty’s print department, the t-shirt was designed and produced in Otara with funds committed by other women in the collective. The sale of Katarina’s T-shirts support Oceania Interrupted’s future actions and can be purchased from

This project was made possible with the excellent support of Steve Lovett, one of the most passionate and supportive lecturers I’ve had the privilege to learn from and work with.

08 In a shift from performance-based interventions, Action 4 took the form of a video that invited women to interview people in their lives about freedom, visibility of Pacific issues and West Papua. 10 women participated contributing in excess of 24 individual interviews. Woven together with footage of past actions, the video was launched at a gathering on World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd at Fresh Gallery Otara.

09In essence, Oceania Interrupted strives to bring West Papua into the consciousness of the communities that surround us as Māori and Pacific women in Aotearoa. Our freedom is inextricably bound up with that of our Pacific West Papuan brothers and sisters.

Our next Action is on August 9, International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. Find us on Facebook for updates!

10I teach a paper at MIT Faculty of Creative Arts called Pacific Art Histories: An Eccentric View. It’s the evolution of a paper first developed for the Institute by Albert Refiti and the late, great Jim Vivieaere. Jim’s legacy plays heavy on my mind in this important role. I’m proud that Pacific art and culture has been discussed openly and thoroughly at MIT for the past 13 years.

???????????????????????????????My current class are almost midway through their degree studies; Pacific Art Histories is now a mandatory theory paper in year 2. The course covers topics including: misrepresentation and colonisation, gender and sexuality, curating, tattoo, online Pacific identities and global Pacific experience, hip hop and empowerment, diaspora problems and creative entrepreneurship.

12That last photo was taken with Fijian artist and activist, Luisa Tora; she produced a poster project for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia last month and discussed her curatorial process, personal position and politics with the class. Other speakers have included Samoan comic book artist and pro-wrestler Michel Mulipola and Tongan art historian and tattooist, Stan Lolohea.

13A photographer I’ve worked with for the past 8 years is Vinesh Kumaran. He works as a commercial photographer and is passionate about portraiture; I’ve loved seeing his personal work develop over the years. This series entitled, “Open All Hours” documents dairy owners across the Auckland region; it’s inspired by Vinesh’s own history of working in his family’s dairy in Mangere Bridge. This is one of my favourite works from the series.

14Tu’itupou Aniseko is my partner’s father; he’s a stoic man, a proud Tongan. Vinesh was working on a series documenting Pacific people in their home environments, and Tu’i accepted the request to be photographed. He stood motionless mostly and then, broke out into Tongan dance.

He said of this photo, that this is the one he would want at his funeral – this is the way he wanted people to remember him.

15Vinesh and I have collaborated on a portraiture series at the annual ASB Polyfest in South Auckland since 2009. We’ve set up a make-shift photography studio in a marquee and selected interesting and charismatic individuals to create series focused on style, hair and attitude. This year’s series, commissioned by MIT, was called “Portrait of a Generation”. This is John, he’s Tuvaluan, from Massey.

16What we aimed to do with the portraits we made at Polyfest was centralise the subject. That the image and the moment between the subject and the lens represents all that they are, their ancestors and their mana. There was no parallel agenda, no profit; I’m interested in the act of photography as empowerment… my people are not props.

17The last series we made at Polyfest created an opportunity for three Visual Arts students to assist on the project. They got insights into project management, client liaison and dynamics, photographing members of the public and explaining release forms. Their input in scouting for subjects created another dimension to this body of work that Vinesh and I really enjoyed.

18One of those students is Pati Solomona Tyrell, who featured in Samoan photographer, Tanu Gago’s 2012 series, “Avanoa o Tama”. Pati is Tanu’s partner in life and art. This work was first shown at Fresh Gallery Otara, went on to be shown at Auckland Art Gallery and later featured on the front cover of Art New Zealand. Tanu is another South Auckland artist I love and have had the privilege of working with.

19Tanu was awarded this year’s Auckland Festival of Photography Sacred Hill Annual Commission and his new series, “Tama’ita’i Pasifika Mao’i” opened last night at Silo 6. I love that Tanu talks about ‘creating a universe of Pacific identity’ from his unique position in South Auckland. Of this work, he explains the idea of capturing the exhaustion of performing culture for the dominant gaze.

20Of all the ideas of I’ve just mentioned concerning culture, community, caring, of action and accountability… this is an exhibition that sums it up for me. Kolose: The Art of Tuvalu Crochet is currently on at Mangere Arts Centre. In my humble opinion, it is the best exhibition that has ever been presented there; a massive congratulations to Fafine Niutao i Aotearoa and curators Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai and Marama Papau!

It is a Southside must see!


I STAND WITH YOU is a project developed by Luisa Tora, a third year Visual Arts student at Manukau Institute of Technology Faculty of Creative Arts in Otara, South Auckland.

Marking International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), the project features 13 artworks produced as posters for display at both the Faculty of Creative Arts and in a pop-up exhibition at Fresh Gallery Otara from 12-17 May, 2014.

I’m pleased to have partnered on this important project along with the Faculty of Creative Arts, Fresh Gallery Otara and FAF SWAG. The artists involved have produced an excellent body of work; they represent students, staff, alumni and friends of the Faculty of Creative Arts, each with a unique relationship to South Auckland.

I’ll be speaking as one of seven quick-fire lunchtime artist talks on Tuesday 13 May from 12.30pm at MIT Faculty of Creative Arts, 50 Lovegrove Crescent, Otara, South Auckland – all welcome! The project’s other public event is a lunchtime panel of LGBTQI youth service providers on Thursday 15 May at 12.30pm. On the actual IDAHOT day, Saturday 17 May, artists, friends and family are invited to morning tea at Fresh Gallery Otara at 11am.

The posters are not for sale, but check out the project’s website and contact page for enquiries.

Mereia, BLOOD+BONE series

Mereia was originally made for my 2009 solo exhibition, BLOOD+BONE

This work was always special to me as it’s a portrait of my older sister. This series of hi-viz vest portraits was made to represent the safety and protection of various women in my life during the period of time after I left my marriage. The series is about visibility and acknowledging those whose love and support was a guiding light through a period of intense darkness.

Mereia is currently being framed for the King’s College Fine Art Sale from 8-10 November. The annual event takes place at the school grounds on Golf Avenue, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland. I’m part of the Ōtāhuhu Arts and Culture Sub-Committee of the Ōtāhuhu Steering Group; this year we’ve successfully advocated for the inclusion of a small group of local artists in this prestigious and high profile event. I’m exhibiting two works and also speaking on Sunday 10 November in the Speaker Series. Other artists representing Ōtāhuhu are Leilani Kake, Jeremy Leatinu’u and Molly Rangiwai McHale.

More information coming soon!

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I had a wickedly good time with Yolande Ah Chong on the Radio531pi Breakfast show this week!

Radio531pi is a grassroots Pacific station based here in South Auckland, part of the Pacific Media Network that also delivers NiuFM, a nationwide radio station targeting a younger demographic. It’s Tongan Language Week here in New Zealand; an initiative to promote the teaching and learning of the Tongan language and encourage its use in the home, in education, at work, in government, media, sports, the arts, church and community! The Pacific Media Network offices are decked out to the max: Tongan bark cloth and mats line every wall, there are beautiful floral arrangements in every corner, a Tongan flag across the Reception desk and prints of Tongan monarchs dating back to 1875 show an intriguing transition of leadership looks!

On Facebook, I’ve been posting some Tongan art, artists and inspiration this week. The Auckland art collective No‘o Fakataha is a good source for contemporary Tongan art and artists as is the suburb of Ōtāhuhu in South Auckland! Ōtāhuhu has been on my mind this week; I’ve been investigating a model of mapping the suburb’s creative capacity, thinking about businesses that employ, value and sell creative products and services. Studio 8 Tattoo opened a couple of months ago on Saleyards Road; they have five resident tattoo artists working onsite. With the new bus-train interchange proposed at Ōtāhuhu Train Station, Saleyards Road is probably a good place to be in the coming years.

I’m excited to be attending Survive & Thrive next week at AUT University thanks to Arts Regional Trust Te Taumata Toi-a-iwi (ART). It’s always good energy being around innovators and entrepreneurs – I’ll be live tweeting and contributing some PIMPI insights to the #SurviveThrive dialogue!

Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust just opened its annual tertiary student exhibition at St Paul St Gallery in central Auckland. The exhibition features a number of student artists, including Fijian artist / activist / writer Luisa Tora whose work, Seamy (2011) was originally part of the diasporadic679 exhibition project that acknowledged Fiji Independence Day in October 2011.

I’ve worked with Luisa on a number of projects and she was even the subject of an artwork I made for my 2009 solo exhibition, BLOOD+BONE. Two of the works from that exhibition along with another painting on Fijian masi (bark cloth) are part of the upcoming Kings College Fine Art Sale taking place from 8-10 November. I’m also part of the event’s speaker series and planning a meaty talk about the politics of representation regarding curating, art making and advocating for Pacific art and artists. Watch this space!

Some of the references discussed in a guest lecture about curatorial practice hosted by the Department of Art History, University of Auckland.

South Style
An exhibition pairing South Auckland designers, Ofa Mafi and Allen Vili aka Onesian, with photographs of street style shot at the 2009 ASB Polyfest by Vinesh Kumaran. South Style was curated to recognise Fresh Gallery Otara’s third anniversary in May 2009.

The Polyfest Hair Project
A photographic project developed as part of WWJD, an exhibition curated to recognise Fresh Gallery Otara’s sixth anniversary in May 2012. The Polyfest Hair Project was a follow-up from the South Style exhibition and is part of a trilogy of Polyfest photo essays made in partnership with Vinesh Kumaran.

A video about the exhibition, WWJD made by Tanu Gago:

MyFace was Janet Lilo’s second solo exhibition at Fresh Gallery Otara; it was installed by Nicole Lim and Ema Tavola.

small axe 09
A video project developed for the ARTSPACE New Artists Show curated by Emma Bugden in September / October 2009. The video was created in partnership with Janet Lilo and featured artist contributions by Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake, Visesio Siasau & Serene Tay and Angela Tiatia. The full video was over 50 minutes long; this is a trailer:

A solo exhibition by Tanu Gago curated for Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts in September – December 2010, programmed as part of the Manukau Festival of Arts.

drawing south auckland
An experimental exhibition inviting gallery visitors to contribute to a collective drawing installation at Fresh Gallery Otara in November 2010.

Nga Hau E Wha – The Four Winds
A solo exhibition by Leilani Kake, curated for the Auckland Arts Festival, March – April 2011.

Pacific Arts Summits (2010 – 2012)
A programme of events surrounding Fresh Gallery Otara’s anniversary. Originally called the Manukau Pacific Arts Summit and later on, the South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit. The Curating Pacific Arts Forum was delivered first in 2010 at the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple and later at AUT University’s Manukau campus. In the third year, the Forum was replaced with a series of dialogue events called Hump Day Art Talks.

The paper I recently delivered the the Pacific Arts Association International Symposium can be read here.



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