Posts tagged ‘ARTSPACE’

Photo by Raymond Sagapolutele

Photo by Raymond Sagapolutele

We sat on a Fijian mat, beneath a Tongan barkcloth, opposite a Cook Islands Tīvaevae. I invited three respected peers, friends and colleagues into a safe space to discuss the notion of safe space, within the arts and cultural sectors that we work within here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Photo by Raymond Sagapolutele

Photo by Raymond Sagapolutele

#RealTalk: Safe Space / Best Practice was an event developed upon invitation from ARTSPACE, a Creative New Zealand funded contemporary art gallery in central Auckland. The event sat within the Amor Mundi conversation series, ours was the first event to take place outside of the Karangahape Road / central Auckland environment. In an opening address, outgoing curatorial Director Misal Adnan Yıldız spoke about the purpose of our discussion in a wider arts community context, referencing the exhibition, U Can’t Touch This, part of the 2015 PIMPI Winter Series, as an example of dislocating and relocating art and exhibition making.

The old Ōtāhuhu Library was the ideal location for this talanoa. Now used as a mixed use community facility, the building is currently leased to the Ōtāhuhu Māngere Youth Group who coordinate free programmes from vogue workshops to homework sessions and music classes. It is safe space embodied.

Photo by Ema Tavola

Photo by Ema Tavola

After a round of introductions from the audience, the conversation started with a knowing of the presence in the room. The panel talked story, sharing experiences and insights of safety and conflict, risk, passion and frustration. The discussion went from: advocating in museums and symposia around the world, to the simple gesture of inviting people to step inside at community galleries in South Auckland, to personal safety, and the real, physical, harmful behaviour which affects the lives of Pacific Rainbow communities every day.

Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai spoke of tā-vā theory of reality in relation to the conflict, chaos and harmony in the space between real talk / unreal talk, safe space and unsafe space, best practice and worst practice.


Photo by Raymond Sagapolutele

In conversation with the audience, the panel unpacked the meaning and mana of tears, of emotional intelligence and the problematic translation of emotional responsiveness to weakness and the problematic dichotomies of reason versus emotion, thinking versus feeling.

On tokenism and the risks of audience participation as superficial social experimentation, on the recognition of Tangata Whenua at the core of any discussion of diversity, and the safety provided by peers and those who stand side-by-side in times of conflict, and order.

There was so much value in this discussion. It was rich and insightful, poetic and emotional.


Photo by Raymond Sagapolutele

Many thanks to Caroline and the team at Ōtāhuhu Māngere Youth Group and to Christine O’Brien from Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board for helping to get things moving! Thank you to ARTSPACE and the vision, courage and appetite of Misal Adnan Yıldız, thank you for creating the platform for this kaupapa, I really hope the important work you have done will continue and evolve, and we all wish you so much good luck for the next chapter.

Photo by Ema Tavola

Photo by Ema Tavola

Thank you to the panel, Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake and Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai – thank you for always bringing A-game, doing what you do, always advocating hard, representing our broader communities with passion, and changing the game in small ways every day.

Thank you to Raymond Sagapolutele for recording the event beautifully, as always, thank you for your generosity of presence. And thank you to Claudia Rakoia of Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery, who nourished us heartily with a beautiful spread.

Vinaka vakalevu.

#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!


When I came across Janet Lilo’s installation, Right of Way at Auckland’s ARTSPACE gallery, I had a day filled with experiences of the necessary paradigm shift related to the South / Central Auckland divide.

When you catch the bus from Papatoetoe to Karangahape Road, you traverse a socio-economic landscape from brown suburbia through industrial back roads, passing bigger, flasher homes in Penrose and Greenlane before Newmarket, with its window displays and disposable income. History and economics change before your eyes.

ARTSPACE has always been a problematic place for me. In the 2nd Auckland Triennial in 2004 I was involved in a petition about the photographer, Emily Mafile’o whose work depicted scenes of South Auckland people and spaces. The petition was aimed at the Triennial’s organisers inviting them to consider that for those working tirelessly to challenge stereotypes and negative perceptions of South Auckland, imagery such as Mafile’o’s did little to help the cause. It was an experience that gave me early exposure to issues of representation, art world power and influence.

These days I care less for the fiery philoso-fighting that I engaged with at every opportunity throughout my twenties. I am concerned and invested in the idea of cultural safety and empowerment rather than front-line combat.

Since her ground-breaking solo exhibition, Top 16 in 2007, I’ve always appreciated the ability for Janet Lilo’s work to translate across diverse audiences. She is the New Zealand artworld’s grassroots cultural darling – engaging value systems, histories and digital realities across the board.

Right of Way developed for ARTSPACE on the occasion of the 5th Auckland Triennial is fairly epic – in scale and in mana. Janet delivers, as she so often does. In the intimate moments created through her sound works, her digital vistas and real-life scale depictions of people and spaces, this is Janet’s ghetto aesthetic evolved; it’s refreshing and empowering.

I listened to one of Janet’s sound works on headphones for almost ten minutes, warmed by nostalgia and comforted by familiarity. It’s the sound of a muted house party; Samoan musician, Ria’s 2013 poly-hit, Winner mixed with classic house-party-old-school. In the flood of memories and lived experience this work evoked, I felt relief. In a private moment between me, an orange cone and a pair of headphones in a pictorial life-size environment that looks like where I live, the artworld felt right.

Hou Hanru’s lofty curatorial framework for the 5th Auckland Triennial is certainly dislocated in the Fresh Gallery Otara offering. If you were to live here is almost comical in an exhibition featuring not one artist who is familiar with what it is to actually live in South Auckland. In the case of ARTSPACE, Janet’s work effortlessly engages Hou Hanru’s wider ideas of transformation, locality and community; Janet is a mediator between worldviews and comfort zones. Right of Way is that new New Zealand art; post-identity, thoughtful, accessible – artistically egalitarian.

I suspect listening to Janet’s sound work was the first time an artwork shown in a central Auckland gallery has spoken so directly to my experience and worldview. ARTSPACE and Auckland’s Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust have recently joined forces to create an internship dedicated to engaging Pacific communities in a “meaningful and sustainable way”. It would be great to see ‘engagement’ not only in terms of education but also curatorial consideration. If Pacific communities were engaged AND reflected in the institution’s public programming, imagine the possibilities!

Listen to Nights on Radio New Zealand from 8.40pm on Wednesday 29 May for more discussion about the 5th Auckland Triennial’s presence in South Auckland as well as the representation of South Auckland on TV3’s drama series, Harry.

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