Posts tagged ‘Ema Tavola’

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.

The impetus to mount a solo exhibition comes to me at fairly significant junctures in life. My first solo, BLOOD + BONE was almost exactly eight years ago, and now I find myself drawn back to Karangahape Road to stage my second solo, Dark Meat

The Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies Residency at the University of Canterbury gave me time to think, and read, reflect and develop new perspectives on everything from curating to parenting, being a partner, an artist, being Pākehā and being Fijian. The extreme whiteness of Christchurch was at first intriguing but slowly started to feel suffocating. I returned home to South Auckland after three months and realised only upon returning how the isolation had made me re-value likeness and laughter, the love and light of like-minded artists and friends, and the relative centrality of Māori and Pacific values and protocols in everyday life.

When I was in Christchurch, the invisibility of Pacific Islanders and Pacific Islandness started to wear me down. It started to change my psyche. Since returning to South Auckland, I’ve been consciously healing but realised that the call home to Fiji has become too strong, and after 16 years in Auckland, I’ve decided to reverse migrate and relocate back to Suva in 2018.

Dark Meat comes from this juncture. It reflects on race and visibility, difference and perspective. I’m also re-showing Suva Girl, a photograph originally made in 2007, a symbolic nod to the end of an era.

The PIMPImanifesto, written as an outcome of the Residency, has also been beautifully printed as part of the exhibition, Kaitani at The Physics Room (on until 24 December) and a limited amount of signed copies will be available for sale during the exhibition.

Dark Meat
A solo exhibition by Ema Tavola
PREVIEW: 5.30pm, Tuesday 12 December
13-15 December 2017
Tautai Trust Office, Level 1, 300 Karangahape Road, Central Auckland
Opening Hours: 9am – 5.30pm

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

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

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

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

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

Photography by Joseph Hing

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

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

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

Full Tide (2017) by Margaret Aull

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

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

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

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

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


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

The third exhibition in the 2017 PIMPI Winter Series takes its name from the title track of Sade’s concept album Lovers Rock.

For curator, Ema Tavola, the lyrics and melodies of the album formed the soundtrack of a period of awakening, of flipping the script and transforming youthful anxiety and torturous and media-saturated negative self-image to powerful, self empowerment. It was played on CDs, contemplated on worn mattresses, in humid afternoons and rainstorms; it was the music that fuelled the decision to leave home and embark on the adventure of moving to Aotearoa.

This exhibition, Lovers Rock, is an homage to radical, transformative self love.

It is a tragedy that the act of truly loving the bodies we inhabit is a form of rebellion, a political position, a choice to consciously reject the media messaging that attaches worth and value to prescribed and narrow ideals that often don’t match our physical and environmental realities.

As pathways and platforms to perform and engage in the act of self love, artists explore, reclaim and unpack the politics of the gaze, unapologetically centralising the brown body, in the frame, in the centre; creating visibility where it didn’t exist. Lovers Rock taps into the necessary re-authoring of the narrative of brown bodies, unburdening the language of our curves and textures, our rhythms and shade.

Practices in Self-Love is the exhibition’s public programme event. In a unique Pecha Kucha inspired sharing format, the exhibition’s artists will share personal approaches for channeling self love and practicing self care. All welcome!

Image credit: Invisible series (2016) by Julia Mage’au Gray

Lovers Rock

Featuring: Melissa Cole, Julia Mage’au Gray, Pati Solomona Tyrell, Serene Timeteo, Jacinda Pini
Opening: 6pm, Saturday 29 July
Practices in Self-Love: 2pm, Saturday 5 August
Exhibition Dates: 31 July – 19 August 2017


Courtesy of Konile Fusitua

Ōtāhuhu is changing before our eyes. Auckland’s housing crisis has shifted the appeal of our neighbourhoods and new home buyers, residents and investment are transforming the demography and commercial landscape of parts of South Auckland at an alarming rate. The second exhibition of the 2017 PIMPI Winter Series confronts the inevitable cultural transformation of communities and spaces undergoing gentrification in South Auckland. Featuring local and international artists, #CHANGES presents reflections on social histories, memory and place-making, intercultural navigation and the uncomfortable relationship between gentrification and neo-colonialism.

Courtesy of Manu Vaea

In a new series of illustrations, Manu Vaea reflects on time spent growing up on “Mad Ave” in Glen Innes, an infamous neighbourhood once dubbed the “street from hell”. The area underwent redevelopment in the early 2000s and has since been re-populated and re-branded as Mount Taylor Drive, Glendowie. Vaea’s illustrations on rose-tinted metallic paper are drawn from family photographs taken between 1989-1991; they represent the comfort and familiarity of home, and the intangible memories of a place that has been erased.

Qiane Matata-Sipu is an Ihumātao-based photographer and storyteller. Her peoples’ ancestral lands have been, and continue to be, ravaged by waves of rapid change from settler confiscation and occupation to present-day rural re-zoning, the construction of massive industrial factories and a government endorsed Special Housing Area development for 500 high density homes. In a new series called Waitohu, meaning ‘to mark, signify, indicate; a symbol, brand or sign’, Matata-Sipu juxtaposes the language of signage seen in the Ihumātao area with images of land, skies and children, the inheritors of this shifting landscape. In stark and confronting layers, the fit and misfit of these elements expose the crassness of capitalist commercialisation against the mana of the whenua.

Local artist Sean Kerrigan has an aesthetic, craftsmanship and philosophical grounding that seems harder to come by in the digital age of art making. His work is the product of time and energy spent understanding, negotiating and shaping materials. His hand-scratched bedhead is emblazoned with a South Auckland alpha-mutt, a common mix derived from Pitty x Staffy (Pitbull and Staffordshire Terrier breeds), a symbol that creates an uneasily close reference to Mongrel Mob insignia. Kerrigan grew up in and around Māngere and Ōtāhuhu and has an emotional nostalgia to the way the environment shaped him, as a white man, growing up in brown neighbourhoods. His work references a mash-up of the famed JFK quote, Think not what the ghetto can do for you but FEEL, with your heart, what you can be of the ghetto. 

Courtesy of Lisiate Wolfgramm

In a series of infographic posters, Utah-based graphic artist, Lisiate Wolfgramm reflects the global footprints of the Pacific diaspora where contrasting attitudes, tensions and skillsets emerge and evolve around food and celebration, space and distance, names and pronunciation. Now globally connected via social media, the Pacific diaspora experience is documented, discussed and shared online across every social platform. Wolfgramm’s cheeky instructional diagrams serve to entertain familiar audiences, and create an honest and informative interface with others. 

In only her second exhibition, Ōtāhuhu College student Lilia Rakoia uses the architectural lines and features of Ōtāhuhu’s changing landscape in two new paintings. The landmarks and place-making of the past and future collide in a kind of Southside futurism, an exciting beginning for a young artist’s creative practice.

As the youngest artist in the exhibition, Konile Fusitua is separating his creative expression from the digital to the tangible realm for the first time. In daily postings across all his social platforms, Fusitua is an avid content creator, making portraits and compositions depicting the world he inhabits with sister Ofa Moana, the music and media they consume, and observations of South Auckland from fresh eyes having migrated to New Zealand in 2016 from Portland, Oregon, USA. Over his three hand-held-device-scaled works, Fusitua presents three accompanying garlands that symbolically bring the digital and natural worlds together in beauty and symmetry, balance and ephemerality.

Defying curatorial convention, #CHANGES curator Ema Tavola includes a concept artwork for the exhibition and its themes in the form of a paper collage entitled, Why Lady. In preparing to pursue a research residency at the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of Canterbury, Tavola endeavours to explore the role of making, recording and idea visualisation in the act of curating. Why Lady combines references to site specificity, dominant culture / cultural dominance, and the body politics and fashioning of brown bodies and white bodies.

This exhibition aims to probe gentrification and its process of displacement and manifestation of economic privilege. In the words of locals, Ōtāhuhu is changes. There is undeniable value in the process of historically segregated communities being unnaturally thrust together, learning to live, somewhat awkwardly, side-by-side. But as the momentum of change increases, the inevitable transformation of our communities becomes less about the benefits of having better access to good coffee, but the quietly shifting dynamics of power and numbers, control and influence, agency, belonging and entitlement.

This exhibition has been produced with support from the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board.


Featuring: Konile Fusitua, Sean Kerrigan, Qiane Matata-Sipu, Lilia Rakoia, Ema Tavola, Manu Vaea, Lisiate Wolfgramm
Curated by Ema Tavola

Opening: 6pm, Saturday 8 July
Panel Discussion: #RealTalk – Gentrifying South Auckland: 2pm, Saturday 22 July
Exhibition Dates: 10 – 28 July 2017

Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery is located at 507 Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland. Opening hours: Monday – Friday, 7am – 3pm, Saturday 9am – 2pm.

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