Posts tagged ‘Fiji’

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 I’m also re-showing Suva Girl, a photograph originally made in 2007, a symbolic nod to the end of an era.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

South Auckland has been so good to me, but I have a deep longing to return to Fiji. Being away from home(s) has deepened the desire to retrace my migratory footprints back to my tūrangawaewae.

Fiji is always in my thoughts.

In writing a manifesto, my primary migration dream of coming to Aotearoa to get qualifications in order to open an art gallery in my hometown, Suva, is at the forefront of my mind. The post-migration / de-migration dream is now to open sister galleries/hubs in South Auckland and Suva, with a studio residency offered in Kadavu.

The manifesto feels like an important part of this de-/re-/post-migratory dreaming.

Flying Fijian drua, suspended in the foyer of Te Ao Marama, School of Māori and Indigenous Studies

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Hello, my name is Vinesh opens this weekend at Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery as the first exhibition of the 2017 PIMPI Winter Series. Photographer, Vinesh Kumaran and I have been working together on projects for more than a decade!

The first exhibition I produced with Vinesh’s work was called (Re)Locating Home, a group show that was  staged in Suva, Fiji and at Fresh Gallery Ōtara in 2006. Vinesh’s work was a single wall-mounted image and a beautiful book of photographs documenting a highly personal journey retracing his family’s historical migration from India to Fiji and on to South Auckland. I witnessed his work drawing people in, sharing insights to a journey many would only dream of.

Vinesh and I have since collaborated on photographs for exhibitions, public display, publications and online galleries, but this is the first time we’ve made an exhibition about photographs Vinesh took on an iPhone!

Hello, my name is Vinesh is a title devised over a few drinks with Vinesh, designer Edgar Melitao and curator Nigel Borell. The original concept for the exhibition was developed for Māngere Arts Centre but the exhibition didn’t eventuate. Using the impressive artistic direction of Edgar Melitao and a tag team of curators, we had hoped to help Vinesh realise this important project in the most beautiful way, symbolically in the neighbourhood he grew up in.

One year on, Hello, my name is Vinesh has been re-born, produced by just me, but informed by those initial brainstorms with the Vinesh Kumaran dream team! This special show breathes life into the 2017 PIMPI Winter Series as the first exhibition of the series. It is a complete privilege to help see this exhibition come to life and we are both super grateful for the support of the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board.

Hello, my name is Vinesh opens at 6pm on Saturday 17 June and runs from Monday – Friday, 7am – 3pm and Saturdays, 9am – 2pm, until Friday 7 July at Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery, 507 Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland.

Mothers Love (2016)
Mixed media assemblage, 304x609mm, stretched canvas

Joana Monolagi has been creating Fijian arts for about 20 years. She was born in the town of Ba, Viti Levu, Fiji, moved to Aotearoa New Zealand in 1978, and now lives in Pakuranga. Monolagi enjoys working with arts from her Fijian heritage such as masi (Fijian barkcloth) printing, creating Fijian costumes, teaching meke (dance) and telling Fijian stories. In 1990 she started to weave and learn to print masi. When Monolagi began experimenting with masi printing she drew on her memories of watching women in Fiji making and printing it. She taught herself how to create stencils for printing onto masi and enjoys making new stencils which she adds to her collection. Monolagi experiments with new materials available in Aotearoa New Zealand, combining the ‘old’ and the ‘new’. She values the importance of sharing the knowledge and skills that she has, which she does by running workshops for women’s groups in the Fijian community. Monolagi is the Fijian coordinator for the Fiji village at Auckland’s annual Pasifika Festival. She has held this role since 2001 and sees it as another way of showcasing Fijian culture and heritage through the arts.



Left: Burotu (place of departed spirits), Viti, 2014.
500x500mm, 100% cotton rag paper, framed

Right: Saint Peter (the camouflage act), Barbados, 2016.
297x42mm, 100% cotton rag paper, framed

Torika Bolatagici was born in Tasmania and spent her early years living between Hobart, Sydney and her father’s village – Suvavou, Fiji.

Torika is a lecturer in the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Deakin University, Melbourne where she teaches contemporary theory and practice. Her PhD ‘Somatic Sotia: Commodity, Agency and the Fijian Military Body’ was recently submitted for examination at the School of Art and Design, University of New South Wales.

Torika works across a range of media, including photography, video and mixed media site-specific installation.  Her interdisciplinary practice investigates the relationship between visual culture, human ecology,  postcolonial counternarrative and visual historiography of the Black Pacific. She is interested in exploring the tensions and intersections between gender, embodied knowledge, commodification, migration and globalization.

Her work has been exhibited in New York, San Francisco, Mexico City, Yogyakarta and throughout Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia. She has published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at local and international conferences and symposia about the representation of mixed-race identity; Pacific arts practice in Australia and Fiji; representations of teachers and teaching in cinema; and gender and militarism in the Pacific.

In her role as Symposium coordinator for the Contemporary Pacific Arts Festival in 2013 and 2014, Torika curated multiple panels to extend the discourse around contemporary Pacific arts practice in Australia and invited speakers to reflect on themes such as art and activism, museums, collecting and curating, cultural appropriation and contemporary practice. She also produced the symposium publication Mana Motu (2013/14).

As well as 12 years experience teaching at tertiary level, Torika also has also facilitated youth arts workshops for the local Pacific community. Including Pasifik Young Artists (Léuli Eshraghi) (2013); Patterns and Portraiture (Salote Tawale) at SIGNAL youth arts (2014) and was the Creative Director of the Pacific Photobook Project (2014-15).

Torika presents the Community Reading Room – a pop-up destination for research, community discussion and engagement around international visual arts and culture, with a particular focus on contemporary art and theory from Oceania, Africa and the Americas. The Community Reading Room has appeared at Colour Box Studio (2013) and the Footscray Community Arts Centre (2014).





Visiting Auckland Museum store room, photograph by Sangeeta Singh11 September, 2015 – Suva, FIJI – Four Fijian New Zealand and Australian based women artists will congregate in Suva, Fiji next week for a creative research project inspired by the practice of Fijian female tattooing. This is the first time a research project is being undertaken to delve into the lost tradition of Fijian female tattooing of veiqia.

The Veiqia Project has gathered seven contemporary Fijian women artists engaged in Australia and New Zealand to participate in shared research activities and Museum visits to inform the development of new artwork for an exhibition due to take place in Auckland, New Zealand in March 2016. At its heart, The Veiqia Project involves nine Fijian women – seven artists and two curators – on a journey of artistic and cultural enquiry.

Four of the seven artists will travel to Suva from the 14th to 28th September to undertake research, meetings and participate in events.

New Zealand-based artists Margaret Aull, Joana Monolagi and Luisa Tora will join Australian-based Dulcie Stewart on the trip. Project and exhibition curators Tarisi Vunidilo and Ema Tavola, both proud i-taukei women from the province of Kadavu are excited about the prospects of their research in Fiji.

Through a shared online research forum and time spent with Fijian collections at museums in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand, the artists have generated an indigenous research archive driven by personal, artistic and relational connections. The project has drawn significant support from Auckland Museum, Fiji Museum, the Fijian Art Project, practitioners, supporters, friends and family engaged both on and offline.

“Fijian women used to have a very proud ancient tradition of veiqia, where girl children were tattooed when they reached puberty. This tradition has been lost over time due to colonization and other factors. Veiqia has intrigued many of us for a long time and we are very excited to come back home to Fiji to research more about this ancient art and to discuss and share with other Fijians their views and stories about this once practiced art”, Ms. Tavola said.

“We are grateful to Creative New Zealand for significant funding towards this research enabling us to bring our Fijian women artists together to collaborate on this project”, she added.

“We are inviting everyone to come to our organised events to share with us in story- telling and talanoa about our traditions and research that we hope one day will be revived. Come and take ownership of discussions surrounding this ancient female artform”, she said.

The artists will hold a Veiqia panel discussion at the FNU campus on Thursday, 17th September and an open day on Saturday, 19th September at the Fiji Museum Veranda and will include visitations to artists at Tagimoucia Gallery, Fiji Corrections Unit, Suva and dialogue with Fijian tattooist Billy Blaze.

Please see below for more details on the exhibition, visit or contact Tarisi Vunidilo 7517241 for more information.

The Veiqia Project: Panel Discussion

Hear from the curators and artists behind a creative project that connects artists, Museum collections and Fijian tattoo.
Speakers: Margaret Aull, Joana Monolagi, Dulcie Stewart, Ema Tavola, Luisa Tora, Tarisi Vunidilo with guest speaker Julia Maga’au Gray

Date: Thursday 17 September, 2015
Time: 6 – 8pm
Venue: FNU Campus Raiwai, Carpenter Street
Enquiries: Theresa Koroi, ph: 9987150, email:

The Veiqia Project: Investigating our tattooed histories

Come and learn about the research The Veiqia Project has uncovered, watch Melanesian tatu artist Julia Mage’au Gray demonstrate traditional hand-poke tattoo style, get involved with fun art activities, hear from The Veiqia Project artists and the ways Museum collections can inspire new understandings of our Pacific art histories.

Date: Saturday 19 September, 2015
Time: 10am – 3pm
Venue: Fiji Museum Veranda

Image credit: Sangeeta Singh, with permission from Auckland Museum

Luisa Tora has been busy finishing her Bachelor of Creative Arts at Manukau Institute of Technology in South Auckland. But in the past 18 months she has also shown at St Paul St Gallery, Fresh Gallery Otara and OTARAwindow (which was also featured in the NZ Herald here), at Nathan Homestead, in a pop-up exhibition for the Auckland Pride Festival at Pitt Street Methodist Church, in a poster exhibition for IDAHOT, undertaken an internship with Auckland Museum AND had her work purchased for the Te Papa Tongarewa permanent collection!

Whilst developing on a new work for Between Wind and Water, Luisa slipped in another exhibition: The Drowned World curated by Daniel Michael Satele for Tautai Trust. As part of her enquiry into her village’s origin story and totemic relationship with the shark, Luisa worked with Fijian artist, Joana Monolagi, to create a salusalu [garland; lei] from laser cut Perspex. Read more here.

For Between Wind and Water, Luisa has developed a new and experimental installation entitled, Naqalotu: Na qalo tu.

‘Na qalo tu’ celebrates the central role of vasu and the ocean in my life. It profiles the strong, beautiful females who sustain, influence and inspire me. This offering merges the narratives of my village, Naqalotu’s origin story; our ika, the shark; and my vasu support system.

Luisa will discuss her work as part of a special panel discussion on Wednesday 21 January at Enjoy Public Art Gallery. Guest speakers Kaliopate Tavola (Fiji) and Milena Palka (WWF New Zealand), will speak to the wider themes of Fijian identity and totemic relationships, and the protection and state of shark populations in the Pacific.


Naqalotu: Na qalo tu – A panel discussion on new work by Luisa Tora
5.30pm, Wednesday 21 January

The residency of Between Wind and Water artists will take place from 10-24 January; 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

Lanuola Mereia Aniseko

I’ve been on a break from blogging! My daughter Lanuola Mereia Aniseko was born on July 31 at Middlemore Hospital in South Auckland.

Motherhood has been a trip; I have found new depths within my heart and mind, and see the world in a brand new light – it’s pretty awesome. Lanuola is Fijian-Pākehā-Samoan-Tongan, from the villages of Neiafu (Savai’i, Samoa), Nukunuku (Tongatapu, Tonga) and Dravuni (Kadavu, Fiji). She is named after her paternal grandmother, her maternal Great-Grandmother and maternal Aunty.

Whilst managing a new baby, there have been some projects slowly on the boil. I received a grant from Creative New Zealand to produce an exhibition and residency at Enjoy Public Art Gallery in Wellington next January; a selection of works from the third Polyfest Portrait Project are finally going to be installed at the new Manukau Campus of Manukau Institute of Technology, and plans are underway to deliver a paper at the 2015 Contemporary Pacific Arts Festival Symposium in Melbourne next April.

In this relative downtime, I’ve taken Lanuola to quite a few shows… she went to the opening of Poly-Typical curated by Tanu Gago for Fresh Gallery Otara, checked out Urban Drift curated by Ane Tonga for Papakura Art Gallery, the Light Show at Auckland Art Gallery (an EXCELLENT exhibition for babies!), Rosanna Raymond and Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi’s solo exhibitions at Mangere Arts Centre, the newly rebranded Te Uru – an incredible new arts facility in Titirangi, West Auckland. And also Tagimoucia Gallery, the Gallery of Suva Prison in Walu Bay, Suva, Fiji – works by Epeli Labalaba and Pauliasi Delaibatiki were so striking and memorable – an amazing little Gallery well worth the visit.

Watch this space for updates on Between Wind and Water, the first project I’ve attempted to produce in a different city, largely with one hand! #MumLife

I made a series of collages for the #Tattoo4Tonga fundraising effort last month inspired by a visit to Auckland Museum. Associate Curator Pacific, Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai bought one the works in my Paper Breastplates Series and wrote this blog about the inspiration that stemmed from a quick visit to the Auckland Museum store room! Click here to read more…

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