Posts tagged ‘Fresh Gallery Otara’

I only wrote 15 posts for the #31WriteNow blog challenge; it was hard and rewarding… but raw at times. August has been a month of travel, migraines, jet lag, art beef, heartwarming support, too many I-don’t-smoke cigrarettes, and some really exciting opportunities.

After an adrenalin-fuelled fundraising effort and a whirlwind trip to the other hemisphere, the latter half of August has been a relative return to normality. My mind has been boggling with ideas about creative ecologies after hearing a presentation by Auckland policy researcher, Elise Sterback, and I’m busily writing assignments about funding, project management and the creative capacity and potential of the South Auckland suburb of Ōtāhuhu.

A new exhibition called Pirianga Toto – Blood Ties opened at Fresh Gallery Otara; it’s a welcome return to the grassroots programming the Gallery is known for. Curated by Leilani Kake, the exhibition draws on the work of customary and contemporary Cook Islands artists and features painting, experimental installation, video, Tivaevae and crochet. Follow Fresh Gallery Otara on Facebook for public programme announcements.

Part-Fijian playwright and director Toa Fraser’s 2006 film, No.2 aired on Maori Television in late August. I used to have problems with this film but it made me surprisingly emotional to watch it again seven years later. Originally, I felt short-changed that a film loosely based on a Fijian family starred more Māori and Samoan actors than Fijians. When I watched it this time around, I felt it was actually very much a New Zealand fruit salad story; part lost, part rooted, still slightly cringe-inducing, but somewhat comforting.

I’m back on board with some really exciting MIT Faculty of Creative Arts projects coming up in the next two months and can’t wait to teach the Pacific Art Histories: An Eccentric View paper again next year. I spoke in mid-August to postgraduate students at the University of Auckland and I’m planning a gutsy talk for the Kings College Fine Art Sale speaker series in early November.

August has been a fairly transformational month. I’ve been quietly weighing up the potential of staying in Auckland against a recurrent urge to relocate back to Suva, Fiji. Getting to the Pacific Arts Association 11th International Symposium in Vancouver was almost a year long project; closing the book on that has been a welcome relief. I gave up blogging every day around mid-August, but kept on working, hustling, writing and planning.

My partner’s father, Tu’i, has been dealing to my knots, stress and aches for the past few months with Tongan massage. I usually mentally psych myself up for what can feel like a hiding in slow motion; pressure points ache and burn, and when standing, my knees feel like jelly. But today Tu’i declared, somewhat surprised, that I was OK – no knots, no tightness… no pain.

The #31WriteNow blog challenge forced me to write, declare my position and stand by my words. With almost 3,500 hits in one month, the initiative was a successful means of generating awareness, traffic and discussion. Having worked in relative isolation for the past year, hyper-blogging for 15 days was more exposure than I had anticipated – but thank you for reading, liking and sharing and hello new followers and friends!


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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Leilani Kake and I are due to launch our first collaborative fundraising initiative tomorrow. We’re aiming to raise around NZ$6000 to support our travel and participation in the 11th International Symposium of the Pacific Arts Association in Vancouver, Canada in August. Read more here.

Tomorrow, we launch our crowdfunding campaign via PledgeMe

We chose May 26 to mark the actual anniversary of Fresh Gallery Otara, the community arts facility I managed from 2006-2012 within my previous role of Pacific Arts Coordinator for Auckland Council (previously Manukau City Council). Leilani and I have spent the best part of the past decade working tirelessly to support and contribute to the Pacific arts and South Auckland creative sectors; for most of the time Fresh Gallery Otara was the epicenter of those efforts.

I left the role at Council in 2012 after significant organisational changes compromised my principles as well as what I felt was a level of innovation and service that the South Auckland arts community deserved. Since my departure, I’ve observed further changes that have shifted the Gallery away from its founding philosophies. Since 2006, Fresh Gallery Otara’s anniversary was marked with exhibitions and events that honoured the community, local artists and themes pertinent to Otara. This year there are no such celebrations; the Auckland Triennial‘s presence in Otara is a dislocated exhibition, culturally and geographically isolated from an arts programme that has little to no value for Pacific communities in South Auckland.

Further to that, currently the personnel situated at the public interface of the Gallery represent a heartbreaking level of ignorance for the nuances of arts promotion and discourse within the unique socio-cultural environment of Otara and South Auckland.

Whilst Leilani and I are now both embedded in other pursuits within the education sectors, we remember and acknowledge Fresh Gallery Otara’s role, mana and history, particularly at this time.

My regular Cultural Ambassador update on Radio New Zealand Nights this month was a discussion on the experience of teaching a paper called Pacific Art Histories: An Eccentric View at Manukau Institute of Technology in Otara, South Auckland. I also discussed my perceptions of the new Fresh Gallery Otara look and its place in the Otara Town Centre.

Nights on Radio New Zealand (3 April 2013)[audio ]

Fresh 2.0

Fresh Gallery Otara was established in May 2006 by Manukau City Council in partnership with the Otara community in South Auckland. As the manager and driver of Fresh, I produced 66 exhibitions from 2006-2012; I invested my blood, sweat and tears into the Gallery and loved my job but in June 2012, I left the role. The then Curatorial / Gallery Assistant, Nicole Lim took the reigns and has overseen the Gallery’s recent refurbishment and significant expansion.

This week, Fresh Gallery Otara re-opens as a new space under new leadership. I have unwavering support and loyalty to Nicole Lim and I can’t wait to see her first show in the new space.

Juan Castillo is a Chilean artist who produced a multifaceted work called Minimal-Baroque in 2006 as part of his residency at what was then Manukau School of Visual Arts. He collaborated with Otara artist, Leilani Kake to film a series of vox pops at Fresh Gallery Otara, asking members of the community and visitors to Fresh, “What is Art?”

The video is a historical and fascinating insight into community perceptions of the word ‘art’ – I’m so glad Nicole has chosen to re-show it.

Francis Falaniko, photographed by Vinesh KumaranVinesh Kumaran is a long-time collaborator and his input into Fresh Gallery Otara, SOUTH publication and the Pacific Arts Summits has been significant. His excellent series shot for the exhibition South Style (2009) is being re-shown and like Minimal-Baroque, exists as a historical record of South Auckland social history.

Fresh 2.0 is an exhibition that recognises the legacy of Fresh Gallery Otara, its significant relationships with Manukau Institute of Technology’s Faculty of Creative Arts (previously known as Manukau School of Visual Arts) and its enormous potential as a hub for creativity in the heart of grassroots South Auckland.

Great job, Nicole and go well, Fresh!

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