Posts tagged ‘Kolokesa Mahina-Tuai’

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.

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!

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…

Click to read more

Click to read more

I love reading Luvvie Ajayi‘s writing and have taken up the challenge to blog everyday in August as part of her #31WriteNow challenge!

I’m always in the throws of multiple simultaneous art projects, and August will be a cocktail of travel, speaking engagements, event planning, pitching and assignment writing. I’m drawn to the #31WriteNow challenge because I’m 31 right now, and life is pretty good!

I’ve come to the tail end of the #2girls1conference fundraising campaign – an epic journey with my art ally, Leilani Kake. Through crowdfunding, hand-printed art t-shirts and an amazing art auction, we managed to raise NZ$8000 in two months! We hosted our final event last night – an opportunity for our community here in South Auckland to hear the papers we’re delivering next week at the Pacific Arts Association (PAA) 11th International Symposium in Vancouver. It was a good night – we loved situating that kind of event / discourse right at the grassroots and we’re super grateful to the Otara Scorpions for hosting us. Thanks also to Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai, the other PAA speaker from South Auckland, who also delivered her paper last night. Kolokesa is sharp as a knife; the kind of curator I’m proud to be associated with!

Leilani and I are so excited to be leaving for Canada this weekend. Despite this not being a holiday, it’ll just be nice to get out of New Zealand albeit briefly. I still want to see a bear, but I’m not sure if that will make it onto the itinerary.

I’ve been thinking about acknowledging all the people who contributed to the #2girls1conference campaign – I’m compiling the list. It’s pretty massive. I’ll be blogging everyday in August, so watch this space!

Media Release

23 July 2013

South Auckland Community First In Line For International Art Talks

The local South Auckland community will be the first to hear local arts leaders present papers due to be delivered at the Pacific Arts Association’s International Symposium in Vancouver next month with a special preview evening to be held in Otara at the end of July.

After months of selling hand-printed t-shirts, an art auction selling works donated by local artists and a PledgeMe campaign taking place to fund the trip to Canada, Leilani Kake, Ema Tavola and Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai are giving the local community that has both inspired their papers and made the trip possible the first opportunity to hear their presentations.

Ms Tavola says that she is looking forward to sharing her ideas with the local arts audience.

“My art career was established in Otara; presenting my paper here first reflects the kaupapa of putting Otara and the Pacific at the centre of what I do.”

Ms Kake, a video installation artist and educator, will be talking about her chosen creative discipline in Pasifika Obscura: Pacific Video Art from New Zealand. Ms Māhina-Tuai, a curator and writer, will discuss The Mis-Education of Moana / Pacific Arts and Ms Tavola will reflect on her years of experience in curating exhibitions for Fresh Gallery Otara in Pacific Art for Pacific Audiences: Grassroots Curating in South Auckland.

Each presentation will last around 15 minutes, with time after each for the audience to offer feedback and suggestions.

Event details

What: Pacific Arts Association International Symposium Paper Preview Evening

When: Wednesday 31 July, doors open at 6.30pm, 7pm start

Where: Otara Scorpions Rugby League Clubrooms, Ngati Otara Park, cnr Alexander Crescent and Otara Road, Otara

Cost: $5 at the door + sausage sizzle

The new exhibition Home AKL at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki features 28 Pacific artists, many of which live in South Auckland. In a series of posts about Home AKL‘s South Auckland interface, I asked Associate Curator, Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai about her home suburb of Ōtāhuhu.

How are you involved with Home AKL?

I am involved in Home AKL as an associate curator. My contribution has mainly focused on working with master weavers and crochet artists from Kiribati, Niue and Tuvalu, fine women artists and a multimedia artist from Tonga and a masi (Fijian tapa) printer from Fiji.

Where is home?

I am an Ōtāhuhu resident and have lived here with my husband Kenneth and two daughters – Meleseini (4 years old) and Akesiumeimoana (8 months) – for just over four years. The house that we live in is my husband’s family home where he and his family have lived in since 1981 – so over 31 years – although they have been Ōtāhuhu residents for 35 years. While I consider myself a ‘newby’ I’ve had the advantage of my husband and my in-laws intimate knowledge of Ōtāhuhu guide me especially the best places to eat at. I’ve tried various ethnic food places and my favourite Vietnamese would be Try it Out Vietnamese Restaurant on Atkinson Ave, for Thai I would opt for the Thai food places at Food City Ethnic Food Court on Mason Ave (if you want great food for an affordable price), or Secret Thai Garden Restaurant on Station Rd with its amazing décor which is more pricier but good food nonetheless, and for Malaysian I would recommend Penang Café also on Station Rd. I have also recently discovered AW (Affirming Works) Community Café on the corner of Great South Rd and Princes St, directly across from the Ōtāhuhu Police Station – they do great coffee (grown and imported from Tonga) served in big mugs! My daughter Meleseini and I also love our keke ‘isite (Tongan round pancakes) and a close alternative would be the Samoan panikeke (round pancakes) sold at Pinati’s Keke Pua’a shop on Queen St.

When I first moved to Ōtāhuhu in 2008 my favourite shops that I frequented on a weekly basis were three op shops – one on Great South Rd at the post shop end, the second one on Mason Ave across from the Holy Trinity Anglican Church and the third on Salesyard Rd. My daughter Meleseini and I would attend the wriggle and rhyme programme at the Ōtāhuhu library on High St every Thursday and on our way home we would come through all three op shops. The two op-shops in the Ōtāhuhu town centre have since closed down and there is only the one on Salesyard Rd that remains. Since September last year Meleseini has attended Wee Wisdom Montessori Preschool here in Ōtāhuhu on Walmsley St and loves it. Akesiumeimoana and I continue to attend the weekly wriggle and rhyme programme, which runs on a Tuesday now at the local library and still pop into the op shop on Salesyard Rd now and then.

I came to New Zealand when I was about three years old and have always lived in Central Auckland – first in Grafton, then Parnell and then Mt Eden where my family still lives today. Since living in Ōtāhuhu there are noticeable differences. I love the cultural diversity that can be found here in Ōtāhuhu. I love walking through the Ōtāhuhu town centre and seeing so many brown faces and listening to conversations in various Pacific languages. I also love the proud and long history that Ōtāhuhu holds of which I am still learning about. If you knew nothing about Ōtāhuhu, the façade of old buildings along the town centre and old villas around Ōtāhuhu are tangible evidence of a place with a long history. Some of the interesting historical facts about Ōtāhuhu that my husband has told me about include being:

  • The home of New Zealand’s first supermarket which was located on Great South Rd heading south just before the Dominion Breweries and currently has a petrol station and couple of shops.
  • The current location of Ōtāhuhu College where David Lange (former NZ Prime Minister), David Tua, Sir Barry Curtis (ex-Mayor of Manukau) and Home AKL artists Leilani Kake and Angela Tiatia and Home AKL patron Albert Refiti attended.
  • The location of the old railway workshops where it was one of two major workshops in the north island where trains were fixed. The old railway houses still standing around Ōtāhuhu is a reminder of this time.
  • The home of the Ōtāhuhu Leopards where five New Zealand Kiwis captains have come from including famous coach Graham Lowe.
  • That Xena and Hercules were filmed at the warehouses behind the Harlech House, which currently houses NZ police. It is the tallest building in Ōtāhuhu on Great South Road near KFC.

Why would you like to see South Aucklanders going to see Home AKL?

The Auckland Art Gallery is not an institution that is regularly frequented by islanders let alone South Aucklanders. However, Home AKL is an exhibition worth seeing because the majority of the artists featured are from South Auckland. Those that also frequented Fresh Gallery Otara would see many of the artists that showed there in Home AKL. This is a testament of South Auckland being the heart of Pacific Art. As South Aucklanders, this is something to be proud of and hopefully a good enough reason to make your first visit to Auckland Art Gallery or better yet become a regular visitor for the duration of Home AKL.

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