Posts tagged ‘Luisa Tora’

This review of the recent exhibition, Wantok at Māngere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku was originally written for ARTtalk (Issue 12), Fiji’s independent online art magazine.


As a curator, I view exhibitions in a few different ways. I think about the artwork and its medium, its politics and its placement. The artist – their positionality, their background and their message. The lighting even, the layout and feel of the Gallery. I think about the curator and their agenda, the experience of the audience, and often, the relationship of the exhibition themes to the exhibition’s site; who is this exhibition for?

Wantok is a group show of new work by nine Melanesian women artists, including the work of its curator. Produced for Māngere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku, Wantok is part of the Gallery’s commitment to celebrating the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the landmark moment Aotearoa New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world to grant all women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. Māngere Arts Centre is a local government funded facility situated in the South Auckland suburb of Māngere, well known for its large, youthful and well-established Polynesian population.

The exhibition’s curator is Luisa Tora, a Fijian writer and visual artist who now calls Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland, home. She has invited artists to make new work around the theme of “decolonised views of beauty and mana through the lens of spirituality and symbolism associated with hair in Melanesian cultures”. The artists all live in Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and represent ancestral connections to Fiji, Tokelau, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Granada (Caribbean), the South Sea Islander community, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

In the case of the arts landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand, where Oceania is commonly viewed and understood through a Polynesian lens, this presentation of Melanesian diaspora experience requires context. This can be done effectively with well-crafted artwork labels and interpretive text, but this is absent from the show and the potential to diversify public perceptions about the wider Oceania region and the richness of Melanesian diaspora experience is frustratingly lost. Whilst much of the work in the exhibition is fighting hard to have space to be understood and interpreted, so many nuances of the artists’ approaches, thinking and themes are lost by not offering audiences ways for this work to be heard.

However, there is presence in the space. The presence of Melanesian women, of brown skin, and the clear control of those bodies and that representation in front, and behind the lens. And with four different video-based works in the two galleries, the exhibition is noisy! There are voices, conversations and laughing coming from the works of Torika Bolatagici and Salote Tawale, but a watery soundtrack emanating from a large-scale projected video work by Tufala Meri (the creative partnership of sisters, Molana and Reina Sutton) fills most of the exhibition’s soundscape.

Torika Bolatagici’s striking Tadrua Series (the space between) (2018) is six large scale portraits of strong, brown skinned women and girls with curly hair maintaining mesmerising connections with the camera. They are larger than life, a kind of feminine futuristic visual anthropology of Oceania. Whilst each image represents the same upper part of the body, each subject holds themselves differently; there are anthologies in the stories behind their eyes, equal parts strength and vulnerability in their postures, and pride and presence in their hair. In the accompanying video work, Tadra (to dream), the subjects are filmed resting on the acrylic kali, a kind of futuristic Fijian headrest made in collaboration with Lienors Torre and Shaun Bangay. The object itself sits unassumingly in the corner of the gallery on a plinth; set on a motion sensor, and with an internal sound device, occasionally women’s voices emanate from it, talking story about hair and rituals.

The stories and conversations from Bolatagici’s kali informed another collaborative aspect of this ambitious project in the form of a performative response by Ayeesha Ash and Emele Ugavule (members of the Sydney-based Black Birds collective). Marking the opening of the exhibition, Ash and Ugavule’s performance was meditative and graceful. They moved through the space, filling the room with Fijian vocal harmonies, amplifying the hair as an extension of the body and in its cutting, a significant act of bodily and emotional detachment. Their performance gave life to the space, connecting the artwork on the walls, to the audience who had come to greet it.

Jasmine Togo-Brisby’s large scale lightboxes depict photographic portraits of herself, her daughter and her mother, each with long curly hair adorned with a model sailing ship on top of their heads. Their gazes vary, and their garb is Victorian and formal. Without any context of the artist’s South Sea Islander genealogy and the history of the black birding slave trade in Melanesia, these works are perplexing, but confusing. Despite providing audiences with no context for this work and its themes, the light box is a beautiful medium that makes photography pop, commanding your attention.

Tufala Meri is sisters Molana and Reina Sutton. Their work includes five installations of domestic-like assemblages of photographs and objects, furniture and books, and a performative video work that is presented as a large scale full wall projection. In the video, the sisters initially appear to be very aware of the camera, holding poses with a large wooden bowl with characteristic Solomon Island shell inlay around the rim. They are standing next to a beautiful stream, on rocks, wearing similar neon patterned dresses and bare feet. The audio is watery, there is laughter and a woman’s voice. The sound of scrubbing, or rubbing can be heard, hoots and children’s giggles. It becomes clear that the video does not match the sound, but the two are related. The sisters gradually become more relaxed, and the shots tighten to capture closer views of their faces and actions. Suddenly, we see a photograph, another Melanesian woman – the sisters’ mother. The photograph is in the wooden bowl, it is carefully removed and placed on a rock, along with flowers and mementos.

Splashes and a sporadic deep rhythmic beat can be heard, almost like hearing the deep bass coming from someone’s headphones. The voices and laughter are joyful. We hear the presence and closeness of the water and the children… we hear a time and space, and we see another. The sisters play with each other’s hair, they laugh and splash and the light on the water running across boulders is almost golden. They use the wooden bowl to drench each other’s hair, which is thick and curly. The audio gets quiet, we see but we can’t hear. There is no more sound, just visuals, symbols – tattoos – body language, and land. The video ends with a final shot of the stream.

In conversation with Reina Sutton at the Wantok opening, I learned that the audio is from a home video of their late mother, shot in the Solomon Islands in 2008. It captures their mum at the river with her cousins, laughing, washing and the mesmerising beat that can be heard is water drumming. The work, Tufala Meri Blo Tiu lays the audio of their mother’s video over their own ‘home video’, filmed in Aotearoa New Zealand.

I spent time feeling mesmerised by this work and moved by the loving homage to their mother. I love that the scale of the video projection means their mother’s face is so large and present in the gallery, a beautiful and heartfelt dedication. Tufala Meri created a space for sitting, resting and being comfortable, which I appreciate; they effectively invite audiences to enjoy their work, be comforted and to listen and hear their message.

In a similar audio / video mash up, Salote Tawale’s video work, Polite Disguise (2018) overlays the sound of conversations between women about hair and othering with a series of performative Western beauty rituals. Tawale carries out the removal of her own hair via tweezers, scissors, hair clippers and adhesive strips. It is high definition, sometimes clumsy, and at points almost cringe-inducing and painful. In between her performative hair removal processes, the video intersperses popular hair product advertising jingles and YouTube-like vlogger cutaways. The work is shown on a monitor adorned with a large black and pink artificial flower garland that obstructs the corners of the screen, a confusingly unnecessary addition.

Dulcie Stewart’s series, Flora vitensis; drauniulu edition (2018) feels like the quietest work in the show. Stewart uses reproductions of botanical illustrations overlaid on the faces of Fijian women from ethnographic photographs, many of which exist in archives around the world with no biographic information about the subject. Stewart calls into question the visual ‘silencing’ of these women by rendering them nameless, disconnecting them from their past and their future. Interspersed with these photographic assemblages are a series of hand-drawn botanical illustrations of plants from Fiji, named Flora vitensis. In contrast to the ethnographic portraits, Flora vitensis are documented thoroughly, depicting their history and plant-based genealogy, uses and properties.

There’s a diplomacy about Stewart’s work, simultaneously thoughtful and confronting. She brings her interests in literature and archives, paper and records, together beautifully. She is both protector and promoter, reframing histories written about us but not for us.

The work I’m reluctant to mention, because curators being both author and artist in their own exhibitions is problematic, is a video portrait by Luisa Tora. In a topless self-portrait, Tora is superimposed against a galactic moving backdrop full of shooting stars, moons and planets. Her hair throbs outward from her head like a woolly halo, her stance stoic and defiant. Her gaze is not directly at the viewer and there’s an almost Mona Lisa like quality to the emotion or lack of emotion in her face. It’s a work that engages and titillates a lot of people because it’s ‘cool’, but for me feels like an unnecessary addition to the exhibition and something you might find if you type ‘God complex’ into a gif finder.

My friend Nigel Borell, a fellow curator, shared with me his appreciation of this show, noting that Auckland audiences appreciate the different framing of Pacific Islander experience. Whilst we are different, we have a shared imperialist histories and hair is a vessel for colonisation carrying ideas of shame and beauty, pride and presence. Nigel is right.

This exhibition could not be closer to my core as a Fijian woman curator living in South Auckland. Many of these artists are respected friends and peers, and their collective presence in the gallery is life-giving. I’ve spent hours in the space, because being close to these representations of Melanesian diaspora experience is affirming and empowering. Despite the lack of interpretive text and artwork labels, there is value in the presence of these works.

Curate is derived from the Latin term cūrā(re) meaning to care for, attend to. Luisa Tora cared enough to devise the concept of this exhibition, and Māngere Arts Centre offered space to bring it to life. The caring can’t stop at that; audiences are essential in enabling artwork to arrive, to be heard and to land. The dialogue between artwork and audience is what leaves the impression and changes culture. Hopefully the exhibition’s upcoming publication will deepen the impact of Wantok, but perhaps the most significant repercussion of this show is the connections forged between the artists and their efforts to be present in this space.

Wantok

Featuring Torika Bolatagici with Blackbirds, Dulcie Stewart, Molana & Reina Sutton, Salote Tawale, Jasmine Togo-Brisby, Luisa Tora
Curated by Luisa Tora

21 April – 26 May 2018
Māngere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku, South Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

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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 https://pimpiknows.com/theveiqiaproject/ 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: Theresa.Koroi@fnu.ac.fj

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
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This is us! On Saturday 17 January from 12 – 6pm, the artists from the upcoming Between Wind and Water exhibition and residency will be at Wellington’s Positively Pasifika Festival at Waitangi Park!

Come down and meet the crew and pick up a copy of SOUTH publication featuring artist profiles, reviews, photo essays and page works by South Auckland’s finest Maori and Pacific artists. Limited edition PIMPI fans will be on sale, as well as Oceania Interrupted T-shirts… and keep an eye out for Oceania Interrupted who’ll be on a mission to raise awareness for West Papua in the capital!

The exhibition of new works by Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake and Luisa Tora opens at Enjoy Public Art Gallery on Saturday 10 January; the first event of the residency is on Wednesday 14 January – Pacific vs Art: A discussion on Curating Pacific Art all welcome!

 Between Wind and Water has been produced with support from

BWAW sponsors1

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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.

When

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.

Where

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

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BWAW promo graphic v11

I’m excited to be producing my first arts project in Wellington next year! Entitled Between Wind and Water, the project includes an exhibition of new work by Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake and Luisa Tora, and a series of six events at Enjoy Public Art Gallery, where we’ll be collectively undertaking a two week residency from 10-24 January 2015.

Between Wind and Water is timed to coincide with the annual Positively Pasifika Festival in an effort to leverage off Wellington City Council’s civic celebration of Pacific cultures and communities. The project aims to attract and engage new Pacific audiences and symbolically centralise Pacific perspectives on contemporary art, interpretation and value.

An exhibition of new works by three South Auckland based artists provides the context for a series of talks, gatherings and activities offering audiences opportunities to discuss the artworks, themes, and wider context of making [and curating] art of and about Pacific experience in Aotearoa New Zealand.

BWAW Artists1

New media artist Tanu Gago has attracted significant attention for his staged photographs that reframe masculinity, sexual identity and cultural privilege. His video works are digital landscapes of new Polynesian pop culture, ‘ghetto narratives’ from 21st century South Auckland. Leilani Kake’s powerful video installations document family, ritual, cultural transmission and taboo. In a new and exploratory work, MALE – Māori or Polynesian, she begins to unpack stereotypes of criminality and the dichotomies of criminal/victim, brother/other. In Luisa Tora’s multidisciplinary practice, she employs visual codes and cultural references to interrogate historical and embedded power dynamics, value and values. Her installation, Naqalotu: Na qalo tu is informed by the origin story from her village in Kadavu (Fiji), symbolic relationships between people, histories, land and sea.

When one is between wind and water, they are said to be in a precarious or vulnerable position. Twenty years after Jim Vivieaere’s seminal show, Bottled Ocean, this exhibition project aims to stir the murky waters of contemporary Pacific art politics broaching issues of labels, positioning and expectations, diversity quotas, criticism and growth for Pacific art and artists in a post-identity era.

Public Programme Events

Pacific vs Art: A Discussion on Curating Pacific Art
Join writer-curators Ioana Gordon-Smith, Daniel Michal Satele and Between Wind and Water curator, Ema Tavola, in a spirited discussion facilitated by Sean Mallon, on Pacific art and the politics of engagement.
Time: 5.30pm
Date: Wednesday 14 January

Artist Talk: Leilani Kake
Exhibiting artist, Leilani Kake discusses the themes and inspiration for her new work, MALE – Māori or Polynesian, within the wider context of her video installation practice.
Time: 5.30pm
Date: Thursday 15 January

Oceania Interrupted: Empowering Collective Action – Meet & Greet
Meet members of Auckland-based collective, Oceania Interrupted, visiting Wellington to undertake the 8th of 15 Actions to raise awareness for West Papua.
Time: 5.30pm
Date: Friday 16 January

Naqalotu: Na qalo tu – A panel discussion on new work by Luisa Tora
Exhibiting artist, Luisa Tora will discuss her new work and themes along with guest speakers, Kaliopate Tavola (Kaidravuni.wordpress.com) on Fijian identity and totemic relationships, and Milena Palka (Marine Species Advocate, WWF) on shark populations and protection in the Pacific.
Time: 5.30pm
Date: Wednesday 21 January

Artist Talk: Tanu Gago
Exhibiting artist, Tanu Gago discuss the themes and inspiration for his new exploratory video work, The Sound of the Ocean.
Time: 5.30pm
Date: Thursday 22 January

BWAW Futures Forum
What does an ideal future look like for Pacific people in Aotearoa and Oceania? A series of quick-fire utopian dream talks from diverse Pacific perspectives, including Dr Teresia Teaiwa, Fuimaono Karl Pulotu-Endemann, Faith Wilson and more!
Time: 2pm
Date: Saturday 24 January
* This is the last event in the Between Wind and Water Summer Residency; closing drinks will follow this event.

Get involved

  • Draw a Suspect!
    Based on Leilani Kake’s new work, MALE – Māori or Polynesian, visitors are invited to create a hand-drawn suspect drawing from some interesting and familiar faces!
  • Between Wind and Water Publication
    Content for an exhibition publication will be generated throughout the residency; observations, photos, drawings and commentary from visitors will feature alongside extracts from dialogue events and extended artist statements. Meet and chat with the artists in the Gallery on most days between 10-24 January.

Dates

The residency of Between Wind and Water artists will take place from 10-24 January 2015; the exhibition will be on show until 31 January.

Venue

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

 

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I STAND WITH YOU is a project developed by Luisa Tora, a third year Visual Arts student at Manukau Institute of Technology Faculty of Creative Arts in Otara, South Auckland.

Marking International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), the project features 13 artworks produced as posters for display at both the Faculty of Creative Arts and in a pop-up exhibition at Fresh Gallery Otara from 12-17 May, 2014.

I’m pleased to have partnered on this important project along with the Faculty of Creative Arts, Fresh Gallery Otara and FAF SWAG. The artists involved have produced an excellent body of work; they represent students, staff, alumni and friends of the Faculty of Creative Arts, each with a unique relationship to South Auckland.

I’ll be speaking as one of seven quick-fire lunchtime artist talks on Tuesday 13 May from 12.30pm at MIT Faculty of Creative Arts, 50 Lovegrove Crescent, Otara, South Auckland – all welcome! The project’s other public event is a lunchtime panel of LGBTQI youth service providers on Thursday 15 May at 12.30pm. On the actual IDAHOT day, Saturday 17 May, artists, friends and family are invited to morning tea at Fresh Gallery Otara at 11am.

The posters are not for sale, but check out the project’s website and contact page for enquiries.

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October has been a bit amazing

Since September I’ve been coordinating OTARAfest, a new annual event programme produced by Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) Faculty of Creative Arts; it ran from 18 October – 2 November and the inaugural programme included 11 stand-alone events delivered in and around the Otara Town Centre.

With a focus on revitalising the Otara Town Centre and creating opportunities for artists and the wider community to meet, share and reflect on contemporary art, talent and creative energy emanating from the local environment, OTARAfest was a refreshing and hugely rewarding project to be part of.

The programme was officially launched at the opening of Fresh Out of School, an exhibition at Fresh Gallery Otara featuring six new graduates from the outgoing Bachelor of Visual Arts degree programme offered at MIT Faculty of Creative Arts. The opening was a celebration of achievement for the students involved; we wanted to emphasise their commitment and hard work, and their new beginnings as qualified visual artists. The Gallery was filled with family and friends, music was provided by DJ Al’Goodie, a well-respected local DJ and radio personality and slow-cooked pork sliders, raw fish and smoked salmon bilinis were served courtesy of Lissy’s Kitchen.

Desire2Inspire, a local arts collective performed at the OTARAfest launch. With all its members currently engaged in youth work and related training, the two skits they presented were informed by lived realities for young people in South Auckland; managing peer pressure, the influences of drugs, alcohol and suicide, and the healing potential of faith and fellowship. I was so moved by their performances, their involvement and interest in the OTARAfest programme; it brought the community back inside the walls / windows of Fresh Gallery Otara and served as a reminder of the consciousness a local community art gallery should reflect.

OTARAcube was a new exhibitions concept that unfortunately launched two weeks behind schedule, meaning a performance work due to take place in the first weekend of the programme was sadly cancelled. However, its better-late-than-never arrival enabled the launch of its inaugural exhibition featuring Tongan artist sisters, Vea and Emily Mafile’o. The opening of their multimedia installation coincided with a special gathering of the Tongan art collective, No’o Fakataha at Fresh Gallery Otara on Friday 1 November.

An initiative of MIT Faculty of Creative Arts with support from the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board, the OTARAcube started life as a 20 foot shipping container; its design and customisation was undertaken by Nigel Burton (DVANZ). Now a permanent fixture in the Otara Town Centre, OTARAcube is located in the area between the Bus Depot and the taxi stand; site specific exhibitions and experimental art projects are planned to turnover on a roughly monthly basis.

OTARAfest provided a platform for a series of gathering and networking events, one of which heralded the beginning of the South Auckland Young Artists Network (SAYAN), a new movement based on the successful Youth Arts Committee at central Auckland community art centre, Artstation. SAYAN will meet fortnightly at Fresh Gallery Otara, contact Kirstin Whalen to go on the mailing list.

South Auckland Theatre Collective presented their first production, My Life, My Story, My South Auckland and got this sweet review, the wonderful P.O.T Productions delivered a beautiful re-worked and site-specific version of Pukepuke ‘O Tonga and OTARAwindow, a series of three outdoor window boxes on the exterior wall of Otara Family & Christian Health Centre, featured the work of Luisa Tora for the duration of OTARAfest.

I enjoyed so many facets of project managing this event programme, but one event in particular was an absolute career highlight. I had the privilege of working again with Tanu Gago, co-founder of FAF SWAG, a collective that advocates, promotes and endorses youth voices from South Auckland’s Pacific LGBTQI communities. Inspired by the American documentary film, Paris Is Burning, the first FAFSWAG Ball aimed to create a competitive platform centralising talent, performance prowess and safety in an accessibly priced, event experience unique to South Auckland.

The FAFSWAG Ball was affirming, electric, covered in glitter and tear-inducingly empowering!

As of 24 hours ago, I’ve also officially completed all the required outcomes for my Master of Arts Management degree at AUT University and I’m so relieved! I’m deeply thankful to my partner, my friends and family for helping me study and endure the financial hardship of committing to full-time postgraduate study, and especially to my mother, who has listened, advised and encouraged me to not give up, thanks Mum!

This weekend I’m showing two works in the annual King’s College Fine Art Sale and on Sunday I’ll be delivering a talk on Pacific art making and appreciation in South Auckland from 12.45pm, click here for more details.

Check out this track by Otara artist, Beelah – it is the soundtrack of Vea and Emily Mafile’o’s OTARAcube exhibition and was shot and recorded right here in Otara – love it!

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I had a wickedly good time with Yolande Ah Chong on the Radio531pi Breakfast show this week!

Radio531pi is a grassroots Pacific station based here in South Auckland, part of the Pacific Media Network that also delivers NiuFM, a nationwide radio station targeting a younger demographic. It’s Tongan Language Week here in New Zealand; an initiative to promote the teaching and learning of the Tongan language and encourage its use in the home, in education, at work, in government, media, sports, the arts, church and community! The Pacific Media Network offices are decked out to the max: Tongan bark cloth and mats line every wall, there are beautiful floral arrangements in every corner, a Tongan flag across the Reception desk and prints of Tongan monarchs dating back to 1875 show an intriguing transition of leadership looks!

On Facebook, I’ve been posting some Tongan art, artists and inspiration this week. The Auckland art collective No‘o Fakataha is a good source for contemporary Tongan art and artists as is the suburb of Ōtāhuhu in South Auckland! Ōtāhuhu has been on my mind this week; I’ve been investigating a model of mapping the suburb’s creative capacity, thinking about businesses that employ, value and sell creative products and services. Studio 8 Tattoo opened a couple of months ago on Saleyards Road; they have five resident tattoo artists working onsite. With the new bus-train interchange proposed at Ōtāhuhu Train Station, Saleyards Road is probably a good place to be in the coming years.

I’m excited to be attending Survive & Thrive next week at AUT University thanks to Arts Regional Trust Te Taumata Toi-a-iwi (ART). It’s always good energy being around innovators and entrepreneurs – I’ll be live tweeting and contributing some PIMPI insights to the #SurviveThrive dialogue!

Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust just opened its annual tertiary student exhibition at St Paul St Gallery in central Auckland. The exhibition features a number of student artists, including Fijian artist / activist / writer Luisa Tora whose work, Seamy (2011) was originally part of the diasporadic679 exhibition project that acknowledged Fiji Independence Day in October 2011.

I’ve worked with Luisa on a number of projects and she was even the subject of an artwork I made for my 2009 solo exhibition, BLOOD+BONE. Two of the works from that exhibition along with another painting on Fijian masi (bark cloth) are part of the upcoming Kings College Fine Art Sale taking place from 8-10 November. I’m also part of the event’s speaker series and planning a meaty talk about the politics of representation regarding curating, art making and advocating for Pacific art and artists. Watch this space!

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Detail, Decolonise Your Tongue (2013)

Molly Rangiwai McHale & Luisa Tora

Title: Decolonise Your Tongue
Date: 2013
Medium: Mixed media collage
Dimensions: 305x355mm [framed]

Bio

Fijian native Luisa Tora is a second year Visual Arts major at the Faculty of Creative at Manukau Institute of Technology, Otara. She lives in Onehunga with her girlfriend, painter Molly Rangiwai McHale and six cats that don’t belong to them.

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I ❤ Entrepreneurial Pacific Artists

In the past two months I’ve come across a range of art products produced by entrepreneurial Pacific artists – something I love to see! Imagine if entrepreneurship and small business skills were taught at art schools! I love supporting artists who have a head for money-making!

Magnets, bags, lavalava and t-shirts… here is a small selection of some Pacific creative practitioners hustling in Auckland today!

FAF SWAG

FAF SWAG is an online LGBT community honouring Samoan fa’afafine identity. FAF SWAG t-shirts and lavalava are designed by Samoan new media artist, Tanu Gago.

Tabana by Design

Tabana by Design is a collaboration between Martine Stowers and her father. They have collectively produced a range of homeware, totes and make-up bags. They are GORGEOUS!

The Good, The Bad

The Good, The Bad is the brand of Samoan artist Gary Silipa. I’ve been a fan of his work for a while and love his TGTB Symbol t-shirt.

Tepora Malo

Tepora Malo is currently completing a Bachelor of Creative Arts at Manukau Institute of Technology. In 2012, she printed a series of lavalava and sold them at Otara Market. I came across them and loved them straight away! She now stocks Mangere Arts Centre shop located at the corner of Bader Drive and Orly Ave, Mangere, South Auckland.

Magnets by Molly Rangiwai McHale

Molly Rangiwai McHale produced a series of magnets featuring illustrations for Auckland’s recent Big Gay Out festival.

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