Posts tagged ‘Manukau’

The impressive and relatively new campus of Manukau Institute of Technology houses two stunning commissioned large scale Pacific artworks (below) which curator, Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai notes, “The form and content of these two works are unique and cannot be found anywhere in Aotearoa NZ, the wider Moana Pacific or in the world. This is a result of the approach and process involved, the materials used, and the special collaboration of older artists and collectives practicing and innovating art forms from the homeland in Aotearoa, and younger Aotearoa born artists, whose practices are informed by influences and mediums they encounter living and growing up here. The basic intention of this approach was to do away with the problematic distinction of ‘traditional’ or ‘heritage’ and ‘contemporary’ artists and arts, when they are in reality coexistent and continuous in circular and inclusive ways.”

The work on the left (below) is called “Ngatu Tupenu Tā’uli'” (Black-marked cloth) and was produced as a collaboration between Benjamin Work and Fauniteni ‘o e Mo’ui, a central Auckland-based Tongan Women fine arts collective from the Dominion Road Tongan Methodist Church. The work on the right is called “Three Kete“; the design was created by Leilani Kake and produced with the knowledge and fine hands of the Cook Islands Mamas led by Master Tīvaevae artist Mary Ama and supported by Annabelle Wichman Hosking, Tukua Turia, Tutana Tuaeu, Mata Te Pai and the Pacifica Mamas of the Pacifica Arts Centre, West Auckland.

The Manukau Tertiary Centre is also currently hosting the small but perfectly formed, jam-packed Taku Tamaki Auckland Stories exhibition, developed by Auckland War Memorial Museum. It was a privilege to be an advisor on this project; it is the most comprehensive South Auckland 101 experience you can get and I take all visitors there as the first port of call. (I spoke at the opening and my speech is here)

I’m also super proud to have work that I’ve been part of on display in this building: six large scale photographic portraits made by Vinesh Kumaran and I at the ASB Polyfest in 2015 are on permanent display on the exterior facing wall of the theatre.

I spent four years studying at MIT completing my undergraduate degree, three semesters teaching there and many, many hours in and around the campuses in Ōtara and Manukau. I’m a big fan of the work the Institute has done to increase Pacific achievement in tertiary education, and this new campus is quietly becoming a hive of conscious Pacific art activity!

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I was privileged to be invited to speak briefly at the opening of Taku Tāmaki – Auckland Stories South at MIT Manukau yesterday. This awesome little exhibition is open for the next year and I love it! Check it out next time you’re in South Auckland. My korero went a bit like this:

I want to acknowledge the speakers who have come before me, it’s my privilege to be standing up here as a local, an artist, and a proud resident of Ōtara-Papatoetoe, South Auckland.

A blog post about the voice and involvement of ‘source communities’ in the curation and management of objects and stories from indigenous peoples has stirred up anger and outrage, sadness and frustration in the past week. Tiffany Jenkins’ polarising perspective has inspired broad commentary about authorship, ownership, racism and privilege which is too often found just below the surface in the international Museum space.

I want to acknowledge Simon and Kelly, Kolokesa and Amiria, an inspiring team of conscious and caring professionals who represent a new era of Museum practice. Bringing this show to us here in Manukau shifts the focus, it re-aligns the centre… an act that quietly changes the game of Museum practice in Aotearoa. Thank you.

It was my privilege to be consulted in the development of this important exhibition. I want to thank the team for listening, accommodating for me and my toddler, taking time to hear and appreciate the nuances of living and working, and feeling proud of being a South Aucklander.

I want to acknowledge the whole team who has created this exhibition – I know that time and energy has gone into every aspect of what we see here, your consideration and attention to detail, your skill and expertise, elevates our stories and I’m grateful for your efforts.

I wanted to acknowledge too that… I’m here on purpose. I choose to live here. This is my place to stand, not by accident, but by informed choice. I migrated to Manukau, not to New Zealand, or Auckland, to this place, and I’m still here because this place gives me life, it settles me, reminds me where I came from and where I can go.

I love feeling so close to the Pacific, I loved being a student and later working at an institution which prides itself on raising the bar of Pasifika achievement. Pacific people feel at home in Manukau because we see ourselves, our norms, our culture and languages represented in our environments. And that helps.

It makes all the difference when our stories and experiences are celebrated, not for overcoming adversity, but for making massive strives for our communities on national and international levels.

I appreciate that this exhibition highlights the socio-economic, political and historical forces that shape our lives here in Manukau. These factors affect and inspire so much of the vibrant culture of creative expression, of visual and performing arts, of music and spoken word that are proudly coming out of our art centres, our churches, homes, halls and neighbourhoods.

I learned my craft as a curator here at MIT; I learned to appreciate the value of creativity and the value of my position, my space, my voice and context. MIT opened doors to me I hadn’t even considered, and I’m incredibly proud to take this institution with me wherever I go.

Although I now find myself working outside of the Arts, Manukau reminds me every day that art is a vehicle to talk about people, and culture and belonging, and when those things are in the foreground, when those stories and nuances are heard, reflected and honoured, a community thrives, and that’s where I want to be.

A last acknowledgement; to Vinesh Kumaran, the photographer, creative visionary whose talent I’ve been privileged to feed off for the past decade – thank you. And to my colleagues from Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura – I’m on a new journey of service and celebration with you, for the love of South Auckland, thank you for your support.

Vinaka vakalevu, fa’afetai tele lava, malo ‘aupito.

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A series of six photographs from the Polyfest Portrait Project is now on permanent display at Manukau Institute of Technology’s new centrally located Manukau campus! Commissioned by the Institute, the series is entitled, Portrait of a Generation. This selection was made specifically for the site – the massive exterior wall of the new campus theatre; the photographs are best viewed from outside the building on Davies Avenue.

The Polyfest Portrait Project is an ongoing photographic collaboration between Manukau Institute of Technology graduates, Vinesh Kumaran, photographer, and artist Ema Tavola.

Since 2009, they’ve set up a make-shift photo studio at the festival to document elements of personal style from bold fashion ensembles to eye-catching hair art. In a series of now over 300 photographs, the Polyfest Portrait Project captures youth in South Auckland as proud, culturally grounded and full of potential.

Vinesh and Ema worked with MIT Faculty of Creative Arts students to produce the 2014 series sharing their knowledge and experience in photography and portraiture techniques, project management and curatorial processes.

About the Artists

Pursuing a Bachelor of Visual Arts at MIT enabled Vinesh’s first foray into photography. His graduate work documented a highly personal journey retracing his family’s historical migration from India to Fiji and on to New Zealand. The experience helped form an acute awareness of the power of the lens and the position of the photographer.

Studying visual arts gave Vinesh a strong technical and critical perspective on the discipline of photography as well as a deep respect for portraiture. After graduating, he moved into the commercial sector where he’s been able to work on notable national and international photographic campaigns in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. He’s currently working on a powerful series of daily portraits of individuals he encounters on his travels and within his day-to-day life living in Māngere; the entire series is shot on an iPhone and accessible via Instagram.

Ema majored in sculpture and loved contextual studies and writing. With a special interest in Pacific art and audiences, she got involved with volunteering opportunities and started working on public exhibitions and community events during her final year of study. She went on to manage Fresh Gallery Otara and held the role of Pacific Arts Coordinator for Manukau City Council (later Auckland Council) from 2006-2012. Ema now works as a freelance arts manager, curator and advisor offering an annual internship to senior Creative Arts students to gain professional experience in arts project management.

Check out another selection of works from the 2014 Polyfest Portrait Project published on the NZ Herald website.

Sm PolyfestHairProject install

Hear Vinesh and Ema discussing the second manifestation of the Polyfest Portrait Project in the form of the Polyfest Hair Project that was first shown at Fresh Gallery Otara in May 2012.

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Leilani Kake and I had a stall at the GROUNDED Festival of Sustainable Arts pop-up market last weekend, hosted by Manukau Institute of Technology’s Faculty of Creative Arts in Otara, South Auckland.

The #2girls1conference fundraising campaign t-shirt is designed by senior student, Tepora Malo, currently studying to complete a Bachelor of Creative Arts. Tepora undertook an internship with Leilani and I on the #2girls1conference campaign, overseeing the process of crowdfunding, social media marketing and leading the design and hand-printing of the limited edition t-shirt.

Tepora’s design employed a complex printing process that presented a fairly massive learning curve for all involved! The outcome is gorgeous and represents multiple hours of trial and error, laughs, sweat and tears!

We produced a limited range of 70 t-shirts and 20 canvas tote bags – both are selling fast; sales enquiries can be directed to Ema using the Contact page here.

The PIMPI fans are seasonally misguided, but on sale for NZ$60.

Images courtesy of MIT Faculty of Creative Arts.

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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.

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