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!
Ana Lakusa with work from her “From Heaven to Hell” series
‘Ahota’e’iloa Toetu’u solo exhibition, Aronui Gallery (2008)
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!
“Masi Pylon” (2006)
“Lulu”, BLOOD+BONE series (2009)
I invest about a fifth of my time into community projects, one of which is the Ōtāhuhu Arts and Culture Sub-Committee of the Ōtāhuhu Steering Group. I’ve been a member for the past two years and the Secretary for past nine months. The South Auckland suburb is a hotbed of arts and culture; the collective aims to raise awareness, connect creative and cultural practitioners and lobby the Council to establish a dedicated arts facility for the community.
We have a young blog: http://otahuhuartsandculture.com/
And an emerging following on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/OtahuhuArtsAndCulture
This Saturday we’re excited to be part of the Ōtāhuhu Family Fun Day at Fairburn Reserve. We were involved in the Christmas festivities and facilitated a recycled Christmas card making activity with local children.
On Saturday we’ll be making lolly and ribbon garlands and presenting a series of art demonstrations including Niuean weaving, traditional Indian Mehndi and aerosol painting!
Some great events happen in Ōtāhuhu, one of which is coming up this week. On Wednesday 20 March, the Ōtāhuhu Library is hosting a debate between students from McAuley High School and De La Salle College on, South Auckland: Is it where I want to be?
This promises to be an excellent event; it kicks off at 5.30pm. Congratulations to Ōtāhuhu Library for facilitating such an exciting discussion – I can’t wait!
For more information on Ōtāhuhu Arts and Culture join us on Facebook!
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.