Posts tagged ‘Pacific Arts Association’

Photo by Sean Atavenitia

I got a reminder the other day that I’ve been blogging with WordPress for seven years. I found my first post on my first blog and see that whilst so much has evolved, my politics are relatively unchanged.

I’ve received food and emails, text messages and phone calls to offer support and comfort after a week of word wars generated from my outspoken commentary of things that happened at the Pacific Arts Association (PAA) 11th International Symposium. I’ve spoken at length with my friends and family about loyalties, change, challenge and values. Accountability to audiences and funders has been thoroughly scrutinised in the past two weeks both online and off.

The next PAA International Symposium will take place in three years time in Auckland, a compelling context to this forum of dialogue. In various conversations with members of the PAA Executive Committee, I’ve expressed excitement for the fact that Auckland has the potential to make Aotearoa’s Pacific community visible and truly relevant. With the Pacific on Auckland’s doorstep, the next PAA International Symposium also has the potential to draw on the real movers and shakers of the Pacific art world, those who locate their practices, thinking and loyalties in the Pacific proper, and within the realm of Pacific people.

I watched Associate Professor Damon Salesa from the University of Auckland deliver a groundbreaking public presentation earlier this year. He introduced the notion of segregation within the consideration of Auckland as a Pacific city. His presentation exposed the heart and nerves of Pacific Island struggle, representation and social development in Aotearoa. Read more here.

In a recent interview for The Pantograph Punch, Samoan writer Daniel Satele referenced Salesa’s idea of social segregation with regards to my efforts to privilege Pacific audiences in the presentation of Pacific art and ideas. Having my position and curatorial practice questioned and abused over the past few days, I feel even more comfort in knowing that understanding, serving and feeding into the social development of Pacific people is where my heart and energies lie.

The next PAA International Symposium in Auckland will be great; I’m not sure if it’s the right forum for me, but I can certainly see a lively and robust programme of complementary events that will undoubtedly secure Auckland’s rightful place as a hub for Pacific art production, appreciation and dialogue.

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In the context of the Pacific Arts Association International Symposium, I had no idea that I would experience a sense of marginalisation and at times complete invisibility as a Pacific Islander… amongst indigenous people.

There are strong relationships between indigenous people who are minorities in their own countries. Their cultural revitalisation is a result of survival from severe acts of colonial domination and there is a natural affinity with those who have shared this experience. Maori represent the progressive and exciting potential of working in partnership with the Settler government to create all manner of opportunities for their community to prosper, reconnect and develop. Observing the nature of the relationship between Maori and the Musqueam community, the traditional landowners who have hosted the Pacific Arts Association International Symposium, has been fascinating and eye-opening.

Living as a Pacific Island migrant / guest in New Zealand has never felt more apparent. Tensions exist between Maori and Pacific communities and whilst there are spaces and places where indigenous connectedness is celebrated and explored, the social dynamic is ever present. Whilst I have worked with Maori artists and curators, and artists like Margaret Aull, Leilani Kake, Janet Lilo and Cerisse Palalagi who share both Maori and Pacific Island ancestries, I don’t venture or fully immerse myself into the territory of Maori art and culture often.

Whilst the conference itself represents a breadth of research from source countries across the Pacific region, the amount of Pacific Islanders here is fairly small. I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with Jeke Lagi, a Fijian artist from Suva, and sharing memories of Pacific Islandisms with Kolokesa Mahina-Tuai, Dan Taulapapa McMullin and Tarisi Vunidilo.

Feeling lonely so far away from home is quite depressing, but thank God for YouTube; this video always fills my heart with warmth.

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We travelled by American school bus to the Musqueam Cultural Centre on the morning of August 7. I was excited to learn that the first day of the Pacific Arts Association International Symposium would take place in such a great space. With young people and artists milling around, located in the heart of the Musqueam Reservation and on the water’s edge, I loved the setting and felt excited to deliver my paper within that context.

I always appreciate the opportunity to speak last, and in this case, it was an opportunity to salvage some professionalism after my fellow panelists delivered poorly prepared and disorganised presentations, surprising given that both of them had secured grants to travel and participate in this conference. I have felt the weight of every ounce of investment from those who supported the #2girls1conference fundraising campaign; my paper was a small way to honour those who invested in Leilani and I, and the prestige of this forum.

I was grateful to have a full-house in attendance, and although it was far from an ideal space, the intimate environment enabled some good discussion. I love when Pacific people ask questions but so often those with privilege and agency dominate time and space. It seemed to surprise an Australian conference goer, who had addressed the panel with relatively self-serving commentary for the third time, when I declared that this forum, or rather, any academic forum about Pacific art, has little to no relevance for most Pacific artists making work at the grassroots. They are neither validated, or concerned with what is discussed here because there is a parallel world of criticality, aesthetics and significance that exists between Pacific art and Pacific audiences. I opened the door for what could be hours upon hours of debate and sparked small fires in the minds of those who approached me later to dissect and discover what I had meant.

My position and open declaration of my politics is not what it used to be when I worked as a public servant. I am in a different space, with different loyalties. I no longer represent institutional agendas and received no public grant money to enable my trip; the presumed hand that I was accused of biting with my closing remarks, is in fact not the hand that feeds me anymore.

Instead, my community, my family and my loving partner have been my foundation; as long as I’m making them proud, I’m OK, and after today – I’m more than OK.

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The last 48 hours have been a blur.

I’m in Vancouver, preparing to speak at the Pacific Arts Associational (PAA) International Symposium at the University of British Columbia this week. Leilani and my first stop from the airport was the Musqueam Indian Reserve; our savvy native tour guide, Terry Point, gave us insights into the politics of land ownership, the background of the impressive new Musqueam Recreation Centre and Cultural Centre and the loss of language. There’s something about being on native land, something that feels like home – it was the perfect way to be introduced to Vancouver.

As the speakers, energy and culture of this Symposium start to manifest around us, I’m reminded of my responses to the last gathering in 2010. I wrote this response at the time; it was inspired by a particularly disempowering experience and generated excellent conversations around the politics of this gathering and the interface of practitioners and scholars, Pacific and non-Pacific.

Whilst I’ve made my position known, and my anti-elitist, grassroots politics have the potential to rub institutional minds the wrong way, Leilani keeps reminding me why it’s important that we’re here.

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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

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We’re blown away with the support for the #2girls1conference campaign currently running on PledgeMe!

Every dollar pledged is helping Leilani Kake and I with travel and participation costs for the 11th International Symposium of the Pacific Arts Association in Vancouver this coming August! We’re less than $500 away from hitting our crowdfunding target with 12 days still to go. We’re hoping the #2girls1conference campaign (including crowdfunding, art t-shirt and auction) will generate a minimum of $6000 in total, so every dollar we make on PledgeMe effectively takes a little bit of pressure off our other fundraising initiatives.


We’ve had a great week generating awareness for what we’re doing; on Tuesday, Adrian Evans‘ piece in the Manukau Courier was published. We were reminiscing about our 2009 lecture tour to California and smiling about how many times we refresh the browser permanently open on PledgeMe!

On Wednesday we joined Yolande Ah Chong, the excellent and thoroughly conscious and informed host of Radio531pi‘s Breakfast with Lande show to discuss art making, Pacific audiences, leadership and crowdfunding. It was an awesome opportunity to really thrash out some of the principles and beliefs we have about why Pacific art and South Auckland are important.

The #2girls1conference T-shirt is getting lovingly hand-printed next week using Manukau Institute of Technology’s excellent print studio facilities at the Faculty of Creative Arts. Tepora Malo, a third year student completing the Bachelor of Creative Arts programme, has been an excellent collaborator and intern on this project. We’re excited to be working under her leadership in the printing process.


And we’re absolutely humbled by the generosity of our artist friends who have committed works for our auction! We have some AMAZING pieces that have been part of recent South Auckland and Pacific Art History! A stunning large scale unframed photograph by Tanu Gago, part of his Avanoa o Tama (2012) series and a beautiful suite of video stills from Rebecca Ann Hobbs’ work, Otara at Night. Painters Margaret Aull and Nigel Borell have also donated works and the invitation to make or donate works for the cause also inspired this beautiful collaboration between Molly Rangiwai McHale and Luisa Tora!

Every dollar raised in the #2girls1conference campaign is making us feel more and more excited and empowered knowing that our papers at the Pacific Arts Association in August are supported with massive love and investment from our networks!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

To keep up to date on #2girls1conference campaign and our journey to the PAA, connect on Twitter, Facebook or subscribe to PimpiKnows.com for email updates!

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"Real Talk" by Tepora Malo

This is the design Leilani Kake and I have helped to develop with our excellent MIT Faculty of Creative Arts intern, Tepora Malo. Created at the Otara-based arts school, this design will be lovingly hand-printed by a team of volunteers using the Faculty’s commercial screen-printing facilities. Our aim is to produce a range of tote bags and t-shirts to support the #2girls1conference fundraising efforts to get Leilani and I to the 11th International Symposium of the Pacific Arts Association (PAA) in Canada this August.

Tepora is in the final year of her Bachelor of Creative Arts and working on the #2girls1conference fundraising campaign as part of a professional practice paper. We love her floral ‘island print’ mash-ups with leopard, zebra, text and cultural iconography and were keen to collaborate on a customised design for the campaign.

From our hashtags and conversations, stories and scribbles, Tepora came up with a design that we love a lot. Zebras, ‘island print’ and camouflage have been recurring themes in my art practice and Leilani has been planning a work using the idea of disruptive coloration for the past few years. Tepora was drawn to the term, REAL TALK, and that is exactly what we intend to take to the PAA!

Leilani and I will also have a stall at the GROUNDED: Festival of Sustainable Arts pop-up art market on Saturday 29 June at MIT Faculty of Creative Arts, 50 Lovegrove Crescent, Otara, South Auckland from 10am – 5pm. We’ll be selling t-shirts, totes and hand-made bits and pieces

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Leilani Kake and I are raising funds to travel and participate in the 11th International Symposium of the Pacific Arts Association in Vancouver, Canada in August.

Our PledgeMe campaign is now LIVE and open until Thursday 20 June.

We have to raise our target of NZ$2500 in order for our campaign to be successful, so every dollar counts!

We have a range of rewards for donations of $20, $50 and $250:

  • $20 Donation // A SOUTH publication and Thank You card (40 available)

    Receive a copy of SOUTH publication (Issue 2), a 48-page full-colour publication about South Auckland arts and culture co-edited by Ema Tavola. This issue features a profile on Leilani Kake as well as writing from Fear Brampton, Reuben Friend, Kolokesa Mahina-Tuai, Ngahiraka Mason and Anna-Marie White. ALSO receive a hand-made thank you card from Ema and Leilani.

  • $50 Donation // A 2 GIRLS 1 CONFERENCE T-shirt (40 available)

    Our limited edition fundraising t-shirt has been created in collaboration with Mangere-based emerging artist, Tepora Malo! It’s a bold statement t-shirt that supports the cause AND an exciting young artist who is definitely one to watch!

  • $250 Donation // A customised guest lecture or workshop on Pacific Arts and Audiences (4 available)

    Ema Tavola and Leilani Kake will deliver a guest lecture, presentation or workshop on Pacific art and artists and community engagement in South Auckland. Talks can be tailored for audiences ranging from intermediate age children, secondary or tertiary students to professionals or community groups. Talks can be delivered within the Auckland region.

CLICK HERE TO PLEDGE YOUR SUPPORT!!

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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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2 GIRLS 1 CONFERENCE is the name a fundraising campaign to support Leilani Kake and I to travel to Vancouver, Canada to present papers at the Pacific Arts Association (PAA) 11th International Symposium.

The theme of the event is, Pacific Intersections and cross currents: uncharted histories and future trends. The PAA regards their gatherings as opportunities for contemporary artists, cultural leaders, historians, museum and gallery curators, researchers, and collectors to engage in lively and creative dialogue in the spirit of true enquiry.

We have presented before with the PAA, and in 2010 travelled to Rarotonga, Cook Islands to participate in the 10th International Symposium. This year Leilani has proposed to discuss her video installation practice in the context of recent research into intercultural identities. I’ve been invited to contribute to a panel entitled, “Curating Pacific Spaces: The New School of Contemporary Pacific Art from New Zealand”.

Having collaborated on international travel, lecture tours, exhibitions and events since 2004, we have built our *award-winning* art practices on strong networking, bold advocacy, a genuine sense of service to our communities and lots of love, sweat and tears! In the past we have attracted support from a wide range of organisations for our collaborative endeavours, but this year we have both returned to full-time tertiary study and arts-related funding for various reasons has been out of reach.

Therefore, we’re fundraising with all our energies to get to Canada and proudly represent our communities. Funds raised will support airfares and accommodation. We have three fundraising initiatives:

  • A campaign on New Zealand’s premier crowdfunding platform, PledgeMe
  • A pretty amazing art auction featuring work by some excellent artists who all lovingly support our cause
  • A limited edition art t-shirt created in collaboration with Tepora Malo, a promising young artist studying to complete a Bachelor of Creative Arts at Manukau Institute of Technology’s Faculty of Creative Arts in Otara, South Auckland

2 GIRLS 1 CONFERENCE is our all or nothing effort to get Pacific art and South Auckland on the PAA radar.

The campaign goes live on Sunday 26 May – a heartfelt acknowledgment of Fresh Gallery Otara’s 7th anniversary, a timeframe that had been historically marked with poignant locally inspired exhibitions, hearty celebration and the opening of the annual Pacific Arts Summit (between 2010-2012)… until this year. Leilani and I want to recognise the humble beginnings of this important South Auckland arts hub with a reminder of the original kaupapa – to generate awareness and engagement with South Auckland’s unique cultural landscape.

On Sunday 26 May, our PledgeMe campaign goes *live* and our efforts to hustle and share to the best of our abilities will go into overdrive!

Whilst we are two individuals travelling to one conference, we represent a community of hard-working artists and the massive interconnected network of Pacific people who sustain and inform them. Our participation is about representing our collectives, making South Auckland visible and engaging new audiences with our vibrant and unique arts and culture.

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