Posts tagged ‘Pati Solomona Tyrell’

2017 was a year of hard hustle! Through five curatorial projects and a solo show, a three month residency with a three year old, a little bit of heartbreak and a manifesto, these are a few of the stand-out memories of 2017…

Researching Pacific artists + creative entrepreneurship

In a short research project commissioned by British Council New Zealand and Tautai Trust, I had the opportunity to undertake a series of in-depth interviews with Pacific artists in Auckland who work full-time as creative professionals. With the hope of feeding into the development of a customised capacity building programme, interviewees shared vital insights towards understanding the struggles and opportunities of finding the sweet spot between financial sustainability whilst maintaining artistic and cultural integrity.

“Still trying to find a way to operate within a framework that doesn’t care too much whether we’re there or not.” ~ PCE Needs Analysis Interviewee

The research was revealing, and sobering. The work that Pacific creative entrepreneurs do amazes and inspires me; many projects have deep cultural significance and have been personally and emotionally transformative. It’s the kind of work that I think many people would never imagine being paid to do, which reminded me again of the privilege of being attuned to one’s creative potential, and the privilege of public funding that enables so much of this enquiry. For many Pacific artists, a creative practice is unavoidably a community and collective pursuit, so the benefits are rarely for individual gains.

The challenges of being undervalued, structural racism, discrimination and stereotyping and a disregard for the Pacific creative process, are lingering issues surrounding many practitioners. Sometimes, the organisations and clients who benefit the most from the cultural integrity of Pacific artists, are the worst offenders.

The impact of this research for me personally has been significant. As an arts manager and curator, I understand more about my peers and our realities, the value of building and nurturing communities of practice, the powerful potential of collaboration and the vital roles Pacific artists play in the social, political and economic development of our Pacific communities.

Hello, my name is Vinesh

Having worked together on projects for more than a decade, I loved curating Vinesh Kumaran’s first solo exhibition, Hello, my name is Vinesh this year as the first exhibition in the PIMPI Winter Series. From 2015-16, Kumaran shot and shared a portrait a day, made in and around his work and rest time, in South Auckland and beyond. He had wanted to hone and test his skills and passion for portraiture, and throughout the year, his photographs and their narrative weight grew stronger and stronger. The Instagram format helped to perfectly curate the series and as the collection grew, the audience for his work diversified and deepened in their engagement. The series was originally intended for a large scale exhibition at Mangere Arts Centre but translated beautifully to Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery in Ōtāhuhu, produced with support from the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board.

Employing the same approach, Vinesh went on to shoot a series of portraits for Paperboy magazine, featuring on the front cover of the 7-13 September issue. Working together again, we have another project in the pipeline for 2018 profiling individuals involved in creative and commercial businesses in the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu area. Watch this space!

The Perpetual Flux of Transitional Otherness

Exhibiting with two of my closest friends, Margaret Aull and Leilani Kake, was one of my favourite exhibition experiences. We encouraged and supported each other, shared ideas and individually produced cohesive bodies of work that seemed to complement each other effortlessly.

The exhibition was produced for Olly, the coffee and donut shop co-owned by Chlöe Swarbrick, who went on to be a hugely valuable addition to the New Zealand Green Party in the 2017 general election. The exhibition was inspired by and produced to tautoko this young politician who rose to notoriety for her courageous bid for the Auckland mayoralty in the 2016 local government elections. The last painting in my Poedua series was eventually traded with Sāmoan tattoo practitioner, Tyla Vaeau-Ta’ufo’ou who gave me a beautiful custom piece based on the leaves of the Tavola tree (Terminalia catappa).

Tā-Vā (Time-Space) Theory of Reality in Māngere

In July, the esteemed Hūfanga Dr Ōkusitino Māhina and the Kula Uli Publishing team hosted the launch of a Special Issue of the Journal of Pacific Studies (published by Brigham Young University Hawai’i) dedicated to the Tā-Vā (Time-Space) Theory of Reality. The Māngere Arts Centre galleries were packed to capacity as the publication’s New Zealand-based contributors spoke to the influence of Māhina and how Tā-Vā (Time-Space) Theory of Reality has shaped their work and thinking.

A complex discourse between natives, fobs and academics

After a haunting intergenerational group performance of fangufangu (nose flute), the publication’s contributors responded to probing questions about the relevance and implementation of Tā-Vā (Time-Space) Theory of Reality in academia, at grassroots levels and as a lens on New Zealand national culture.

In the process of seeing Hūfanga in the midst of this highly conceptual but grounded discussion, it hit me how precious these times are – it is such a privilege to share intellectual energy and dialogue with courageous thought leaders who push boundaries and re-shape histories. The publication is a special resource, but being present within these exchanges, as Māhina put it, “a complex discourse between natives, fobs and academics“, in the cultural context of both Tongan hospitality and art, made this moment incredibly meaningful.

Konile Fusitua, a quiet muse

Through my daughter, Konile Fusitua is my 16 year old nephew. He relocated from Portland, Oregon to South Auckland last year and has spent his first full year at Papatoetoe High School. I started following Konile on Instagram and became an instant fan of his bold aesthetic, blending symbols of popular culture and Pacific cultural imagery, tracing the expansion of his world and his place within it.

Konile is constantly refining, editing and curating his Instagram feed, which I find fascinating; the chronological archive has perhaps become archaic within the philosophy of Snapchat ephemerality. I love his fascination with Gucci, and his fresh appreciation for the Pacific Island cultural saturation of Southside. I included Konile’s work in the PIMPI Winter Series exhibition, #CHANGES in July; it was his first show, and I hope, first of many.

Femslick – Akashi Fisiinaua

Photo credit: Jermaine Dean

Akashi Fisiinaua’s solo show, Femslick debuted as the first work in FAF SWAG’s 2017 residency partnership with Basement Theatre in central Auckland. In a short season that added the essential flavour of FAF SWAG to the Auckland Pride Festival programme, Fisiinaua directed a stunning audience experience as close to ball culture realness as you can get. As the chanter of FAF SWAG’s Vogue balls, Fisiinaua transitioned the role into a narrative tool that brought the electric energy of ball culture to a potent, intimate and intense theatre experience.

Fisiinaua is a recent graduate of Toi Whakaari’s renowned Performing Arts (Acting) degree programme. The technical skill, lyricism and performative awareness she brings to FAF SWAG Vogue ball culture was translated seamlessly to a theatre setting, a first iteration of iconic and disruptive storytelling that continued beautifully throughout FAF SWAG’s residency with Fa’aafa by Pati Solomona Tyrell and Neon Bootleg by Moe Laga.

The remarkable momentum of artist Pati Solomona Tyrell

Photo credit: Hōhua Ropate Kurene

Fresh out of art school, Pati Solomona Tyrell has had an incredible year! Working commercially, his photography of strong, culturally powerful Pacific Islanders has made some of the most iconic Paperboy magazine covers yet. His work as a photographer and performance artist has been shown nationally and internationally and in June, ST PAUL St Gallery staged a massive solo exhibition of his work called Fāgogo.

Through FAF SWAG, Pati has been in the engine room working on everything from event coordination, large scale photoshoots, cross-cultural collaborations, documentaries and an incredible new app that is set for release in the new year. For a young artist, this has been a wild first year of post-art-school life, but along with the massive highs, a bitter blow intended to derail his practice was dealt from an unexpected source. Fortunately, that effort was met with a significant rally of support from our communities, and the utmost respect has been thrown down for Pati as he navigates new waters. His many successes are his dignified response and his future is unbearably bright!

Twitter < IRL

This year has been the eighth year I’ve used the social media platform, but the culture of Twitter has changed for me. What was once a relatively safe space, used by a relative minority of people from everyday life, has become so mainstream in New Zealand that the same voices, tone and attitudes you might hear in mainstream media, or in the comments section of the New Zealand Herald, seem to uncomfortably eclipse with my consciousness on an all too regular basis.

There’s this interesting accusation that has arisen time and time again of brown Twitter users of existing in bubbles, a similar line of criticism of the kind of Trump-ish politics where bias, opinions and hate speech dominate facts and research. The problem with this, and it has been directed at me more than once, is that the communities we’re part of on and offline, are often communities of shared beliefs, values and likeness that create supportive networks and intellectual ecosystems. It’s disturbing to me that these vital systems of survival and support, particularly for marginalised people living in dominant culture New Zealand, are seen in such a negative light.

On Twitter, where the conversations I’m part of revolve around race, racism, everyday politics, gender, parenting, localism and cultural identity, the line between right and wrong, truth and realness, is simultaneously multi-dimensional and non-existent. I’m tired of getting into Twitter beefs with faceless handles, particularly in the case where those individuals wouldn’t approach, engage or confront me in real life.

Twitter isn’t the safe space it once was.

Pacific arts managers changing the game in 2017

I’m uplifted when I see Pacific people in positions of influence in the arts and cultural sectors in New Zealand. Pacific arts managers bring unique intercultural competencies, fresh ideas and engaged intergenerational communities. 2017 has seen some excellent appointments of Pacific arts managers across gallery management and strategic leadership, curatorial programming and events, check it out…

Ioka Magele-Suamasi
Ioka Magele-Suamasi was appointed as Learning and Outreach Manager at Auckland Art Gallery in October. She vacated the role of Outreach Coordinator which was recently secured by rising star, Jasmine Te Hira. The role coordinating Education and Family Programmes is also now held by Emily Mafile’o.

Jep Savali
Jep Savali was appointed Entertainment Manager for SkyCity, where he had previously worked as manager of the SkyCity Theatre. Jep is bringing a distinctly Pacific awareness to the live music and entertainment that takes place within and around the venue. Recently, the notoriously entertaining, Cindy of Samoa dazzled in a sold out solo show and the annual New Years Eve party boasts an impressive programme of Pacific musicians from Che Fu and King Kapisi to Three Houses Down, Sammy J, Sons of Zion and Malcolm Lakatani.

Simonne Likio
Simonne Likio was a well-known face at Fresh Gallery Ōtara until she was appointed in a new role within the restructured Funding and Capability Services team at Creative New Zealand as a much needed Auckland-based Pacific arts funding advisor.

Margaret Aull
Margaret Aull was appointed to a new role as Curator and Gallery Manager for Te Puia and the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) in November. She had previously worked as Curator and registrar of the collection of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and has just completed a year of freelancing and studying to complete a Post-Graduate Diploma of Business Management.

Clinton Hewitt
In September, Clinton Hewitt was appointed Gallery Coordinator for Fresh Gallery Ōtara, a facility of Auckland Council in the Ōtara Town Centre. Clinton studied Visual Arts at Manukau Institute of Technology after working for several years as a carver and interdisciplinary artist both in the Cook Islands and South Auckland. His company Tribal Designz specialises in customised 21st keys and ukulele.

Lana Lopesi
Lana Lopesi was appointed Editor-in-Chief at The Pantograph Punch in July. She was previously the Visual Arts Editor, and had been editor for #500Words from 2012-16.

Anapela Polataivao
Award-winning actress and director, Anapela Polataivao has taken on the role of Director of Performing Arts at Nathan Homestead, a multi-use facility of Auckland Council in Manurewa, South Auckland. The outdoor summer season of Think of a Garden by American Sāmoan playwright, John Kneubuhl opens on January 25th, tickets available here.

2018: it’s on like donkey kong

“Mātua” (2015) by Pati Solomona Tyrell

Pati Solomona Tyrell is in the midst of a surge of interest in his work and ideas; his practice as an emerging lens-based artist is evolving with every opportunity to perform, present and articulate his position. For Lovers Rock, the final show of the 2017 PIMPI Winter Series, Pati has contributed a work that speaks to things that keep him grounded…

Congratulations on so many great achievements in your practice – a mega solo show at ST PAUL St Gallery, work in the 2017 Pacific Dance Festival, performances in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and an upcoming season of your solo work, Fa’aafa at Basement Theatre! How do you stay grounded and what keeps you well?

I like to get away from Auckland for a weekend and spend time with my family in Hamilton. I am always at peace when I am at home, something about sharing space/time with my family is healing, it refuels my energy and silences the business of big shows. There is nothing like talks from your parents to remind you what is important in life and bring your mind to a focus. Also a good feed of mum’s Sunday To’onai cooking keeps me well. LOL.

Your portraiture practice is a collaborative act with the subject of your photographs; as the photographer, what does that process feel like, to create an image, a representation, and what is considered in selecting a final image?

Collaboration is a sacred space for me. Images have power and #RepresentationMatters. When photographing others I understand that I am capturing more than a just portrait, I am capturing their identity, stories and mana. I think it’s important to give time to sit with people to ask what they are comfortable with and what would make the environment an unsafe place for them to practice.

Collaboration for me is about reciprocity, a constant sharing of energy, ideas and trust. I know this is an uncommon practice for photographers but for me it is important that the people I photograph are involved in each stage of image making, from the birth of the concept, the production process to the selection of the final image.

In terms of the kaupapa of Lovers Rock as the observance of unapologetic, radical self love, what does self love mean for you and where does it sit within your practice?

I’m a fat, hairy, femme, queer Sāmoan. Unapologetic, radical self love is me reminding myself on the daily that these descriptions are not negative. We are constantly fed images of what we should look like, what is beautiful, what is desirable, it’s fucking toxic. Unapologetic and radical self love is protection, and rejecting these media constructed ideas of existing. Being unapologetic is an important part of my practice, I am always putting myself in front of the camera, using my body to portray and challenge ideas, opening myself up to be critiqued not only by others but from myself as well. 

Your work “Mātua” in Lovers Rock features your parents, and as a relatively new parent myself, I feel like that environment of love and nurturing we create for our children, particularly in the early years, is such a vital foundation for life and for self love. Tell me about this work…

Mātua for me was an exploration of my identity. I was learning about living in the space between in my gender, culture, geography and time. This is a celebration of starting to be comfortable with myself and where I sit in the world. Understanding that I navigate a space that isn’t traditionally male or female. Understanding that I am a gift of my mother and father. Understanding that learning about my Sāmoan culture is a life journey and to not give myself so much shit about it. This work for me represents a lot of learning I am doing which I do with the full support of my parents who love me.

Mātua has been produced as a limited edition of A1 size (594x841mm) poster prints for Lovers Rock. The edition of 25 are priced at NZ$100 each. The exhibition is on at Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery, 507 Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland until 19 August.

Interested in purchasing a copy? Get in touch with Ema Tavola (Curator) here:

I wrote a short text to accompany Fāgogo, the very impressive first solo exhibition of Sāmoan lens-based artist, Pati Solomona Tyrell at ST PAUL St Gallery (8 June – 21 July 2017). For the first time, my writing was also translated into Te Reo Māori, and that makes me so happy! Pati is featured in the third #PIMPIWinterSeries exhibition, Lovers Rock opening 29 July at Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery in Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland.

Photo by Raymond Sagapolutele

Manifesting fāgogo

The theme of this year’s national Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa (Sāmoan Language Week) was Ma’au i lou ofaga. Maua’a lou fa’asinomaga – Keep your identity alive to thrive. It’s the one week in the year that Sāmoan language, culture, imagery and pride punctuate everyday life, particularly for Pacific people, those who engage with Pacific people, and in and around Pacific spaces.

Other weeks of the year, Sāmoan language and culture take their place on the margins of New Zealand society, although due to size and scale of the resident population, relatively closer to the centre than other Pacific languages and cultures. For Sāmoans, and other Pacific peoples who enjoy a dedicated national language appreciation week in New Zealand, keeping our unique, increasingly complicated, and diasporically disjointed identities alive, and thriving, is a challenge that is faced 365 days a year.

Pati Solomona Tyrell has approached the concept of fāgogo, the practice, context and content of Sāmoan fables, as the foundation of his debut solo exhibition. Through the sharing and validation of oral histories, collective belief systems and behaviours, fāgogo configures the connection between individuals to their past, and to the realm of super humans, ancestors and deities. The practice emphasises the roles and responsibilities of Sāmoans and the transmission of knowledge and knowing, to the continuum of the Sāmoan world.

We learn through repetition

In diaspora, a world where fāgogo and the transmission of indigenous knowledge are relegated to decontextualised, antiquated, mythological or academically cited practices, we learn that our past is disjointed from our present.

In diaspora, the enduring effects of cultural and spiritual colonisation take form in our health and wellbeing, our communities and perceptions of self. We learn from our collective behaviours, shaped by our environments, economics and systems of education.

In diaspora, the identities of Sāmoans and other Pacific Islanders have been mixed and mashed, chopped and screwed. We learn about being ‘enough’ and not enough, of identity as compartmentalised, as the sum and absence of parts.

In the context of mainstream New Zealand, the presence of Pacific Islanders is often barely visible. We learn repeatedly that our presence is excluded, marginalised, silenced or misunderstood. When fāgogo and practices that centralise indigenous knowledge are performed, in homes and safe spaces, in language and ritual, the continuum of indigenous knowledge unfolds, carefully, vulnerably, intentionally.

This exhibition is an intervention

It is not photographs on walls, it is more than lighting and equipment, it is not talent and direction. Fāgogo wakes up the intrinsic presence of our ancestors in our bones. Tyrell has assembled an archive of portraits that command audiences, the art world, students and educators to hear the call: it repeats – presence, visibility, pride, knowing. Presence, visibility, strength, mana. Presence, visibility, respect, talanoa.

This exhibition is an intervention.

Beyond being just sitting subjects, Tyrell’s community, representing the fullness of the spectrum of gender, sexuality and belonging, are present as collaborative, conscious partners. The moment captured amongst racial, cultural, professional and playful tensions is the act of being seen. These portraits are configured around the creation of dedicated space for the physical presence and facilitation of visibility, for talanoa and the brokering of knowledge transmission. In this, Tyrell’s rich and ambitious public programme is central to the activation of the exhibition’s thematic context.

In the current zeitgeist, the thirst for diversity and otherness in the arts is palpable; visibility of Pacific art and artists is increasingly evident in programming for public galleries and museums. New territories have formed where negotiated power and presence also expose the systemic inequalities and neglect that diverse artists and audiences have historically experienced. But this exhibition and its consciously crafted facilitation of presence is an oasis of glorious brown self-love, a safe space, a fully charged dreamscape of power and presence, a proud portal to motherlands, other lands and Pulotu.

Ema Tavola
May 2017

Te Reo Māori translation by Stephanie Huriana Fong

He whakatinana i te fāgogo

Ko te kaupapa o Vaiaso o le Gagana Sāmoa (Te Wiki o te Reo Hāmoa) ā-motu i tēnei tau ko Ma’au i lou ofaga. Maua’a lou fa’asinomaga – Kia ora tō tuakiri e ora nui ai koe. Koinei te wiki kotahi i te tau e whai wāhi nui ai ki ngā mahi o ia rā, ko te reo, ko te ahurea, ko ngā tohu Hāmoa hoki, tae atu rā anō ki te tū whakahī hei Hāmoa. He pēnei pū mā ngā uri o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, mā te hunga mahi tahi ki ngā uri nei, ā, tae atu anō ki ngā wāhi e noho nei hei wāhi motuhake ki ngā uri o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa.

I wiki kē atu o te tau, ka whai wāhi noa te reo me te ahurea o Hāmoa ki ngā tahataha o te porihanga o Aotearoa, heoi anō, nā runga i te rahi me te whānui o te horapa o ngā uri Hāmoa kei konei e noho ana, he kaha ake te rangona, tērā i ētahi atu reo, ahurea hoki o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. Ki ngā uri o Hāmoa, ki ngā uri o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa kē atu kua whai i tētahi wiki motuhake i Aotearoa hei whakanui i ō rātou reo, he wero nui te whai kia ora, otirā, kia ora nui ai ō tātou tuakiri motuhake, matatini, nakunaku anō, ā, he wero e rangona ana i ia rā o ia tau.

Kua whakatau a Pati Solomona Tyrell, ko te kaupapa o te fāgogo, arā, ko ngā tikanga, ko te horopaki, ko te kiko anō o ngā pūrākau Hāmoa, hei tūāpapa mō tana whakakitenga takitahi tuatahi rawa. Mā te tuku me te whakamana i ngā tāhuhu kōrero ā-waha, i ngā whakapono me ngā whanonga ā-iwi, ka hua i te fāgogo he hononga i waenga i te tangata me tōna nanahi, otirā, me te wāhi ngaro, arā, te wāhi e tau nei ngā tipua, ngā tūpuna me ngā atua anō. Ka whakaūngia e te tikanga nei te mana nui o ngā tūnga me ngā kawenga o te Hāmoa, o te tukuhanga o te mātauranga me te mōhio anō, ki te oranga tonutanga o te ao Hāmoa.

Mā te tōai tātou e ako ai

I te ao e noho wewehe nei ngā uri i ō rātou kāinga tūturu, he ao e whakaitihia ai te fāgogo me te tukuhanga o ngā mātauranga taketake hei tikanga horopaki-kore, hei mea hanga tawhito noa, hei pakiwaitara waihanga noa, hei tikanga kōrero mā te hunga pūmātauranga noa, ka ako tātou, kāore he hononga i waenga i tō tātou nanahi me tō tātou nāianei.

I te ao e noho wewehe nei ngā uri i ō rātou kāinga tūturu, ka kitea ngā hua auroa o te tāmitanga ā-ahurea, ā-wairua anō ki tō tātou hauora, ki ō tātou hapori, ki ō tātou tirohanga ki a tātou anō. Ka ako tātou i ā tātou whanonga ā-iwi, he mea auaha e ō tātou taiao, e ngā tikanga ōhanga, e ngā pūnaha mātauranga hoki.

I te ao e noho wewehe nei ngā uri i ō rātou kāinga tūturu, ko te tuakiri o te Hāmoa me uri kē o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa kua whakahanumitia, kua kopenua, kua wāhia, kua kōwiria. Ka ako tātou mō te ‘nawhe’ me te kore rānei i nawhe, ka ako anō mō te tuakiri hei mea e taea ana te wehewehe ki ētahi wāhanga motuhake, hei tapeke, hei mea tatau.

I te horopaki o Aotearoa auraki, he nui tonu ngā wā me uaua ka rangona te awenga o ngā uri o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. Hoki atu, hoki atu tātou e ako ana, ko tō tātou mana ka mahue, ka takahia, ka whakangūtia, ka pōhēhētia rānei. Ka whakatinanatia ana te fāgogo me ētahi atu tikanga e whakamana ana i ngā mātauranga taketake, ki roto i ngā kāinga me ngā wāhi haumaru, i roto i te reo, e ai anō ki ngā kawa, ka tukuna tonutia te mātauranga taketake i runga i te whakatonu, i te whakaraerae, i te takune anō.

He whakataunga tēnei whakakitenga

Ehara noa i te whakaahua ki runga pakitara, i ngā rama me ngā taputapu, i ngā pūkenga me ngā tohutohu. Ko tā te fāgogo he whakaoreore i te mana o ō tātou tūpuna kei ō tātou iwi tonu e tau ana. Kua whakaemihia e Tyrell he kohinga whakaahua e whakahau nei i te whakaminenga, i te ao toi, i te ākonga, i te kaiako anō, kia rangona ai te karanga: ka tōaitia – te awenga, te kitenga, te whakahī, te mātau.
Te awenga, te kitenga, te kaha, te mana.
Te awenga, te kitenga, te whakaute, te talanoa.

He whakataunga tēnei whakakitenga

I tua noa i te noho hei kaupapa whakaahua, ko te hapori o Tyrell, he mea whakatinana i te whānuitanga o ngā momo ira tangata, o te hōkakatanga me te whai wāhitanga, kua whai tūranga hei hoa mahi ngātahi, mōhio anō. Ko te wā i kapohia ake i waenga i ētahi whakatete ā-kiri, ā-ahurea, ahakoa ngaio mai, ngahau mai anō, ko te kitenga tonu. Kua whakaaturia ēnei whakaahua e ai ki te whakaritenga o tētahi wāhi motuhake e whakatinanatia ai, e ākina anō ai te kitenga, te talanoa, otirā, te tukuhanga o te mātauranga. Nā runga i tēnei, ko te hōtaka tūmatanui rangatira, awhero nui anō a Tyrell kei te matū o te whakatinanatanga o te kaupapa matua o tēnei whakakitenga.

E ai ki te hā o te wā nei, e kaha rangona ana te hiakai nui ki tēnei mea ki te kanorau, ki te rerekē anō i te ao toi; e kaha haere ana te kitea o ngā toi me ngā ringatoi o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa ki ngā hōtaka a ngā whare toi me ngā whare pupuri taonga. Kua hua ake he taumata hou, ki reira huraina ai e ngā whiriwhiringa mana ngā pēhitanga me ngā whakahapatanga kua rangona e ngā ringatoi me ngā whakaminenga kanorau i mua. Heoi anō, ko tēnei whakakitenga, me te āhua i āta whakaritea ai te awenga me te mana, e noho nei hei āhuru mōwai e whakanui nei, e whakamana nei i te kiri parauri, he wāhi haumaru, he whenua moemoeā e rangona ai te mana me te awenga, otirā, he ara whakahī ki te kāinga tūturu, ki whenua kē, ki Pulotu rā anō.

Ema Tavola
Haratua 2017

Photo courtesy of

The third exhibition in the 2017 PIMPI Winter Series takes its name from the title track of Sade’s concept album Lovers Rock.

For curator, Ema Tavola, the lyrics and melodies of the album formed the soundtrack of a period of awakening, of flipping the script and transforming youthful anxiety and torturous and media-saturated negative self-image to powerful, self empowerment. It was played on CDs, contemplated on worn mattresses, in humid afternoons and rainstorms; it was the music that fuelled the decision to leave home and embark on the adventure of moving to Aotearoa.

This exhibition, Lovers Rock, is an homage to radical, transformative self love.

It is a tragedy that the act of truly loving the bodies we inhabit is a form of rebellion, a political position, a choice to consciously reject the media messaging that attaches worth and value to prescribed and narrow ideals that often don’t match our physical and environmental realities.

As pathways and platforms to perform and engage in the act of self love, artists explore, reclaim and unpack the politics of the gaze, unapologetically centralising the brown body, in the frame, in the centre; creating visibility where it didn’t exist. Lovers Rock taps into the necessary re-authoring of the narrative of brown bodies, unburdening the language of our curves and textures, our rhythms and shade.

Practices in Self-Love is the exhibition’s public programme event. In a unique Pecha Kucha inspired sharing format, the exhibition’s artists will share personal approaches for channeling self love and practicing self care. All welcome!

Image credit: Invisible series (2016) by Julia Mage’au Gray

Lovers Rock

Featuring: Melissa Cole, Julia Mage’au Gray, Pati Solomona Tyrell, Serene Timeteo, Jacinda Pini
Opening: 6pm, Saturday 29 July
Practices in Self-Love: 2pm, Saturday 5 August
Exhibition Dates: 31 July – 19 August 2017


Godhead Aitu (2016)
Digital prints, framed

Pati Solomona Tyrell is an interdisciplinary visual artist with a strong focus on performance. Utilizing lens-based media he creates visual outcomes that are centered around ideas of urban Pacific queer identity. He has shown work at Fresh Gallery Otara, PAH Homestead and most recently at the Pingyao International Photography Festival. Tyrell is a co-founder of the arts collective FAFSWAG. Currently he is a third year student enrolled in the Bachelor of Creative Arts at Manukau Institute of Technology, Otara. Pati is originally from Kirikiriroa, Waikato but is now based in Maungarei, Tāmaki Makaurau.





Writing media releases is not a strength of mine. I’ve had the privilege of working with some excellent marketing heads in the past; they’ve taken my words and created digestible, broad appeal information that gives mainstream mana to projects which generally sit comfortably within the margins.

Producing a series of exhibitions in a non-conventional, central Auckland commercial space, with an agenda of selling art and engaging broad and diverse audiences, on a minimal budget, has forced me out of my comfort zone. These exhibitions couldn’t exist ‘comfortably within the margins’; they needed to be translated, positioned, re-valued… or did they?

As the PIMPI Winter Series has rolled out, the deeper purpose and complexity of what I set out to do has revealed itself to me day by day, online and off, in conversations and silent observations. In this space between commerce and creativity, the perceived margins and the centre, where skin is marked and hair is cut, the exhibitions are encountered largely unintentionally by wandering eyes, passers by, social media followers and waiting mates, spouses and children.

Partner in the PIMPI Winter Series, and owner of Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio, Stan Lolohea, has challenged and invigorated my thinking at every stage. Outside of the conventions of an art gallery, who are these shows for? And does increasing the net of general awareness create more genuine interest? Does an exhibition grow the scope, care and engagement between audiences, groups… does it facilitate understanding, conversation and debate across class, race, gender divides?


I’ve found producing these exhibitions so completely refreshing, a total love-project with no funding, but built on the back of a strong forgiving partnership (vinaka vakalevu Stan), and carried by my family, who have shared the load (malo ‘aupito Taka, Si’i, Lini, Tu’i). I had found myself working from funding round to funding round, writing late night proposals, planning, pitching, failing… I needed to get back to the grassroots of what I love to do and flex my curatorial muscle.

DIY curating is a full To Do list most days, but the hosting, promo, multiple trips to Warehouse Stationary, the framers, finding excellent deals on good wine, getting my earth-thrills from using corn-based bioplastic cups… I’ve loved it all! But mostly, it has been a privilege to gently hustle these 12 talented and clever artists, facilitating sales for many of them, instigating new work and fresh thinking.

I’m grateful for the partnerships, support and online engagement that has pushed out the potential of these shows. To those who have bought work – thank you, and to those who have given their time and skills: Lana Lopesi, Ralph Brown, Sean Atavenitia for South Auckland Photography, Sangeeta Singh, Leilani Kake – I’m deeply grateful. Thanks also to the residents of Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio, Duss, Damian and Willy – I’ve been totally inspired watching you work!

The Private Views / Opening receptions for the PIMPI Winter Series have been too cool. Eclectic, diverse audiences… family, friends, colleagues, locals, South Aucklanders too! To those who travel from near and far to support these artists – thank you so much! It means a lot. Check out this badass video by South Auckland Photography:


Here’s an interview Stan and I did with Radio New Zealand reporter, Justin Gregory, aired on Friday 7 August:


And there’s still ONE MORE SHOW to go!

Please join us from 6pm on Thursday 27 August at Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio, 159 Mt Eden Road, central Auckland to mark the opening of Know what I mean, jellybean? featuring new and recent work by Leilani Kake, Niutuiatua Lemalu, Waiora Palalagi and Pati Solomona Tyrell – all work is for sale!

Click-Click-Follow on Instagram and Facebook for real time happenings!

I’ve been dreaming about establishing another gallery in South Auckland. I love curating, I love selling art and I love collaborating with artists to make good shows that contribute to broadening awareness and understanding of Pacific ways of seeing and being in Auckland, New Zealand.

Whilst I’m hopeful my one-day gallery is in the near future, in the meantime I’ve collaborated with Tongan tattoo artist, Stan Lolohea to develop the PIMPI Winter Series: a series of three pop-up exhibitions at his Mt Eden barber and tattoo studio. We’re working with 12 artists over eight weeks facilitating the presentation of around 25 individual pieces of work, most of which has never been exhibited before, and all work is for sale!

These artists excite me! From Canberra-based Sione Monu, the Brown-Instagram-famous selfie savant, Faafeu Kapeneta, photographing the small but visible Tongan community in rural Marlborough, to visual arts students Qingze Nan, Daisy Tavilione and Pati Solomona Tyrell, each making experimental, bold work at MIT Faculty of Creative Arts in the heart of Otara, South Auckland.

I feel super privileged that for some of these artists, this is their first exhibition. Some are Pacific art regulars, whilst others have been fairly quiet on the exhibition scene. The PIMPI Winter Series has been a call to action, inspiring new work and a different context for engaging with Pacific art and ideas.

U Can’t Touch This (16 July – 1 August) features Talafungani Finau, Sione Monu, Siliga David Setoga and Daisy Tavilione. In the first of the series, this site specific exhibition acknowledges the head, the hair and the selfie. In Fiji, like many parts of Oceania, the head is the most sacred part of the body; in the words of Stanley Kirk Burrell, U Can’t Touch This. Situated in and around the barber shop floor, four Pacific artists have created new work about the head (literally), and the most important and sacred parts of life. In references to family portraiture and the celebratory lei (garland), there are acknowledgements of nature and culture, life and death, loved ones and idols.

That’s not Pacific Art (6 – 22 August) features Faafeu Kapeneta, ‘Ana Lakusa, Qingze Nan and Genevieve Pini. Inspired by conversations around definitions, problematic terminology, authorship and belonging, this exhibition confronts popular expectations of what Pacific art is / should be. Some work deviates from direct references to identity and community, people and places, others present perplexing juxtapositions of tradition, human and geographical landscapes.

Know what I mean, jellybean? (27 August – 12 September) features Leilani Kake, Niutuiatua Lemalu, Waiora Palalagi and Pati Solomona Tyrell. In reference to a line from the movie Blood In, Blood Out, this exhibition touches on the idea of cultural chameleonism, and the everyday negotiation of difference across and between cultural and social environments, vernacular and humour, ways of being and seeing.

Meet the artists at the PIMPI Winter Series Private Views, pick up a copy of Stan Lolohea’s essay and get in quick – artwork is priced to sell!

Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio


Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio is located at 159 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland. It’s open Mondays from 9am-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-7pm.

Appointments and enquiries: (09) 630 4380 /


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