Posts tagged ‘South Auckland’

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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Samoa mo Samoa (2004) by Genevieve Pini

Samoa mo Samoa (2004) by Genevieve Pini, 290x195mm, edition of 3, signed inkjet prints on Hahnemühle Matt FineArt paper. Framed NZ$200 / Unframed NZ$160.

Having studied jewellery, garment construction and photography, Genevieve Pini’s interdisciplinary art practice reflects family, feminism and bloodlines between Otara and Samoa. I spoke to her briefly about her work, Samoa mo Samoa in “That’s not Pacific Art”, the second exhibition in the PIMPI Winter Series

Samoa mo Samoa is a photograph you made in 2004, what is it about and where was taken? 

Samoa mo Samoa means Samoa for Samoa, it’s the motto of the Mau Movement. Just seeing it in South Auckland made me open my eyes a bit about how we relate to our history, being where we are.

I didn’t do the tag, but I liked the politics of it… it was a good feeling seeing it on Othello shops in Otara (heart of South Auckland), I was just waiting for the bus when I saw it. It’s about claiming space, and it was up there for ages. It made me think, where is the place of our histories in our everyday life in New Zealand? It’s in the people.

“Fa’amalu” (2004) by Genevieve Pini

Otara and Samoa are significant anchors in your life and art practice, something strongly present in your work based on the process of getting your malu in 2003. I know it was a significant juncture in your life; it bonded your blood to this land, and your present (and future) to your past, Samoa to Otara. I’ve always loved how your photograph, Fa’amalu, captures the moment of excitement and intrigue before you got tattooed, how did your malu change your life and outlook?

Watching my dad going through his pe’a, the sight of seeing his blood, thinking ‘oh my god, that’s my dad, doing his thing for his family’. My dad, comes from Samoa, lives in Otara, does all this stuff for his family… working, sending money back home, keeping traditions alive.

I feel proud. And of course a certain obligation to do my part through art. I know from experience that my art doesn’t financially support my family’s Samoan fa’alavelaves and stuff but as long as I can represent them the best way I know how, I love doing art.

My malu gives me a sense of pride, knowing that my family are behind me and supporting me. When you get down to it, it represents love.

What does Samoa mo Samoa mean to you today?

It means family, love, respect… there are so many layers to this. The past, present and future, a sense of place. I have a place here…


That’s not Pacific Art
6-22 August
Featuring Faafeu Kapeneta, Ana Lakusa, Qingze Nan and Genevieve Pini.

Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio is located at 159 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland. Open Mondays from 9am-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-7pm. Barber and tattoo appointments and enquiries: /

Exhibition and Artwork Enquiries

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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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.

Auckland-based collective Oceania Interrupted launches its fourth of 15 planned ‘Actions’ on World Press Freedom Day, Saturday 3 May at South Auckland’s Fresh Gallery Otara.

Oceania Interrupted Action 4: Freedom is... Video Project

Oceania Interrupted Action 4: Freedom is… Video stills

Formed in November 2013, Oceania Interrupted is a collective of Māori and Pacific women committed to undertaking public interventions to raise awareness for issues that affect Pacific Islanders both here in Aotearoa and throughout the region. The collective is currently engaged in producing a series of 15 Actions to raise awareness and demonstrate solidarity for the people of Papua and West Papua.

Past Actions have been performance based; women have assembled to march silently with the Morning Star flag down Queen Street in the Auckland CBD (Action 1: The Rise of the Morning Star), through the notorious Otara Market (Action 2: All We Want for Christmas is a Free West Papua) and most recently at Auckland’s Pasifika Festival (Action 3: Free Pasifika – Free West Papua).

All I Want For Christmas Is A Free West Papua, photo by Tanu Gago

Action 4: Freedom is… takes the form of a video project and gathering to mark World Press Freedom Day. Oceania Interrupted extended the invitation to participants to produce their own videos asking people in their lives about the meaning of freedom, awareness of West Papua and the visibility of the Pacific in New Zealand mainstream media. Filmed on phones, cameras and tablets, the contributions were collated and edited together with footage from past Oceania Interrupted performances by Samoan artist and activist, Tanu Gago.

Designed by Katarina KatoaDrawing attention to the power and privilege of media freedom, and freedom of expression, the Action 4: Freedom is… video will be launched on YouTube at 5pm on Saturday 3 May at a gathering at Fresh Gallery Otara.

Bringing together participants, supporters, families and friends, the Action 4: Freedom is… gathering is an opportunity to discuss and broaden awareness for West Papua as well as invite contributions for future Oceania Interrupted actions.

A limited edition Oceania Interrupted T-shirt has been designed by Cook Islands visual arts student, Katarina Katoa, who is currently completing a Bachelor of Creative Arts degree at Manukau Institute of Technology. Katatrina has undertaken the project as part of an internship for PIMPI and Oceania Interrupted; the t-shirts have been designed and hand screen-printed in Otara, South Auckland with support from the Faculty of Creative Arts. They’ll be for sale at Fresh Gallery Otara on Saturday 3 May from 5-7pm for NZD40. All proceeds raised go towards future Oceania Interrupted Actions.

Oceania Interrupted Action 4: Freedom is… | 5-7pm, Saturday 3 May | Fresh Gallery Otara


11 December 2013

fresh art logo full

A new pilot event at Fresh Gallery Otara aims to showcase the potential of creative entrepreneurship in South Auckland.

Fresh Art Market is a lively pop-up market day presenting a diverse range of creative products and services including fashion design, nail artistry, event and project management, homeware and photography alongside the more traditional paintings and prints.

Event organiser, Ema Tavola says, “Fresh Art Market is a microcosm of South Auckland’s creative ecology – our artists are not just exhibiting in galleries but earning a living in a range of ways from photographing and designing events, painting murals, facilitating workshops and creating works of art in hair and nails.”

The event is in part influenced from Tavola’s involvement with a colleague from the Indonesian city of Bandung, well regarded for its innovative creative economy. Dian Gesuri has been in New Zealand completing a Master of Arts Management degree at AUT University; the two have spent six weeks sharing ideas about creative entrepreneurship and sector development in an informal residency at Tavola’s home in South Auckland.

Gesuri will deliver a presentation at Fresh Art Market from 9 – 10am on what South Auckland can gain from harnessing creativity and community, collaboration and commerce. Her talk will introduce some inspiring models of creative entrepreneurship that have contributed to social change in Bandung.

Gesuri says, “The driving force of Bandung’s creative economy is people and community, something South Auckland is rich in; the potential for creative economic growth here is significant.”

Stallholders will be offering specials and discounts across all products and services from manicure and pedicure gift vouchers to couture garments, t-shirts, portrait photography, artworks and hand-made accessories.

Tavola says, “This is a perfect time to support local creative entrepreneurs – their products and services are priced to sell and locally designed and produced gifts and treats are an investment in our local creative economy. This will be a truly inspiring day!”

Artists / Creative Entreprenuers involved: Leah Espie Photography, FAF SWAG, Tui and Sulieti Gillies, Tepora Malo, Nesian Nails, The Roots Creative Entreprenuers, Czarina Wilson Design.

Event details
When: Saturday 14 December, 9am – 2pm
Where: Fresh Gallery Otara, 5/46 Fairmall, Otara Town Centre, South Auckland

Ema Tavola – Event Organiser
Mb 027 5779369 / Email / Twitter @ColourMeFiji / Web

fresh art logo full

FRESH ART MARKET is a lively pop-up market day presenting a diverse range of creative practice and free public programme events at South Auckland’s notorious Fresh Gallery Otara!

The event draws together a diverse range of creative practitioners from fine artists to activists, object makers and writers to fashion designers. With everything priced to sell, FRESH ART MARKET is an ideal one stop shop for conscious, hand-made, locally designed gifts and treats!

Stall holders include: Czarina Wilson Design, Leah Espie Photography, Tui Gillies, Luisa Tora and Molly Rangiwai-McHale, Tepora Malo, The Roots Creative Entrepreneurs and more!

Throughout the day, a series of public programme events will take place alongside the Market:

From 9-10am, join visiting arts manager, Dian Ika Gesuri for an inspiring discussion on what Auckland can learn from harnessing creativity, community, collaboration, innovation and commerce, introducing some amazing models of creative entrepreneurship that contribute to social change in the city of Bandung, Indonesia.

At 11am, check out a series of short films including Luisa Tora’s “Home Videos” (2013) and join the film makers for a Q&A.

From 1-2pm, exhibiting artists Sam Afu and ‘Ahota’e’iloa Toetu’u are delivering a free painting workshop inspired by their current exhibition, Ua gau le sila, tuku ki Manono on at Fresh Gallery Otara until 21 December.

Keep an eye on the Facebook event page for updates and specials or send us an enquiry here:

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!

For the past month, I’ve been coordinating a public events programme called OTARAfest on behalf of the Faculty of Creative Arts at Manukau Institute of Technology here in South Auckland. It falls under the umbrella of Auckland Council’s Southside Arts Festival but as a point of difference, OTARAfest is positioned to benefit, speak to and engage Otara and South Auckland audiences first and foremost.

The newly refurbished Fresh Gallery Otara is the centre of the OTARAfest programme. The Gallery’s large open space will be used for gatherings, performances and a workshop on professional exhibition practice. Two new outdoor exhibition platforms will also be formally launched during OTARAfest; the OTARAcube – a 10×10 foot customised container located in the Otara Transport Precinct, and OTARAlights – a series of five light boxes installed in the vicinity of Fresh Gallery Otara.

Pulling together the programme for OTARAfest has been a nostalgic and heartwarming experience; so much of it reminds me of the South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit. Having worked, lived and studied in and around Otara for the past decade, it is familiar territory; there is an accountability that comes with connectedness.

OTARAfest is largely funded with the agenda of revitalising the Otara Town Centre; all but one of the events are free and many are purposefully integrated into everyday life, using outdoor and community spaces as well as the significant audience of the weekly Otara Flea Market.

I appreciate site-specificity and social, historical and political consciousness as key considerations in event delivery. I’m also excited about the new direction of MIT Faculty of Creative Arts and so pleased that its geographic and cultural context is informing and inspiring a new consideration of the value of arts education in South Auckland. Read more from Grant Thompson, Executive Dean – MIT Faculty of Creative Arts.

OTARAfest launches at Fresh Gallery Otara from 6pm on Thursday 17 October at the opening of Fresh Out of School, an exhibition featuring six new graduates from MIT Faculty of Creative Arts. All welcome!

Read more about OTARAfest events here

I don’t log into Facebook under the personal profile page that my partner and I share very often, but when I do I see updates from an amazing organisation here in South Auckland called Sands Manukau. Having experienced the loss of our baby last year, Sands Manukau provided some of the most significant support during a period of horrific heartbreak. I see their updates and think of the amazing generosity and strength of the people who work for this cause.

The blog wars and art hype that has created unprecedented traffic and dialogue on my website over the past few days represents time and energy invested in a marginal area of my life. Art is a luxury I fit in and around caring about things like cooking, growing food, paying bills, rats in my roof, writing assignments for my Master of Arts Management degree, family politics…

In my day I think about people who work for people in need, people who do what they can, like the hummingbird. I think about the local government election hoardings on every fence line in my neighbourhood and wonder whether local body politics is in any way engaging Pacific young people to feel included in governance and power structures.

Being away from South Auckland made me grateful for the little things, like hearing Pacific music and language on the radio all day and that events like the launch of Samoan writer, Lani Wendt Young‘s third and highly anticipated book, The Bone Bearer is taking place this weekend in Manukau.

When I court art controversy, I think about all the times I’ve sat around advisory tables feeding into decisions that affect whether people get funding and opportunities. I know my actions carry consequences and there will always be people who invest time and energy in discussing the credibility of my work and position. Whilst bridges burn, the river changes course and new pathways emerge, i.e. new doors are always opening for me and I move in time with my heart – doing work that I believe is important.

In a nutshell, I’m happy to be back in South Auckland.

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