Supported by the Pacific Business Trust, Manukau City Council, Kim Crawford Wines and Otara Four Square, BUY SPEND SAVE NOW is an artistic collaboration between Shigeyuki Kihara, Leilani Salesa and Ema Tavola.

TransPlantation (2007) – Trolley, taro plant, rubbish from the Otara Shopping Centre

Sefa Enari being interviewed by Richard Pamatatau for Arts on Sunday, Radio New Zealand (aired Sunday 25 March 2007, can be listened to at 

Recycling damaged shopping trollies from the local supermarket, the exhibition references themes of capitalism and mobility, resourcefulness and recycling. As part of five sculptural installations in the gallery, the artists express their point of view on globalisation, wealth and poverty from a uniquely New Zealand Pacific perspective. The artwork addresses current issues faced by many Pacific communities including: nationhood and neo-nationhood; gang and youth culture; religion and its social impacts; perceptions of beauty and femininity and the lures and traps of gambling.

BUY SPEND SAVE NOW is a thought-provoking, plastic fantastic, visual melee of objects and ideas from our everyday lives, re-contextualised to question our space and place in urban New Zealand as Pacific People.

BUY SPEND SAVE NOW | Fresh Gallery Otara

 22 March – 14 April, 2007



Inspiring Thinking

Peter Sellars (Professor of World Arts & Culture at UCLA) blew my mind last week! Speaking in the panel discussion responding to Isaac Julien’s work True North in the Auckland Triennial, Peter opened up a new world of thinking, seeing, responding… to some very turbulent responses from the floor.  Speaking further at the MAU performance and closing of Celebrate Pasifika, this fella is tooooo cool. Vinaka Peter… too much 🙂

Some other interesting Auckland Triennial events are:

Richard Moyle, Head of Pacific Studies, The University of Auckland discusses aspects of Tongan music.
The Gus Fisher Gallery  – Gallery 2 

Jon Bywater – Art and Politics

In art as in life, being political can be impolite and impolitic. Political art is often accused of failing to be art at all. Writer and University of Auckland lecturer Jon Bywater offers a fresh introduction to perennial problems, discussing contemporary art works as a way into the big questions about art and politics and when and how they mix.
Auckland Art Gallery – Main Gallery Auditorium – Free

Urban Pacific

Niu (2006) Taylor King, painted MDF, 240×480 mm

 Urban Pacific was an exhibition at the Randolph Street Gallery in Newton, Auckland. Curated by Giles Peterson, Urban Pacific was a cross-disciplinary exhibition of painting, digital photography, moving image, sculpture, weaving and textile, installation, fashion, and tattoo by twelve young, contemporary Maori & Pacific artists: Kiwi Biddle, Donna Campbell, Quinton Carrington, Matt Dowman, Anita Jacobsen, Marlaina Key, Taylor Kingi, Nanette Lela’ulu, Lina Marsh, Marlon Rivers, Lusia Samuela and Siliga David Setoga.

“The exhibition celebrates the vision of our young people and their ongoing contribution in shaping Auckland’s character as a Pacific city. The exhibition also looks at ‘Urban Pacific Style’ (street style Poly-fashion/body art, music and visual arts) and the impact this phenomenon has had on the local and global stage.” – Giles Peterson

Part of the AK07 Auckland Festival.

I spoke in the Public Programme on Saturday 7 April, thanks to those who came!

Urban Pacific Public Programme

For exhibition photos and information, see

A Pacific Curator?

After a recent meeting with an Australian curator, I am re-establishing or rather remembering what my purpose and drive is as a Pacific artist and curator. In that particularly unfruitful meeting, I became very aware of the difference between curating Pacific art to a global audience, and curating Pacific art reflecting on my role and responsibility in moving Pacific art and Pacific people into the future.

It is my purpose and drive to give contemporary Pacific art the space and importance to be acknowledged as contemporary reinventions of what our heritage artforms  represent. Our canoes, oratory, adornment, ceremonial objects, performance, architecture (to name a few) symbolised our identity, where and what we were: what we wanted for our future generations to know about us. Our contemporary arts, whether island based, or within the diaspora, also play this role, representing who we are, and where we are today. However, in this age of globalisation, we are no longer internalising our expressions of identity within ourselves and our cultural communities. The contemporary art gallery has become a popular avenue for depicting contemporary Pacific experience in a variety of new media.Whilst the gallery is an art specific space, it also comes with a different set of viewing protocols, histories and audiences. Contemporary Pacific art in this space can compromise the underlying socio-political function and purpose of the work in many ways.

In the Pacific, the gallery does not confine or define contemporary Pacific art. It is found in many places, made and defined by Pacific people and Pacific realities. Art’s creation beyond specific objects of ceremony, often has commercial value and is produced and adapted for economic gain. In the Suva Flea Market, technicolour dyed salusalu (highly decorative garlands made from hibiscus fibre) and woven fans made up of illuminous synthetic wool are displays of contemporary Pacific art, not only in their making, but also in their installation. The salusalu uses a non-traditional contemporary pallette, but is still used in a traditional context, as a marker of a celebrated person and occassion. The fan also keeps its original function and purpose, but it too has been informed by contemporary times, a globalised market and reflects certain economic shifts in terms of the availability and manufacture of traditional materials. These two examples of contemporary Pacific art are aimed at, but not limited to, a Fijian and pan-Pacific audience. They speak of the cultural heritage that has informed their making, of contemporary times and creative and/or neccessary adaptation.

For contemporary Pacific art to be validated, its audience is part of its reading, its understanding and therefore it’s purpose and function. Like any artwork, there are two stages for art to ‘be art’: one half is the artist’s presentation of a piece of artwork, the other half is the viewer reading and engaging with this artwork, so for Pacific art to ‘be’ Pacific art, it needs to be accessed, read and validated by a Pacific audience.

For example, New Zealand based contemporary Tongan painter, Samiu Napa’a, is currently developing work for an exhibition reflecting on the first anniversary of the death of HM Taufa’ahau Tupou IV. Via a series of self-portraits, the Tongan-born artist is reflecting on the state of Tonga. In his painting, “A Recue Piece” (2007), a facial self-portrait in textured oil paints is engulfed in upward roaring multi-tonal flames. In the lower half of the painting, a form representational of a human heart is purple and exposed. In between the heart and portrait is a space of emptiness, an ocean, dividing and connecting the face/head and the disembodied heart, also engulfed in flames, which emanate from it. Fires that quickly engulfed Nuku’alofa in the riots of 2006 are referenced with gestural brush strokes, whilst also suggestive of tangled roots. Roots and fire, passion and rage. Samiu reflects the perspective of a Tongan living in diaspora in New Zealand, watching from a distance, present but not present. His work will speak to Tongans in a different way than it will to non-Tongans. His exhibition will be in Otara, in Manukau City, the heart of Pacific New Zealand, where Tongans are the second largest Pacific Island group after Samoans. Samiu’s work will be viewed, understood and appreciated by a broad range of viewers, but in it’s placement specifically in a space which is accessible to Tongans, the work will speak beyond being just painting, it will represent the expression of where Tongans are, how they see themselves. It is this kind of artist whose artwork moves people and thinking, and moves Pacific people into the future.  

Here and in the case of the Fijian salusalu, the audience, Pacific people, are the defining factor. It is the audience that stands to expose the divisions in the community of contemporary Pacific art and artists, and those who associate and capitalise from them.

New Work by ‘Ahota’ei’loa Toetu’u

Another Celebrate Pasifika event is the first solo exhibition of emerging Tongan painter, ‘Ahota’ei’loa Toetu’u. His seemingly traditional and minimalist painting style is firmly rooted in the Tongan visual language of ngatu (Tongan bark cloth) and lalava (coconut sennit lashing). Using repetition and illusion his work creates a dazzling effect on the eyes.

‘Ahota’ei’loa is a fourth year student studying to complete a Bachelor of Visual Arts through the University of Auckland at Manukau.

The exhibition runs from 2-25 March 2007 at Nathan Homestead / Manurewa Art Centre, 70 Hill Road, Manurewa, Manukau City.

For more information, please contact Ema Tavola, Pacific Arts Co-ordinator, Manukau City Council on


Design by Jacob Sua of Black Forever Studios.

BUY SPEND SAVE NOW is an collaborative exhibition opening at Fresh Gallery Otara on Thursday 22 March. Visual artists Shigeyuki Kihara and Ema Tavola have collaborated with writer and cultural commentator Leilani Salesa, to form an experimental installation responding to the politics of poverty and wealth from an urban Pacific, New Zealand perspective. This exhibition has been supported by the Pacific Business Trust and Manukau City Council and is a Celebrate Pasifika Auckland event.

Fresh Gallery Otara is open Tuesday – Friday from 10am – 5pm and Saturdays from 8am – 2pm.

Please contact Ema Tavola, Pacific Arts Co-ordinator, Manukau City Council for more information on