James Luna in the house

Ema Tavola, James Luna, Siliga Setoga
James Luna did a public talk at the Auckland Art Gallery this evening – it was awesome… very, very inspiring.
Vinaka vakalevu James and Megan for the recommendation!
Siliga David Setoga
Siliga Setoga was looking particularly striking in his custom made beige Colour Me Fiji t-shirt!

Pan Pacific Nation (3-28 March) Honolulu, Hawaii

PAN PACIFIC NATION is a new exhibition of contemporary Pacific art running from March 3rd to March 28th at the Arts at Marks Garage, 1159 Nu’uanu Avenue, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Artists include: Maile Andrade, Leanne Lupelele Clayton, Noelle Kahanu, Leilani Kake, Lily Laita, Janet Lilo, Carl Pao, Siliga David Setoga, Ema Tavola, Angela Tiatia and Filipe Tohi

Inspired by King David Kalakaua’s vision of a Federation of Pacific Island nations, the participating artists respond to the complexities, contradictions and power dynamics at stake in the notion of a “pan pacific.” Their pieces ask what it means to think about the affinities and unities of Oceania. What did it mean in 1885 when Kalakaua initiated his call for a Pacific Island Federation? What did it mean in 1976, when Albert Wendt called for a “New Oceania” in the journal Mana, or when ‘Epeli Hau’ofa wrote “Our Sea of Islands” in 1994?

What does it mean, given our current political, economic, environmental and cultural seascape, at the present moment? The pieces included in the show offer multilayered responses; they celebrate a continued and hopeful identification of Pacific Island peoples that share a strong genealogical history and geographic kinship, while also offering ambivalent considerations that uncover the subtle and specific localized histories involved in any strategic collective social identification.

Special Events:

Panel Discussion: Urban Pacific Art in Aotearoa New Zealand
Mark’s Garage, March 4th, 6pm
The panel includes Ema Tavola, Leilani Kake and Giles Peterson

Ema Tavola, Leilani Kake and Giles Peterson are visiting from South Auckland, New Zealand. Ema Tavola is a visual artist and curator at Fresh Gallery Otara working as the Pacific Arts Coordinator for Manukau City Council. Leilani Kake is an independent artist and Giles Peterson lectures at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design.

Representing for the southside

First Friday Opening on March 6th: Dance Performance
Marcus Quiniones, will present the final solo dance of his autobiographical production “Circle Around the Island.” Playwright/director/performer Marcus Quiniones delves into his childhood memories of Moloka’i. Circle Around the Island is a tale of self-discovery told through the communion of mystical companions, family guardians, and Hawaiian music and movement inspired by hula.

The Arts at Marks Garage
1159 Nu’uanu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96817-5121
Phone: 808.521.2903
FAX: 808.521.2923

Umu Haze by Owen Scott

Ema Tavola standing before an Otara mural by Askew in memory of Santana Robyn Shortland aka Sante, Harwood Crescent // Photo by Babiche Martens

THANK YOU Owen Scott for a wonderful article in Viva magazine of the New Zealand Herald (21 January 2009)
I’m honoured… vinaka vakalevu.

And it is Obama day – what a day… “we know that our patchwork heritage is our strength not our weakness”
Vinaka Obama!!

Ema Tavola
Umu haze
By Owen Scott for Viva magazine, New Zealand Herald (21 January 2009)

First impressions of Ema Tavola are of London chic. But her modern, urban British accent is a bit of a red herring. Her mother is a Pakeha educationalist and her father a retired Fijian diplomat. The accent comes from attending an English school in Brussels. Identity is something Tavola talks about with eloquence. “I’m a hybrid, genetically conflicted. Pakeha and Fijian – part coloniser, part colonised.”Tavola is the young, vivacious director of Fresh Gallery Otara in South Auckland. With Fijian warmth and a ready laugh, her passion about what she is doing shines through. She has a degree in sculpture from the Visual Arts School in Otara, on the recommendation of Niuean-born artist, John Pule.

“I struggled at Arts School because I saw a lot of Pacific artists having to compromise, fitting into the framework of Western art systems.” Tavola made sure her views were known. “I’m definitely an agitator, I don’t like mediocrity!”

Two months after finishing her degree she was appointed to the council as Pacific Arts Co-ordinator and has found her niche. Fresh Gallery Otara is an old laundromat given a $20,000 facelift and run as a council arts facility. It opened in 2006 with Tavola as its director and curator, on a mandate that the Otara community be the first audience. Long and skinny, the gallery has only 16 metres of wall space, but it’s developed a reputation for exciting, innovative work. The artists are young; the identity and influence strongly South Auckland.

“I love that space. I’m taking it in the direction of being a contemporary Pacific exhibitions gallery. I like that the fashion and trends of South Auckland don’t subscribe to those of Central Auckland.”

Tavola has established relationships with dealer galleries in Auckland. In the case of Leilani Kake, it meant after exhibiting at Fresh she was quickly given the opportunity to exhibit elsewhere. Kake went on to win Emerging Artist at the Arts Pacifica Awards in 2008.

The video installation artist, Janet Lilo, broke attendance records with her exhibition entitled Top 16 about the culture of social networking sites such as Bebo. “Kids came in and read the installation of over 400 photos like a book,” said Tavola, “looking at each image to see if they recognised anyone.”

It’s a mark of her curatorial success that late last year she was invited to host a Pecha Kucha evening in Manukau. Pecha Kucha is a forum for architects, artists and design lovers to give short, 20-image presentations. Nearly 300 people attended. Tavola introduced 14 talented “newbies” – artists established in their own right but not mainstream.

They included the Tongan graffiti artist Benjamin Work, and electro-rapper Coco Solid, fresh from the Red Bull Music Academy in Barcelona.

Tavola says what she is seeing more and more is a South Auckland conviction.

“The artists are so proud of where they come from. Manukau is a little bit ghetto and a little bit ugly, but it’s culturally special. On Christmas Day in Otara, all you can see is a haze from the umu. The smell is intoxicating. The thing about South Auckland is it defines itself – socially, politically and in its art. The umu haze represents that. It’s symbolic.”

Fresh Gallery Otara,
Shop 5, 46 Fairmall, Otara Town Centre, Manukau.
Next exhibition runs for three weeks from 22nd January,
5 Fiji Women artists

V for Vinaka

Oscar Kightley and Vale from bro’Town
Limited Edition (100)
NZ$40 each
Email ColourMeFiji@gmail.com for enquiries

I’m still fundraising to support my travel and participation in the 97th College Art Association Annual Conference in Los Angeles in late February.

Hosted by the Pacific Arts Association, the panel I will speak on, Urban Pacific Art in Aotearoa New Zealand will be chaired by Christina Hellmich, de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Giles Peterson, Whitecliffe College of Art and Design, New Zealand.

The panel discussion will take place on Friday 27 February from 12.30 – 2pm in the Concourse Meeting Room 408B, Level 2, Los Angeles Convention Centre. The order of speakers is as follows:

From Niu to New
Giles Peterson, Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design

Fresh Gallery Otara: Contemporary Pacific Art and Audiences in South Auckland
Ema Tavola, Fresh Gallery Otara, Manukau City

Woven Worlds
Lelani Kake, independent artist, New Zealand

Giles, Leilani and I will also be travelling to San Francisco where Giles is delivering a paper entitled, Pacific Art goes Global on Friday 20 February at 7pm in the Koret Auditorium at the de Young Museum. Leilani Kake will also be presenting a new performance work at this time.

We will also be speaking at the University of California, Santa Cruz thanks to Stacy Kamehiro, Associate Professor, History of Art and Visual Culture on Thursday 19 February and at Marks Garage, Honolulu on Wednesday 4 March thanks to curators Jaimey Hamilton and Rich Richardson.

My trip has been made possible by the generosity of Manukau City Council, Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust and everyone who has helped me fundraise by buying T-shirts and tickets to Otara Hot Nights.

Vinaka vakalevu…

New Work for Honolulu

I’m making a new work for a show opening in Honolulu in March. It’s a textiles assemblage.

Airing out fabric in the south Auckland sun. It has been a while. There was a mummified mouse in my fabric box.

I’ve been looking at maps of the Oceania region. I’m particularly interested in the lines that mark the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). There’s a multicoloured camourflage feel coming through. A bit like this Nightmares on Wax graphic I found in Lani’s Vice magazine.


Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah is the soundtrack.

This new work is in the form of a customised sulu, a continuation of the original Colour Me Fiji (2005) series.

PAN PACIFIC NATION (3-28 March 2009)

The exhibition opens formally on 3 March 2009 but will also feature in Honolulu’s First Friday openings on 6 March. Marks Garage is located at 1159 Nu’uanu Avenue, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Downtown-Chinatown Gallery Walk. A FREE self-guided tour every first Friday of the month from 5 to 9pm. Area galleries and studios present rotating art exhibitions, entertainment and refreshments for an evening celebrating artists, art and art making of all kinds.

Created in 2003, First Friday is widely credited with making profound changes on the cultural, social and economic landscape of Honolulu. This monthly event draws tens of thousands of people to Downtown-Chinatown each year, either introducing or re-introducing them to this unique community.

Source: The Arts at Marks Garage website

R.I.P ‘Epeli Hau’ofa

Isa Epeli… all I can do is cry… 😦

The absolute legend, Epeli Hau’ofa…

I met him when I began to understand my pathway in life; he was just the most influential, amazing, knowledge-power-house of a man… just bejeweled with loveliness… humour, eloquence… such a legend… he challenged and wrote and articulated so much about the Pacific. An absolute legend and the scholarship of the Pacific has taken a huge blow… he taught me so much.

And I’m heavy hearted.

Epeli Hau’ofa : Muse, mediator and mentor

By Joni Madraiwiwi
Monday, January 19, 2009
The Fiji Times (www.FijiTimes.com)

IN reminiscing about Epeli Hau’ofa following his death last week, a friend described him as “this finest Pacific Islander of our times”. Those who knew him would agree.

Epeli’s characteristic modesty would have questioned not only the superlative, but the term ‘Pacific Islander’. He would have preferred ‘Oceanian’. For Epeli recognised the vast expanse of sea that envelops us was a pathway rather than a boundary. It shaped our perspectives and defined us as island peoples: a factor we have yet to fully appreciate, acknowledge or understand.

In a very real sense, no one was better equiped to develop that outlook than Epeli. Born in Papua of Tongan missionary parents, he was more fluent in the pidgin of the area than his mother tongue. Epeli was to become conversant with several Pacific languages subsequently. He completed his secondary schooling in Tonga and Fiji, before venturing for further studies in Australia and Canada in anthropology.

The better part of his working life was spent at the University of the South Pacific (USP), where he became professor of sociology. If Papua New Guinea was his birthplace, Tonga where he originated, Suva was his home. Indulgent, he would forgive the poetic licence as he actually lived in the wilds of Wainadoi.

The mix of people and cultures in Suva captivated him. He was at ease here because he spoke fluent Fijian and had gone to school at Lelean. Epeli once confided that he was not particularly concerned about the xenophobia of the Taukei Movement or the fervour of the Sabbatarians, because he felt Suva had become too diverse to succumb to any form of extremism. That was vintage Epeli, ever the optimist.

But as an ‘outsider’ in Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Fiji, he valued inclusiveness and lived it as well. Epeli also spent a few years in the late 1970s as deputy secretary to Taufa’ahau Tupou IV. A nephew relates his fondness for wearing colourful ankle length sulus with shirt and gafigafi around his waist. The mutual affection he had with the late King is reflected in the latter’s indulgence of Epeli’s dress in a protocol conscious court, and Epeli’s poignant eulogy to Tupou IV. But Epeli was only Tongan in name, he belonged to all of us.

Epeli was a larger than life figure. His beard and genial visage was reinforced by an everpresent twinkle in his eye. He had a boundless capacity for humour, as well as an understated tongue in cheek manner. Epeli never took himself seriously. His satirical novels ‘Tales of the Tikong’ and ‘Kisses in the Nederends’ poke gentle fun at us and our dealings with the world. They also convey Epeli’s character in a more personal manner than his academic writings.

It is a matter of regret that his minimalist (and on occasion, slothful) inclinations prevailed, and there was no further satire. This was compounded by a casual attitude that was, at times, infuriating. Epeli was like Tu’imalila, the Galapagos turtle given Tu’i Tonga by Captain Cook, and moved at his own pace.

Epeli’s most concrete memorial is the Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture at USP. A whole new generation of artists, performers and musicians flourished under his benign, yet enabling pastoral care. Tradition was not the arid, formulaic routine of what had gone before. For Epeli, it was a living, breathing organism of the present day. It drew from the past, yet was neither bound nor limited by it.

But it is in the conceptualisation of our place in Oceania, both within and beyond, that made Epeli such a towering figure. He inspired us to rethink and broaden our notions of identity in the context of the ocean that links us all. Not to jettison our heritage, but to enrich it by exploring common points of reference with others.

In this journey, Barbara his wife and companion of four decades travelled with him. It was the affirmation, support and love between them that enabled Epeli, ‘this finest Pacific Islander of our times’, to give so fulsomely of himself to us. There is no more fitting tribute one may give than to continue Epeli’s quest.

* Joni Madraiwiwi is the former Vice President of the Republic of Fiji Islands and a friend of Epeli Hau’ofa. The views expressed are his own.



Featuring the work of five Fiji women artists, FOR FIJI, EVER FIJI aims to provide commentary on the social and economic landscape and politics of being Fijian and non-Fijian and living as a Fijian and kailoma (part-Fijian) in diaspora.

The exhibition has been inspired by the 2008 exhibition and public programme, VASU: Pacific Women of Power, curated by Jakki Leota-Ete, Cresentia Frances Koya, Ann Tarte and Luisa Tora. VASU was Fiji’s first all woman multi media arts platform.

FOR FIJI, EVER FIJI opens from 6-8pm, Thursday 22 January and runs until Saturday 14 February at Fresh Gallery Otara, Otara Town Centre, Manukau City, New Zealand.


About the artists…

Margaret S Aull

Margaret Aull has paternal links to Fiji. She is inspired by both her Fijian and New Zealand heritage. Margaret received her Bachelor of Media Arts from the Waikato Institute of Technology and was awarded the Waikato Museum ArtsPost Award for Outstanding Academic Record in 2006. She has exhibited extensively in New Zealand since 2005 and most recently held a solo exhibition entitled Na Kena Yali at the Chartwell Gallery, Hamilton in 2008. She is currently employed as National Arts Registrar at Te Wananga o Aotearoa in Te Awamutu. Her technique is influenced by Hiria Anderson, John Pule, Shane Cotton and James Ormsby.

This work was exhibited in VASU: Pacific Women of Power; Margaret gifted a work from her solo show Na Kena Yali to the Fiji Museum, read more here.

Torika Bolatagici

Torika was born to an Australian mother of Anglo-Celtic origin and an Indigenous Fijian father. Born and raised in Hobart, Tasmania, Torika moved to Melbourne, Victoria to study Media Arts at Deakin University in 1997. After completing Honours in Media Arts at Deakin University in 2000 she went on to complete a Masters of Multimedia Design at Monash University. Her photographic and video work has been exhibited locally and overseas, including New York, San Francisco and Auckland. Torika has published and presented at local and international conferences about the representation of mixed-race identity and her forthcoming chapter, ‘Daughters of the Diaspora: Migrant Women and Hip-Hop’ includes interviews with local Melbourne hip-hop performers.

Torika has had a varied career, from bass player to not-for-profit, multimedia design, and is currently a full-time university lecturer at Deakin University, Melbourne and a PhD candidate in the Centre for Contemporary Art and Politics at the College of Fine Arts (UNSW). Her current research titled, “Expendable Flesh: The Fijian Body and the Globalised Economy of War” investigates the representation of the black body in war, and focuses on Fijian security workers in Iraq.  

Work from Torika’s 2007 solo exhibition, Kurunavanua at Collingwood Gallery, Melbourne. Read more about Kurunavanua on Torika’s website.

Filani Filina Macassey

Filani was born in Suva in 1964 and emmigrated to New Zealand in 1972. She grew up on a beef farm in Kaikohe, Northland. Her father, a sheep farmer from Southland had originally come to Fiji to start a new life. He was one of the founder and the director of Fiji Air in the 1960s. Her mother passed away when she was a child. Filani’s grandparents are from Solodamu, Kadavu. Aside from her first solo exhibition in 1999, Filani has curated several exhibitions and organised a number of workshops for Art Kaipara including lino prints, wood sculpture and visual arts. A graduate teacher by profession, Filani is looking towards a postgraduate diploma in Adult Learning and Teaching at Massey University.

Lesu Mai,  digitally printed masi – a component of the only video installation in VASU: Pacific Women of Power.

Sangeeta Singh

Sangeeta started painting at a workshop conducted by New Zealand based painter, John Pule at the Oceania Centre for Arts & Culture. She is a prose and poetry writer and an amateur photographer. She has started working on a novel about two Indian women separated during Fiji’s indentured labour period. She intends to develop this novel into a feature length film. She uses her art as a vehicle to challenge social constructs, including sexuality, race and gender. Her work is inspired by women, family, history, dilemma, chaos and nature. She is also influenced by the works of Frida Kahlo, Bollywood and Hinduism.

Work in progress by Sangeeta Singh, at home in Suva, Fiji.

Luisa Tora

Activist Luisa Tora focuses her energy on gender, sexuality and Fijian history. She produced her first painting as part of a Red Wave workshop at the Oceania Centre for Arts & Culture in 1998. The self-proclaimed lazy writer leans towards performance poetry. She played the Woman in Purple in a Fiji production of the Ntozake Shange play, For Coloured Gilrs Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf. In 2006, she wrote a screenplay for and co-directed the short film, The Homecoming with her partner, Sangeeta Singh.

Wifey for Lifey

I married my darling on Sunday 28 December…

The bridal party wore adornment by Suzanne Tamaki

Best Woman, Mereia Carling with Benjamin Storm Carling

I wore a dress designed by my Suva based sister, Mereia Carling and constructed and intepreted by Auckland based designer, Steven Ball.

Huge support came from Mum, Aunties Sylvia and Rosemary and Judith Dale, on flower and cake duties.

The event could not have been pulled off without the team work and energies of Leilani Salesa, Brett Stirling, Suzanne Tamaki and all those who helped out on the day including Nia-val Ngaro, Filani Macassey, Shigeyuki Kihara, Siliga David Setoga, Janet Lilo, Steven Ball and the loving partners of my bridal party, Christian, John and John – vinaka vakalevu – thank you so much.

The day was amazing thanks in part to my dear friends and family who travelled from accross New Zealand and from overseas to be there. My parents Kaliopate and Helen Tavola, the Carling family from Fiji; my godfather, Tutu Apenisa Nabainivalu from Port MacQuarie, Australia; my best woman, Torika Bolatagici + John and Namila from Melbourne; Suzanne Tamaki from Otaki; Aunty Sylvia and Judith from Paekakariki; Aunty Rosemary from Wanganui;  Bui (Sera) and Aroha Leqakowailutu from Wellington and Yazma Smith from Kaeo in the Far North. Vinaka vinaka vinaka vakalevu.

More photos from our wedding