Artist Talk: Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi

Fresh Gallery Otara is proud to present an unique opportunity to hear Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi speak about his practice in the context of his current solo exhibition, Colour and Contrast, at Fresh Gallery Otara.


All welcome!


12 – 1.30pm //  Saturday 28 March

Fresh Gallery Otara // Otara Town Centre // Manukau City


For more information on the artist, see



Ancient art of Lalava comes to Fresh Gallery Otara

Tongan artist Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi is bringing to Manukau new paintings and haukulasi based on Tongan lalava (coconut sennit lashing). An internationally renowned sculptor and artist, Tohi is holding his new solo exhibition, Colour and Contrast, at Manukau’s Fresh Gallery Otara.

This exhibition reflects Tohi’s continuing exploration of lalava patterns and their re-representation in modern materials. His recent work uses classic patterns – some with traditional sacred hues and others with exceptional infusions of colour.

A new series of paintings will be exhibited alongside large-scale sculpture together with works of haukulasi (flattened lalava in wool), bringing ancient Tongan craft forms into a modern art context. Mr Tohi explains how the eighteenth and nineteenth century clubs and carvings inspired the small figures, and he has surrounded these with pattern just as they are on the artifacts.

The council’s Pacific Arts Coordinator Ema Tavola says it’s an enormous privilege to have Tohi choosing to exhibit at Fresh Gallery Otara. “It’s a marker of the gallery’s place in the wider Pacific arts spectrum.

”He is arguably the most important and esteemed practising contemporary Pacific artist in the world. The fact that he has come here means that Fresh Gallery Otara is well and truly on the map.”

The gallery’s public programme features a talk by Tohi on 28 March where he’ll explain the methods of his work.

Tohi, who now resides in Onehunga, lived for many years in New Plymouth, where he was a founding member of the Te Kupenga Stone Sculpture Symposium. In 2007, he organised the Manuland Sculpture Symposium at Mangere Bridge. Currently his work is showing in Taiwan as part of the Le Folauga exhibition at Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts.

What:                           Colour and Contrast
When:                          20 March – 11 April 2009
Opening:                      Thursday 19 March, 6pm
Artist’s floor talk:          Saturday 28 March, 12noon – 1.30pm
Where:                         Fresh Gallery Otara, Shop 5, 46 Fairmall, Otara Town Centre, Manukau City
Entry:                           Free

For more information on Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi, see

Pacific Art Tour 09: California + Hawaii

Pacific Art goes worldwide, photo courtesy of Manukau Courier

Leilani Kake and I have returned from an amazing Pacific Art Tour of California and Hawai’i made possible with the support of Manukau City Council, Creative New Zealand (Leilani was funded by the Pacific Arts Committee), the US Embassy and Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust in addition funds raised from the sale of Colour Me Fiji T-shirts and Otara Hot Nights!

We were invited by the Pacific Arts Association to present a panel discussion with independent Auckland cuator, Giles Peterson called Urban Pacific Art in Aotearoa at the 97th College Art Association Conference in Los Angeles. We also spoke at UC Santa Cruz upon the invitation of Dr Stacy Kamehiro and UC Berkeley at the Center for Race and Gender thanks to Fuifuilupe Niumeitolu who coordinates the Pacific Island Studies Speaker Series.

Research Working Group on Pacific Island Studies
Center for Race and Gender, UC Berkeley
Friday 20 February

We were beautifully hosted in San Francisco by Christina Hellmich and her family. Christina is curator of Oceanic Arts and the Jolika Collection at the de Young Museum. Her curatorial assistants, Marion Cadora and Lauren Cassidy Rogers were also hugely supportive and very cool.

Leilani presented a performance work at the de Young Museum on Friday 20 February.
It was outstanding.

Visiting SFMOMA, LACMA, MOCA and the Getty Center was absolutely inspiring. Although the Gauguin work, Arii Matamoe (The Royal End) at the Getty was quite disturbing.

In LA, Leilani and I were given first hand gallery tours by gallerist Chuck Feesago who co-owns Project_210 in Pasadena and California-based American Samoan painter, Dan Taulapapa McMullin as well as Yoshimi Hayashi who we met at the CAA – he took for an amazing lunch and then to Chinatown after an amazing walk around the Frank Gehry designed Disney Concert Hall!

We ended our tour in Honolulu for the opening of Pan Pacific Nation, curated by Jaimey Hamilton for the Arts at Marks Garage. The exhibition features work by eight New Zealand based Pacific artists and three local Hawaiian artists; the show was beautifully installed and the opening on First Friday was fantastic. We connected with amazing artists and thinkers in Honolulu and spent an incresible day at the Hawaiian Studies department of the University of Hawaii, which was again truly inspiring.

Back row: Ema Tavola, Rich Richardson (ARTS at Marks Garage), Giles Peterson
Front: Carl Pao, Leilani Kake, Jaimey Hamilton, Noelle Kahanu, Healoha and Angela Tiatia
First Friday, March 2009

A more detailed summary of the tour will be posted soon.

A video is being produced and will also be posted soon!

Leilani and I will also be doing a show + tell at Fresh Gallery Otara in the coming weeks!