Tanu Gago // New Work

Tanu Gago is a south Auckland-based Samoan filmmaker who I’m working with to produce his first solo exhibition, YOU LOVE MY FRESH opening in September at Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Manukau City. Tanu was a contributing artist to the smallaxe09 project, a collaborative video work produced by Janet Lilo and I as part of the invitational exhibition profiling new art venues at Auckland’s ARTSPACE gallery in September 2009. Tanu’s short film, The Woods, also featured in the inaugural Manukau Film Festival in 2008.

YOU LOVE MY FRESH is an experimental video installation exploring Samoan identity, intergenerational cultural transmission and gender in south Auckland.

Umu day, an initiative teaching young New Zealand-born Samoans how to prepare an umu / earth oven.


The Kool Kids Company – Tanu Gago’s production company.

Tanu’s drawing practice is also of note, his current body of work is based around a character inspired by Dan Taulapapa McMullin‘s poetry collection, A Drag Queen Named Pipi.

Jerry the Fa’afafine is an ongoing series of drawings exploring Samoan masculinity.

Tanu opened our second Manukau City edition of Pecha Kucha Night in November 2009 for the Manukau Festival of Arts with a fantastic, inspiring presentation that can be seen here.

Curating Pacific Art Forum

We’re drawing closer to the end of the inaugural Manukau Pacific Art Summit. The Curating Pacific Art Forum draws together Pacific curators from around New Zealand to discuss, demystify and stimulate the Pacific curatorial sector. Guest speaker, Professor Konai Helu-Thaman from the University of the South Pacific is a enormous assest to this event. The venue of the Fo Guang Shan North Island Buddhist Temple should be a beautiful setting for some forward thinking and inspiration…

Registrations still welcome… please contact Brett Stirling, contact details can be found on the Manukau Pacific Arts Summit website

Farewelling Fresh…

Thursday 13 May was my last official opening at Fresh Gallery Otara, the Manukau City Council Arts facility I was instrumental in establishing and have run since May 2006.  FGO’s 4th anniversary was marked with Terry Koloamatangi Klavenes’ second solo exhibition, Blood’s Thicker Than Mud. It was a beautiful gathering, with live music from Stevie J Heatley (Fiji) and DJ Algoodie. I was expecting to be a bit emotional.. so I wrote my speech, which I delivered after presentations by Mayor Len Brown and Leisa Siteine, Manager – Manukau Arts…

We’re here tonight to celebrate and honour four years that this gallery has represented artists, facilitated dialogue, been part of and totally affected by things that happen in this community.

Whilst there have been so many good memories, I remembered today the tragedy that was the fatal beating of 17 year old Riki Mafi, here in the Town Centre in 2006… an event that affected us all profoundly. We still remember that day and the aftermath, it was a tragedy that brought the community together in grief and love. We still honour Riki Mafi and his family, and remember.

Since I moved to Otara from the Pacific, this place has felt like a village, made up of diverse communities, hard working and focused, family oriented, rich in culture and arts. This community loves to dance and sing, party and talanoa… it’s no wonder I’ve felt so at home here for the past 8 years!

Fresh has come to reflect this space, through the mode of visual language and exhibitions, attempting to straddle the Western notion of art with a more indigenous, Pacific understanding and value of creative expression. For art to be important and functional, significant and worthy, it must respond and relate to its audience.

When artists explore their own cultural standing, strive to make sense of conflict, internal and external, we are part of that journey, and it has been a pleasure to create a platform where issues of identity and belonging are seen and felt, discussed and argued.

This Gallery has absorbed me, my blood, sweat and tears. With my parents and siblings residing in Fiji, this gallery has been my lifeline, enabling me to sustain a connection with the Pacific and the world. I have found my purpose, through Fresh, and I value everyone and every event that has grown from this site.

And I love Otara, and will always love Otara. Having acquired my degree here, fallen in love here, adopted a dog from here, been tattooed here…. Otara has made an indelible mark on my life. My move to the new Mangere Arts Centre was with reluctance at first, but knowing that Otara is my foundation, my strength, I feel as if I can do anything!

At this time, I have to make some important acknowledgements:

• Mayor Len Brown – who opened Fresh Gallery Otara in May 2006. You have reignited my love for politics and making change, such excellent leadership – it’s been an honour to work for Council during this time.

• Labour MPs Su’a William Sio and Carmel Sepuloni, who have supported FGO so much.

• Otara Community Board, thanks particularly to Chairman Tunumafono Ava Fa’amoe, Councillor ‘Efu Koka and Bill Wiki.

• Leisa Siteine, your consistent support and leadership has been the backbone of Fresh – thank you so much for giving me this opportunity.

• Naomi Singer, our ex-Marketing Coordinator and Erin Stewart, our current Marketing Coordinator, and the working partnership with Edgar Melitao from The Kitchen – for making Fresh look so flash on paper!

• Brett Stirling, Project Manager for the 2010 MPAS – for making this summit into such a landmark event for me.

• Nicole Lim, who came on board as a cadet doing work experience as a new graduate from MSVA and has become the best assistant anyone could ask for. Her endless patience and attention to detail, and her excellent work ethic has made her a huge asset to Fresh and the Otara community.

• My colleagues at Council; Robyn Allpress, Fa’ama Viliamu, the Manukau Arts team – Greg Whaiapu, Christine Forster and Nigel Borrel, Fala Pasifika – the Pacific staff network, the Otara Library and Yvonne Matsen from the Otara CAB.

• My peers in the Pacific arts and cultural sectors: Tautai Trust, in particular chair Gina Cole, Marilyn Kohlhase, Nemai and Yolande from 531PI, Jim Vivieaere, CNZ’s Pacific Arts Committee.

• My friends and supporters: Melissa Cole, Leilani Kake, Samiuela Napa’a, Janet Lilo, Dionne Fonoti, Torika Bolatagici, Leilani Salesa, Luisa Tora and Sangeeta Singh, Tanu Gago, Shigeyuki Kihara, Tessa Laird and Grant Thompson from MSVA.

To every single artist and curator who has blessed this gallery with their work – it has been such a pleasure to have spent four years serving you, representing you and working for you.

Vinaka vinaka vinaka vakalevu!


Lunchtime Poetry Slam // Otara

Our Lunchtime Poetry Slam was wicked wicked excellent on Tuesday 4 May…

Thanks to the British Council, UK poet, producer, DJ.. Charlie Dark joined five Pasifika poets on the Centre Stage of the Otara Town Centre for an hour of poetic deliciousness…

Yolande Ah Chong is the best MC a Pacific Arts Summit could ask for!

Courtney Meredith bought her smoothness…

Charlie Dark was too cool…

Luisa Tora of the Niu Waves Writers Collective [Fiji] performed in Aotearoa for the first time!

The multi-skilled Ole Maiava.. aka Pasifika Festival Director!

All the poets: [L-R] Luisa Tora, Courtney Meredith, Drew Harding, Charlie Dark, Monica Cheung and Ole Maiava // super super cool… thank you all so much! It was an excellent event!

Featured on TV3 Nightline on Tuesday 4 May, a full interview with Charlie Dark can be seen here and a story on Radio New Zealand’s Tagata o te Moana show by Leilani Momoisea can be heard here

Jordan Souza // Aotearoa

Hawaiian visual artist and tattooist Jordan Souza came to Auckland as the Tautai Trust 2010 Artist in Residence in March. The focus of the residency is networking and developing professional relationships. It was excellent spending time with Jordan, introducing him to Auckland-based Pacific artists and especially learning more about tattooing. He spent a month with my housemate Tanu Gago and I, spending days and nights talking art, tattooing, Hawaii… travel and music… and tattooing… lots of friends! Thank you Jordan, we will all remember you for the rest of our lives!

Jordan designed this custom piece in collaboration with Tanu, nine flowers represent his nine sisters.

After I tattooed a banana leaf outline on my left thigh, Jordan finished it off

Jordan met Monty Collins, Mangere-based graphic designer at Fresh Gallery Otara.

He added to Monty’s extensive sleeve and chest pieces with a Marquesian inspired chest/side piece.

We were all feeling Monty’s pain… but it looked so mean when it was finished!

My beautiful friend Melissa loves her new chrysanthemum tattoo.

Multimedia artist and story-teller, Nia-val Ngaro had a design in mind taken from the prow of a Cook Islands canoe.

This was a beautiful pre-wedding treat for Nia-val.

This custom piece was made for Samoan musician Quincy Ray Filiga.

Jordan tattooed two matching secala / kingfishers on my hips, which I love. The secala /kingfisher is the totem bird from my village Dravuni, in Kadavu, Fiji. The image is based on a kingfisher from the Nice Work stationery range, re-drawn by Monty Collins.

Encouraged to make an experimental video work for the Tautai event, Off Stage, Jordan collaborated with Tanu Gago to make this quick video, offering a passer-by on Karangahape Road a free tattoo!

More photos from Jordan Souza’s stay

Jordan Souza’s art website

ARTLINK // Nice one

The current issue of Australia’s ARTLINK magazine has inspired me…

We don’t have any arts publications in New Zealand that give space and editorial powers to indigenous art thought. I wish we did. Thanks for the inspiration, Artlink…

Scream Cream

Today I wanted to scream. Loud. But… silence.

Lucky you. Lucky me.
[The Home of Heartbreak is quiet… I miss Jordan… ]
And I watch this video advertising Fiji and it FUCKS ME OFF…

I don’t like it. I don’t like the idea that you can be Fiji’d… eww.
And I’m ashamed to say that I like this song… even though its sickly optimism makes my skin crawl.

I prefer the Fiji Meat Man song.

Trying to think about wanting to write about heart break. And I miss Janet. And I have to stop listening to Sad Songs by Melanie Fiona. Even though sad songs are the best songs because you know how they end.