Unknown waters

It’s day three of my new self-employment. There have been a few quiet panic attacks… What is my purpose? What if I run out of things to do between 9am to 6pm? What if something happens at Fresh? What if people forget me? …but in general, I feel at peace with my decision. And I feel a great affinity with this work by Thomas Howes who I follow on Flickr.

I wrote a piece for the current issue of Metro magazine, which I’ve enjoyed seeing in print. It was about my perspective on whether Auckland is a Pacific city. In line with my current addiction to Twitter, I asked my followers for insights into the topic. The responses were varied and intriguing. I didn’t get to acknowledge Fijian journalist and friend Ariela Zibiah in my piece, but I am deeply grateful for her responses to my Twitter enquiries.

Next month the exhibition Home AKL opens at Auckland Art Gallery. I’m doing a talk along with Assistant Curator, Julia Waite on Sunday 15 July from 3-4pm. I’m also speaking on a panel discussing Why Pacific art now? on Sunday 19 August. There are lots of workshops, activities and talks planned for Home AKLcheck out the Facebook page for updates.

I bought a whiteboard. It is full of projects and tasks. I’m quite busy, for someone who is technically unemployed.

This has been an unusual week, dreaming about work and conflict, the ocean and snakes. I’m going to start making some art this weekend.

Advance Pasifika March, Saturday 16 June 2012

A placard created by Samoan visual artist Siliga David Setoga.

My planned placard didn’t end up happening.

The story on TVNZ’s Tagata Pasifika (14 June 2012)

My sister Mereia Carling was transiting through Auckland on her back home to Suva, Fiji. This is us with Labour party star Carmel Sepuloni and Stacey Leilua.

10 Questions: Ema Tavola, Natural Selection (Issue #7) Winter 2010

What did you have for breakfast?
Scrambled eggs + toast.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Suva, Fiji and raised in London and Brussels. I finished my secondary education in Wellington, New Zealand.

How has your thinking changed / what have you learnt?
I do a lot of looking, observing from the outside… I have a lot of questions, and am often plagued with contradiction. I have learnt to own my position of enquiry, and not dissect it to fit into other people’s boxes.

What would you consider your greatest achievement?
Leaving Fiji to manage life solo in Aotearoa.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I definitely overuse ‘potentially’. And ‘strategically’. And I swear a lot.

Who do you admire and why?
I admire people who work hard, because they are inspiring and make me want to work hard too. I admire people who embed their lives in service to their communities. And I admire mothers, because it feels like shaping a child’s life and experience is the most important job in the world.

What book last made an impression on you?
Musrum by Eric Thacker and Anthony Earnshaw.

One thing you wish you had?
The ability to live in two places at once.

On what occasion would you lie?
I have issues with honesty.

Which piece of art really matters to you?
A painting called 4 Women (2008) by Sangeeta Singh; I bought it in Suva.

Who are you listening to at the moment?
Birds… I had bronchitis recently and my ears were semi–blocked, I somehow tuned into the bird frequency, and since then have not stopped hearing the birds. There are tui in my garden, who always make me smile.. on the inside.

What do you like around you while you work?
A cup of tea, reference material, snacks and Blu–tack.

What is art for?
To reflect the human condition.

Read more from Natural Selection here

Value, values and #HomeAKL

For the past several months, I’ve been part of the curatorial team for the upcoming exhibition, Home AKL at Auckland Art Gallery opening Saturday 7 July. Under the leadership of Ron Brownson (Senior Curator – New Zealand and Pacific Art, Auckland Art Gallery), Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai, Nina Tonga and I have been the Associate Curators.

The experience has been exciting and rewarding, challenging and eye-opening. It is always satisfying to see artists who show at Fresh Gallery Otara go on to do great things. Having celebrated the gallery’s sixth anniversary last month, and processing mixed emotions about leaving my role at Auckland Council, it is particularly heartening to see that almost 40% of the artists in Home AKL have shown at Fresh since the Gallery opened in 2006.

The entry fee for Home AKL last week got reconsidered, the process of which was reported in the New Zealand Herald (10 June, 2012). Whilst an entry fee potentially limits accessibility to some audiences, it also builds value. The value of Home AKL is significant: for the artists, their work is shown in a landmark exhibition, in an award winning building over three months. Their work will be hung on the same walls as the European masterpieces in the recent Degas to Dalí travelling exhibition. Artists benefit from extensive media coverage, in-depth essays and exhibition writing, public programme events and talks. For audiences, Home AKL is a massively varied insight into Pacific lives and experience here in Auckland. The Pacific community is diverse and dynamic and this exhibition is a highly considered reflection of that. The works in Home AKL push the ‘identity’ cliché beyond recognition.

The upcoming Advance Pasifika: March for the Future event on Saturday 16 June is an effort to make Pacific people visible in Auckland. I’m excited about this event because I’ve seen so much change in the past three or so years that has systematically reduced the input and participation of Pacific people in decision making at local and central government levels. It’s heart breaking to feel so powerless in Aotearoa.

I’m proud that Home AKL comes at a time when Pacific people are starting to stir and expect and demand more of our leaders. I know that an entry fee for an art exhibition is considered by many to be unreasonable and even a deterrent. I understand the costs, particularly when coming from South Auckland. Transport and parking alone is expensive. I can only say that the experience of Home AKL will confirm for Pacific audiences that our lives, identities and multifaceted contributions to Auckland are recognised and honoured in this exhibition. We will be visible and present; our issues and perspectives, our communities and environments – Home AKL is a celebration of Auckland through a Pacific lens.

Importantly, myself, Kolokesa and Nina have ensured that Pacific input has been present and considered at every stage of the exhibition’s development. For me, this is an important point of difference. I hope that this input has informed a new way of looking at and considering art made by Pacific people.

I’m looking forward to the show opening, the various public events, and importantly, the reviews and responses from the Pacific community and beyond.