New work: Regionalism (2009)

Regionalism [2009]
Textile assemblage
770 x 1710mm
For Pan Pacific Nation [3-28 March 2009], Marks Garage, Honolulu

Modelled by Samiu Napa’a

“Sulu are ‘protective’ in the sense of enabling island converts to sustain ancestral imagery whilst maintaining an outward show of moral conformity”

Chloe Colchester
‘Objects of Conversions: Concerning the transfer of Sulu to Fiji’
The Art of Clothing: A Pacific Experience
UCL Press, London (2005)


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 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