Changing the Game and Junior Seau

I have been so moved by the story and tragic death of Junior Seau. My sports obsessed partner has told me at length about the important pathway Junior created for other Pacific Islanders to play professional football at the highest level. He said Junior was a game changer. I’m not generally interested in sports, but I am interested in Pacific people and leadership, Pacific achievement, diaspora and struggle. I watch the YouTube tributes to Junior with a very heavy heart.

I love this version of George “Fiji” Veikoso’s Sweet Darling dedicated to Junior Seau.

#TeamPoly in solidarity.

Water and Politics

I try to swim at least four times a week. My local recreation centre has a reliably cold outdoor pool and in South Auckland, we have been fortunate to have free access to swimming pools. I swim as the sun is setting, I like the light, and the quiet; I often have the pool to myself.

After I’ve warmed up, and my body stops struggling against the cold, I start to observe my own silence. Being in between the water and the sky, I’m aware and alert. I hear differently, and smell differently, and think deeply.

Today, the singing from a church group at Otara Music Arts Centre across the road was vigorous. Perhaps a significantly large congregation, or a special occasion – the doors must have been wide open. I could hear individual voices, I could hear their faith.

Last week I could smell an umu. I was interviewed for an article a few years ago and spoke about one of the things I love about Otara being the haze of umu smoke on Christmas day. I think I was probably exaggerating, but the smell of umu or lovo, is happiness – memories of family, celebrations, love, land, home – and all from a smell.

I resigned two weeks ago from my job of more than six years. I’ve worked in the ‘change environment’ for almost half of that time. Considering my future and contemplating my own ‘change environment’ has effected my outlook in a big way. At times, everything is different – how I walk in different spaces, my language… my perspective. I’m emotional, and final. I see clearer, but also feel like I’m seeing things for the first time.

With news of a New Zealand local government reform, that will certainly affect the services I benefit from as a ratepayer in South Auckland, and my own professional change environment, it’s the moments in the pool – where I swim for free, every second day – that I reflect on what feels like the end of a golden era.

Sadly, with leaders like this, informing change that will inevitably disenfranchise some of the country’s most vulnerable sectors, migration has never looked so appealing.


WWJD: What Would Jim Do?

I took this photo in 2009. I was visiting Tracey Tawhiao’s salon on the first floor of St Kevin’s Arcade to get specs for two exhibitions I produced there that year. And Jim popped in, and we sat in the afternoon sun and caught up.

Jim Vivieaere passed away on Friday 3 June 2011. I heard through cell phones and text messages and I cried all afternoon. Jim was pivotal in my life and thinking, my work in exhibitions, advocacy and curating.

Under Jim’s guidance, I got my first taste of curating assisting him to produce a show called Niu Dialogue in 2004 at The Edge in central Auckland. I remember feeling so excited after that gig, because I felt like he gave me the trade secrets, the ‘how to’ of curating… I observed how he selected works, considered them in the space, his gracious hosting, his beautiful themed catering, his aura. He was awesome. I feel like that experience ignited my fire for curating and the artform and importance of representing artists.

During my undergraduate studies, I researched Jim’s curatorial and visual arts practice; it represented to me a bold and articulate statement about Pacific diaspora experience. His work and its recognition in mainstream institutions, publications and communities, was so empowering and validating. At the time, Jim was also supporting the exhibition of student work from Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate at Otara’s Artnet Gallery (now Fresh Gallery Otara). I witnessed him working with the same measure of professionalism and artistic integrity at the grassroots as he did in major art institutions.

In 2010, I organised the Curating Pacific Art Forum and Jim spoke with such eloquence about his practice and the struggles and opportunities of working as an independent curator.

We all acknowledged Jim that day. An absolute leader in curating Pacific art.

I loved how hard Jim would fight to impress a point, whether at an exhibition opening or a Tautai Trust gathering… he was such an inspirational, passionate advocate for Pacific art and artists.

This year, I was so humbled that even in ill-health, Jim attended the 2nd Curating Pacific Art Forum. It was noted that we all have ‘Jim stories’ – the many, many ways Jim has influenced our lives and practices as Pacific curators.

Jim’s passing has made me reflect hard. I’ve been thinking about how everything matters… the legacy that is left from the work we do will influence and inspire those that come after.

I feel like my curatorial practice is the product of Jim’s influence, and I want to honour his work and fight in everything I produce.

I think I’ll always think of Jim, in every show that I curate and ask myself, What Would Jim Do?

A beautiful tribute to Jim on Tagata Pasifika [TVNZ] aired on Thursday 9 June 2011

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

FIJI TIMES // New Work by 5 Fiji Women Artists

FIJI TIMES is a group exhibition curated by Ema Tavola for Fiji Independance Day, October 10.

Inspired to make experimental artistic commentary on the current political climate of Fiji, five Fiji women artists have developed new works that tackle political [mis]leadership, faith and religion, censorship and militarism, propaganda, love, land and diaspora.

This exciting short exhibition is a continuation of the VASU: Pacific Women of Power exhibition staged in Suva in 2008. VASU was Fiji’s first platform for the promotion, celebration and discussion of art made by Fiji women.

FIJI TIMES will take place at a central Auckland artist-run-space called The Salon from 10-14 October, opening daily from 12-6pm. Artists will be on site and all are welcome to celebrate the exhibition’s opening from 6pm, Friday 9 October.

“Young, Gifted & Samoan” by Dionne Fonoti

One Saturday 20 June, Dionne Fonoti’s short film, “Young, Gifted & Samoan” was shown at Fresh Gallery Otara to replace Janet Lilo’s artist talk for the exhibition, MyFace.

“Young, Gifted & Samoan” is a brief glimpse into the lives of three young men born and raised in the US and is the result of two years of collaborative fieldwork with Samoan youth from the San Francisco Bay Area. Dionne Fonoti was born in Auckland, raised in Samoa and Hawaii, and now lives in San Francisco. She earned a BA in cultural anthropology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and an MA in Visual Anthropology from San Francisco State University.

Film maker Dionne Fonoti with Henry and France, Fresh Gallery Otara

Dionne’s film had much in common with Janet Lilo’s experimental documentary produced in 2006 called, Struggle of an Emcee, named after the track by the same title by Abrio featuring Soul Chef.

In 2006, Lilo undertook a project to produce a series of music videos for local hip-hop artists Abrio, Bronze Chyld and Dr Seuss. Whilst the videos were produced on a shoestring budget, Lilo was able to translate the lyrical narratives and direction of the music and artists into beautifully crafted and sophisticated videography. Struggle of an Emcee, a documentary style enquiry produced at the same time provides context and uncovers stories and relationships the artists have with the global culture of hip-hop. This body of work was selected by curator Heather Galbraith for the prestigious biannual Telecom Prospect show at Wellington’s City Gallery.

A podcast extract of the documentary is on the Telecom Prospect website here.

More photos from MyFace at Fresh Gallery Otara

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!