RIP ColourMeFiji

Almost a year ago I stopped blogging here.

But people still subscribe.

I’ve considered deactivating this blog, but know that over six years of blogging, there is some interesting content that has even been referenced in books and journals.

Almost a year ago, I set up my new blog.

Come on over! I blog about Pacific art, projects and South Auckland.

I also write here:

I still help my Dad with his blog about our village, Dravuni here

And you can always find me on Tumblr, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook

Just not here anymore 😦

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The 3rd South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit (4-31 May)

I’m excited to be overseeing the third South Auckland Pacific Arts Summit in May, the last project I’ll be involved in before leaving my role. The poster design process has been another thoroughly inspiring creative collaboration with Edgar Melitao at The Kitchen Media.

The Pacific Arts Summit poster brochure will be out by the end of March at Arts facilities around the Auckland region. The Summit is delivered from 4-31 May in the South Auckland suburbs of Mangere, Manukau, Otara and Papakura.

The Other and the PAA

A Pacific artist’s response to the 10th Pacific Arts Association Symposium (Rarotonga)

The 10th Pacific Arts Association (PAA) Symposium was held on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands from 9-11 August 2010. My perception was that the PAA is a Anglo-American organisation profiling the views of academics and museum curators who deal in the research, collection and investigation of objects and cultural practices of people of the Pacific region. Working at the grassroots in Pacific diaspora and Pacific proper contexts, where people and cultures are central as opposed to academia and institutions, I hadn’t envisioned that attendance or participation in this forum was a priority for me. However, funds became available and I travelled with my colleague Nigel Borell (Kaiwhakahaere – Maori Arts Advisor, Manukau City Council) and Manukau-based visual artists and educators Leilani Kake (Manukau School of Visual Arts) and Donna Tupaea (Alfriston College).

Given that the event was being held in such close vicinity to Auckland, an important centre for contemporary Pacific art, the planned attendance of actual Pacific artists was encouraging. The visibility of Pacific people, contemporary art and culture, and the amount of Pacific people involved as speakers gave me hope. Papers were to be delivered by: Hūfanga Dr ‘Okusitino Māhina, Kolokesa Uafā Māhina-Tuai, Sēmisi Fetokai Poutauine, Apolonia Tamata, Charmaine ‘Ilaiu, Dan Taulapapa McMullin, Lingikoni Vaka’uta, Fonofale McCarthy, Marilyn Kohlhase, Rosanna Raymond, Karen Stevenson and Pétélo Tuilalo.

Sēmisi Fetokai Poutauine, Hūfanga Dr ‘Okusitino Māhina and Kolokesa Uafā Māhina-Tuai

Hosted at an upmarket Rarotongan resort, Pacific people were refreshingly visible at the gathering of speakers and observers on day one. In an undersized meeting room, participants spilled out, unable to hear welcome speeches, but it was an exciting way to meet up with old friends, respected artists and Pacific thinkers – most of which were standing outside in the shade! Unfortunately, from this first session, the event’s poor time keeping became an issue and blaming poor organisation on “Rarotongan time” was irritating.

Keynote speaker, Jonathan Mane-Wheoki – Director of Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland, delivered a paper entitled, Contemporary Urban Pacific Art in Aotearoa: A Whakapapa. As a contemporary urban Pacific artist, Mane-Wheoki’s whakapapa was history heavy and showed a complete disconnect with the accelerated growth and relevance of the past many years of urban Pacific art making taking place under his nose in Auckland. History is of course relevant, but institutional perspectives of an art sector born and bred in the grassroots, are dislocated and distant.

Nigel Borell, Ema Tavola, Dan Taulapapa McMullin, Jonathan Mane-Wheoki and Leilani Kake

Ron Brownson – Senior Curator, New Zealand and Pacific Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gave a much more relevant insight into contemporary urban Pacific art, representing a thorough and exciting involvement and respect for his subject – West Auckland-based Māori-Samoan-Niuean video installation artist, Janet Lilo. Brownson set a high standard for delivery and research, understanding and contextual scope. His quotes were hot and constant… “narcissism of the now”… “my web shadow and me”… “you are what you share”, he had us stimulated and engaged from start to finish. We were so proud of Janet Lilo, and honour Brownson for choosing to bring Lilo’s practice into this forum.

Pétélo Tuilalo – Head of Visual Arts and Exhibitions, Agency of the Development of Kanak Culture, Tjibaou Cultural Centre, New Caledonia, followed Brownson with an equally stimulating presentation. Robes Mission: un art de la Rue? was a thematic exhibition around the missionary ‘Mother Hubbard’ dress. Tuilalo discussed the introduction and impact, visibility and context of the garment and showed images of artworks, processes, artists and the exhibition install at the Tjibaou Centre. It was refreshing to feel not only indigenous artists responding to a theme related to their own indigenous / settler cultural interface, but also that the project was conceived and implemented by an indigenous curator.

Contemporary Pacific Art and Artists was a session chaired by Dan Taulapapa McMullin; notably, the first session I attended at the PAA Symposium chaired by a Pacific Islander. The audience for this session had a strong Pacific and Māori artist presence with the likes of Leilani Kake, Angela Tiatia, Julia Mage’au Gray, Reuben Paterson, Suzanne Tamaki, Rosanna Raymond and Filani Macassey to name a few.

Jenny Fraser’s manifesto was an exciting start – she speaks frankly about the struggle of being an Aboriginal artist in Australia where only 2% of the population is indigenous. The Other APT is an excellent fringe project to the Asia Pacific Triennial (APT) held at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane. Fraser introduced her land and people, her source and inspiration. Finally, an indigenous artist perspective was being presented – art as activism, problems as opportunities for progress and evidence of a Pacific / indigenous concept planned, implemented and celebrated. It felt strong and empowering and so, so relevant.

Dan Taulapapa McMullin also presented a beautiful indigenous perspective, in trademark poetic flow. McMullin used his paintings as illustrations of his thoughts, and his thoughts as contextual statements about his paintings. He is a stand-out Pacific artist, writer and film maker with a magnificent presence.

Pamela Zeplin – Senior Lecturer in Art and Design History and Theory, University of South Australia presented a paper entitled, The Pacific in the ‘Big Island’: Oceania Waves in Australia. Zeplin is an academic who has paid some attention to Pacific artists in recent times, and been involved with an effort to create some collective action calling artists to create strategies to increase exposure of contemporary art made by Pacific artists living in Australia. A recent workshop outcome was the creation of a Pacific art themed issue of Art Monthly Australia (August 2010). Zeplin introduced some of the artists involved in this initiative including Tongan painter, Sam Tupou and Fijian academic and artist, Torika Bolatagici. Unfortunately, both names were mispronounced by Zeplin as “Sam Toopoo” and “Tarikah Bolatangitchy”.

Given the opportunity to question and comment on the session, I introduced myself and thanked Zeplin for bringing the Pacific artists she mentioned into this forum and attempting to give us a historical context for their [in]visibility in the wider Australian art world. I said that I had a simple comment and wanted to correct the pronunciation of the surnames of the Fijian and Tongan artists she had mentioned. In the moment, I was overcome with emotion. I could feel myself unable to finish my sentence, so my colleague Leilani Kake supported me to articulate my point. The point was made that pronunciation is important and that there is mana in a name. It was a simple comment that followed from George Nuku, renowned Māori artist and activist, who also asked Zeplin to acknowledge some inaccuracies in her presentation of indigenous / settler historical contexts of Aotearoa. Zeplin responded to Nuku somewhat defensively, but not to me. The chair summed up my point, saying that these kind of gatherings are often sites of gross linguicide – the butchering of our Pacific languages, he acknowledged my emotion as symbolic of the pain of being misrepresented.

I firmly believe that attention to correct pronunciation is a decision based on respect. I commend Australian writer, Jacqui Durrant, for asking me to guide her through the phonetic pronunciation of Bolatagici – a difficult name, admittedly, for English speakers. She noted that she had never heard Bolatagici’s name pronounced correctly. Other speakers incorporating Fijian words and names, Stephen Hooper and Charmaine ‘Ilaiu, did an impressive job.

In retrospect, for the sake of Zeplin’s ego, my comment could have been made in person, but the message of my comment, was for the entire forum. My emotion did not represent weakness. It represented anger and love… honesty and the weight of my communities, as a Fijian and a curator, as a Pacific person, and as an artist, as someone who proudly represents Pacific people always with integrity and strength.

There were other papers at the PAA that represented a positive engagement with Pacific people, both real and meaningful. Non-Pacific academics such as Marion Cadora (Post-Graduate student, University of Hawai’i) and Anita Herle (Senior Curator for Anthropology, University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, England) presented papers showing research and respect, sharing and empowerment. There is no doubt that many PAA members often dedicate and invest their lives and energies into efforts to support the sustainable development of Pacific people. In these instances, a system of reciprocity is employed where “the source” is an equal beneficiary to the findings and outcomes of Pacific cultural research and enquiry. This model is admirable. Unfortunately, forums like this also attract academics who still have a subtle undertone of colonial exploitation. Fortunately, this seems to be exposed when face-to-face with actual Pacific people, able to articulate Pacific thought to respond and challenge.

On day three, Australian academic Pamela Zeplin made her thoughts known to an indigenous artist, who shared with me her experience of being used as a sounding board for Zeplin’s ego. Yes Pamela Zeplin, blackfellas talk.

Zeplin proclaimed that my comment following her presentation represented someone who was “immature and hysterical”.

Whilst immediately angered by her amazingly patriarchal response to my comment and hurt by her judgmental attack on me and everything and everyone I represent, her position is exposed. Incidents like this illustrate the difference between people who work with Pacific art and artists for love and service versus currency and academic difference. My Pacific colleagues have shared with me their sadness and support, and my Australian colleagues have helped me to understand the position of Australian patriarchal white supremacy and cultural dominance. When Pacific art and culture is my heart, my work and the language of service to my people, it’s easy to forget the special needs of our region’s colonial settler communities.

Zeplin is celebrated for holding the hand of the marginalised other; leading them into the white light, but her response to an indigenous voice is seriously disturbing.

Native gathering

The PAA gave us an opportunity to gather and share our work, as Pacific artists. On day three, sick of dominant culture discourse, the natives gathered and told stories of conferences past. For my colleague Leilani Kake and I, Vaka Vuku: Pacific Epistemologies in 2006 hosted by the University of the South Pacific in Fiji was a benchmark Pacific discourse event; held in the Pacific, for the Pacific. Rosanna Raymond, respected Pacific artist and writer, told of her experience of being told she was a “naughty girl” after being “sshhh’d” at the PAA Symposium in Massachusetts, at the age of 40.

Native floorshow

The conference closed with a dinner accompanied with savagery and fire, the native floorshow reminded me of the Brook Andrew work “Sexy and Dangerous” (1996)

"Sexy and Dangerous" (1996) by Brook Andrew

There were three excellent exhibitions shown during the PAA Symposium. Nanette Lela’ulu showed an impressive body of large-scale portraits and small-scale landscapes at The Art Studio, a beautiful collection of tivaevae was shown at a community hall, and Auckland visual artist, Janet Lilo had a solo showing at BCA Gallery. Lilo’s show curated by Ron Brownson, incorporated the video project small axe09 produced for Fresh Gallery Otara for the invitational 2009 New Artists Show at Auckland’s ARTSPACE.

CREATIVE CAREERS YOUTH EXPO // 1 MAY

I’m so proud to be part of this exciting initiative… Manukau’s first CREATIVE CAREERS YOUTH EXPO aims to highlight the potential of creative industries pathways for Pacific youth… with inspirational presentations from young Pasifika creative professionals, we hope to stimulate interest and excitement in creativity as a serious career option. The Creative Careers Youth Expo is the first event in the inaugural Manukau Pacific Arts Summit (1-29 May 2010).

Manukau’s first Creative Careers Youth Expo for young Pacific people is being held in May, aiming to empower youth to turn what they love doing into a successful career. The expo, part of the inaugural Manukau Pacific Arts Summit, recognises that creativity is inherent in Pacific people and that Pacific youth have huge potential in the creative sector.

Youth, their families and teachers are welcomed by Manukau City Council to hear first-hand from young Pacific creative professionals how they set upon their pathway and the social challenges and financial realities they have encountered.

Speakers represent a range of different creative disciplines and careers and each has a unique set of experiences and wisdom to share with youth who want to follow in their footsteps.

Musician Opeloge Ah Sam has held a wide range of musical roles over the last 15 years, including composer, conductor, professional pianist, musical stage manager, MC, event manager and solo and group performer in styles including jazz, R&B, classical and popular music.

Artist Monty Collins works with a broad array of media including graphic design, aerosol art and tattooing. He is particularly known for his masterful character work that has gained him Manukau-wide renown as part of the FDKNS crew.

Otara-based Leilani Kake is a video installation artist who holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts and graduate Diploma of Fine Arts from the University of Auckland at Manukau. She regularly exhibits nationally and internationally and currently lectures contextual studies at the Manukau School of Visual Arts.

Actor Stacey Leilua has appeared on television on Shortland Street, Kila Kokonut Krew and Good Hands Lima Lelei, as well as in multiple theatre productions in both Auckland and Wellington.

Television producer Joe Taele graduated with a Bachelor of Screen Performing Arts majoring in Editing from Unitec and now works for Sky Sports. He has also edited a great number of experimental and short films.

Tertiary education providers and support organisations will also be present to provide information about their role in helping young people into creative careers.

Registration is essential for this free event, for more information please email Brett.Stirling@manukau.govt.nz or phone Nicole Lim on 09 271 6019.

What: Creative Careers Youth Expo
Presented as part of the 2010 Manukau Pacific Arts Summit
When: Saturday 1 May 2010, 10am-4pm
Where: Otara Music Arts Centre,
Otara Town Centre,
Corner Newbury and Bairds Road, Otara
Cost: Free, registration required.

Manukau’s first Creative Careers Youth Expo for young Pacific people is being held in May, aiming to empower youth to turn what they love doing into a successful career. The expo, part of the inaugural Manukau Pacific Arts Summit, recognises that creativity is inherent in Pacific people and that Pacific youth have huge potential in the creative sector.

Youth, their families and teachers are welcomed by Manukau City Council to hear first-hand from young Pacific creative professionals how they set upon their pathway and the social challenges and financial realities they have encountered.

Speakers represent a range of different creative disciplines and careers and each has a unique set of experiences and wisdom to share with youth who want to follow in their footsteps.

Musician Opeloge Ah Sam has held a wide range of musical roles over the last 15 years, including composer, conductor, professional pianist, musical stage manager, MC, event manager and solo and group performer in styles including jazz, R&B, classical and popular music.

Artist Monty Collins works with a broad array of media including graphic design, aerosol art and tattooing. He is particularly known for his masterful character work that has gained him Manukau-wide renown as part of the FDKNS crew.

Otara-based Leilani Kake is a video installation artist who holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts and graduate Diploma of Fine Arts from the University of Auckland at Manukau. She regularly exhibits nationally and internationally and currently lectures contextual studies at the Manukau School of Visual Arts.

Actor Stacey Leilua has appeared on television on Shortland Street, Kila Kokonut Krew and Good Hands Lima Lelei, as well as in multiple theatre productions in both Auckland and Wellington.

Television producer Joe Taele graduated with a Bachelor of Screen Performing Arts majoring in Editing from Unitec and now works for Sky Sports. He has also edited a great number of experimental and short films.

Tertiary education providers and support organisations will also be present to provide information about their role in helping young people into creative careers.

Registration is essential for this free event, for more information please email Brett.Stirling@manukau.govt.nz or phone Nicole Lim on 09 271 6019.

What: Creative Careers Youth Expo
Presented as part of the 2010 Manukau Pacific Arts Summit
When: Saturday 1 May 2010, 10am-4pm
Where: Otara Music Arts Centre,
Otara Town Centre,
Corner Newbury and Bairds Road, Otara
Cost: Free, registration required.

The Van Formally Known As Madonna

The A Team | Monty Collins, Tanu Gago, Luisa Tora, Ema Tavola, Sangeeta Singh & Brett Stirling (not pictured)

More photos from the Fresh Gallery Otara / 2010 Manukau Pacific Arts Summit custom van painting at the 35th ASB Polyfest in Otara, Manukau City, Aotearoa New Zealand
(20 March 2010)

Nesian Tattoo // Mangere

Samoan musician, King Kapisi with Joe Brown

I’m starting to see Joe Brown’s strong tattoo aesthetic a lot these days. On Saturday I saw an amazing calf tattoo at the Otara market and in discussion with someone at Fresh Gallery Otara later on, I was shown Joe’s website and the calf I had seen was in his gallery!

His space, Nesian Tattoo, is at 3/203 Kirkbride Road, Mangere, Manukau City.
Open Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 5pm; Saturday 10am – 2pm

Check the website for contact details // http://www.NesianTattoo.com