This series of digital photographs comes from experiences of inhabiting a migrant space in [sub]urban New Zealand. Through dead cars, globalised takeaway food, malnourished pregnant bitches and vandalism, I aim to investigate the migrant dream versus a South Auckland reality.
This is the Otara Pharmacy, in the Otara Town Centre. Whilst a lot of graffiti and tagging in this area is the typical acronym/street vernacular/gang/group territory marker – for ‘fame’ – this one caught my eye and made me smile. Its like a game of urban Scrabble…
Hungry Bitch Roaming in Otara (2007)
This dog was roaming near my work, foraging for scraps of food. It looked hungry and malnourished, an opportunistic standard issue staffie cross. Made me think about pregnancy and poverty, and the resilience of the mongrel breed.
Suva Girl (2007)
This is my first car, Suva Girl, that was painted by graffiti artists Monty Collins and Jayson Mokotupu. It broke down so many times, and eventually I gave up fixing it, and it sat in the driveway for over a year. It got towed away for free and I replaced it with a boring navy staionwagon.
Hunger Buster, McDonald’s Otara (2007)
This is the view from the Otara Town Centre bus depot. The ‘new’ McDonald’s has Gardenia bushes growing all around it. On Fridays they do ‘Island Friday’ and all the staff wear loud Bula/Hawaiian shirts. I would watch people go through Drive Thru whilst I waited for the 497 bus.
This work will be shown in the exhibition, Longitude curated by Giles Peterson at The Art Studio, Rarotonga, Cook Islands from 10-30 September 2007. The photos have been printed photographic paper (A0 size), in the manner of a grid, so the white cross that seperates the images references the English flag.
The work was specifically made to be shown in the Cook Islands, a small Pacific Island nation in free association with New Zealand. Cook Islanders use New Zealand currency, New Zealand products and services and watch New Zealand news. The minimum wage in the Cook Islands is less than 50% of New Zealand’s minimum wage, yet the cost of living is largely higher as so many consumerables are imported from New Zealand. There are more than 50,000 people of Cook Island descent living in New Zealand, and the population of the Cook Islands is estimated to be less than 22,000. Migration to New Zealand has become a cultural norm, and whilst New Zealand offers increased opportunities for income generation, work and education, often the socio-economic positioning of Pacific migrants in New Zealand does not always offer a ‘better life’.
I wanted to make a response to my space as a Pacific migrant, living and working in and around Otara, in Auckland – the largest Polynesian city in the world. During a particularly cold and wet Auckland winter, I was living without a car, and as a pedestrian, my immediate environment became like I’d never seen it before, I was spending a lot of time looking and seeing and waiting, and thinking.. and longing… for warmth, and home, and a place that I cared about and a place that cared about me.