Thinking of Luse

Luse Nemani at the opening of "Maka Tu'u Taha" at Fresh Gallery Otara (2007)

At age 81, Lusefamanatu (Luse) Nemani passed away on Friday 13 August in Otara. Luse has been one of our biggest supporters at Fresh Gallery Otara, having seen just about every show since we opened in May 2006. Luse was a member of the original Pasifika Arts o Manukau Trust, the organisation that was behind the creation of my role as Pacific Arts Coordinator for Manukau City Council. She was a Tongan warden for the Otara Town Centre and involved in so many initiatives and projects.

Luse has been a comforting friend and advisor to me, giving me insight into her mixed cultural heritage of Tongan and Niuean, her migration and life in Otara. I always appreciated her warmth and interest in my life. She made the most beautiful garlands/lei out of recycled sheet plastic, and knitted so many people warm winter scarves; we sold her lei and crochet work in the 2006 and 2007 ‘Under $100 Art Sale’ exhibitions and she was involved in our first anniversary exhibition, Fresh Gallery Otara Turns 1!

I loved when Luse would sing; she was always intending to record an album of songs in Niuean, Tongan, Fijian and English at Otara Music Arts Centre. I wish she did. She had the softest, most beautiful voice that reminded me of old Hawaiian love songs.

I’m happy that in the past two years, Fresh Gallery Otara hosted two Tongan exhibitions that Luse loved. In February 2009, Koloa et al: Your Art is my Treasure curated by Charmaine ‘Ilaiu and Nina Tonga showcased the Tongan artforms of weaving and backcloth design. In April 2010, Tongan Style curated by Manuēsina Mahina and Kolokesa Uafā Māhina-Tuai profiled the work of five Tongan women working in the mediums of embroidery, crochet, garment construction and church fashion.

Luse didn’t mind contemporary art, but always loved when the references to customary practice were recognisable. Her readings of paintings by Kulimoe’anga Maka and Samiu Napa’a, and sculptures by Visesio Siasau and Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi, always gave us food for thought.

I miss Luse already. I will always remember her warmth and love, her generosity and insight, her cheekiness, and how she loved hearing Tongan songs sung when we would have a kava band playing at Fresh Gallery Otara openings. Her service to the Otara community sets the bar so high, and I know her passing will be felt by so many people whose lives she touched.

‘Ofa lahi atu, Luse.

(K)IWI Notion of a Nation

Photo: NEIL DUDDY - Manukau Courier

Exhibition tells artist’s story

By JESSIE COLQUHOUN – Manukau Courier

In 2004 Don Brash’s Kiwi/iwi election billboards sparked controversy. But they also fired up the imagination of a young south Auckland arts student.

Of Pakeha and Ngati Maniapoto (Tainui) descent Reuben Friend explores the notion of nationality in a new exhibition at Fresh Gallery Otara.

(K)IWI – Notion of a Nation aims to highlight some of the tensions that exist between the cultures.

“My work is not just about my story, it’s the story of all of my family and how I identify with being Maori and Pakeha,” he says.

“It doesn’t try and reconcile events of the past, it just helps me to form where I came from.”

The series of six paintings are red, white and black and have an image covered in a kowhaiwhai pattern of repeating koru.

“I’ve had people ask me ‘What is the dominant image – the kowhaiwhai or the other image?’, he says.

“When people look at me it’s the same – what’s dominant? Maori or Pakeha? It’s neither – I’m both.”

The exhibition is the outcome of Mr Friend’s work on his masters degree in Maori visual arts from Massey University.

He paints in the evenings and weekends and by day works as the curator of Maori and Pacific arts at the Wellington City Art Gallery.

Now based in the Wairarapa, Mr Friend grew up in Otara and Mangere Bridge.

He says he wanted to bring his work back to south Auckland so it would be accessible to the Maori and Pacific community.

“It’s really cool to bring it home to where I grew up.”

(K)IWI – Notion of a Nation is on at Fresh Gallery Otara until Saturday 13 February.


Find Reuben Friend here:

Dawson Road Mural Project

This amazing mural was painted this past weekend by three artists and 11 volunteers in Dawson Park in Otara.

A pretty outstanding interpretation of the design developed by Nicole Lim for Fresh Gallery Otara, in response to this video made by Janet Lilo:

From projecting the outline on Friday night…

Day 1 // Beginnings…

Plus 11 awesome volunteers

Day 2 // Team MJ working hard out

Screening the video at Tupu Youth Library

Important acknowledgements to the participants of the video interviews.

And those who designed and painted the mural.

When I remembered to take a group photo, we only had 3 volunteers left… ooops… my bad 😮

Click for full photographic documentation of the project

Click for the Dawson Road Mural Project blog

No Sense Making Cents // Siliga David Setoga

Siliga David Setoga’s highly anticipated first solo exhibition, No Sense Making Cents opened last week at Fresh Gallery Otara! For a full works list, click here.

A Distant Memory (2009) // vinyl, concrete rubble // variable dimensions // NFS

This new body of lightboxes was made specifically for No Sense Making Cents (NZD900); five sold at the Opening.

For the duration of No Sense Making Cents, Fresh Gallery Otara is selling PopoHardwear T-shirts exclusively (NZD30)

The limited edition catalogue  features an essay by Samoan academic and film maker, Dionne Fonoti

No Sense Making Cents runs until Saturday 21 November.
Artist Talk: 12pm, Saturday 14 November
Fresh Gallery Otara

Rimoni // A shot in the dark

A Manurewa photographer takes an honest approach to capturing open public spaces, writes Sharu Delilkan // The Aucklander – South Edition

Raymond Sagapolutele refers to himself as a “brotographer”.

“I used to be known for saying ‘bro’ all the time. It’s a term I use to describe myself, not a reference to the subject matter I shoot,” says the photographer who’s showing his first collection of shots.

Just like his unconventional description of himself, subverting convention and challenging media stereotypes is the main thrust of Honest?!?.

The exhibition of black and white photographs shows “images of South Auckland through my eyes”, he says.

“Rather than just doing typical South Auckland shots, I prefer taking shots of people and places with a refreshing perspective.”

The 38-year-old from Manurewa says he started off taking cliched landscape shots but realised very quickly that every other photographer seemed also to be doing that. So he looked for subjects that would distance his work from everyone else’s.

“I shoot a lot in the middle of the night. I love going to places that wouldn’t be considered photogenic. For example, I opt to go to places that would otherwise be busy during the day and take pictures when they’re empty.”

Sagapolutele, who has only been doing photography seriously for four years, says he discovered his knack for it by accident.

“I used to mess around with my wife’s camera after she’d come back from her night photography classes and realised I was on to a good thing.”

Following 15 years working in finance, he quit his job in 2003 to immerse himself in multimedia courses.

“Most of my learning has been self-taught. I prefer that to formal learning.”

A regular photographer for Rip It Up magazine and Dawn Raid, Sagapolutele says he prefers to work without a set agenda.

“If you do what is true to yourself, the likelihood is that you’ll get an honest reflection of what you’re after.”

Honest?!?, Fresh Gallery Otara, Shop 5, 46 Fairmall, Otara Town Centre, until October 24.
Artist Talk: 12pm, Saturday 17 October. Free entry.
For more information, ph 271 6019.