Value, values and #HomeAKL

For the past several months, I’ve been part of the curatorial team for the upcoming exhibition, Home AKL at Auckland Art Gallery opening Saturday 7 July. Under the leadership of Ron Brownson (Senior Curator – New Zealand and Pacific Art, Auckland Art Gallery), Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai, Nina Tonga and I have been the Associate Curators.

The experience has been exciting and rewarding, challenging and eye-opening. It is always satisfying to see artists who show at Fresh Gallery Otara go on to do great things. Having celebrated the gallery’s sixth anniversary last month, and processing mixed emotions about leaving my role at Auckland Council, it is particularly heartening to see that almost 40% of the artists in Home AKL have shown at Fresh since the Gallery opened in 2006.

The entry fee for Home AKL last week got reconsidered, the process of which was reported in the New Zealand Herald (10 June, 2012). Whilst an entry fee potentially limits accessibility to some audiences, it also builds value. The value of Home AKL is significant: for the artists, their work is shown in a landmark exhibition, in an award winning building over three months. Their work will be hung on the same walls as the European masterpieces in the recent Degas to Dalí travelling exhibition. Artists benefit from extensive media coverage, in-depth essays and exhibition writing, public programme events and talks. For audiences, Home AKL is a massively varied insight into Pacific lives and experience here in Auckland. The Pacific community is diverse and dynamic and this exhibition is a highly considered reflection of that. The works in Home AKL push the ‘identity’ cliché beyond recognition.

The upcoming Advance Pasifika: March for the Future event on Saturday 16 June is an effort to make Pacific people visible in Auckland. I’m excited about this event because I’ve seen so much change in the past three or so years that has systematically reduced the input and participation of Pacific people in decision making at local and central government levels. It’s heart breaking to feel so powerless in Aotearoa.

I’m proud that Home AKL comes at a time when Pacific people are starting to stir and expect and demand more of our leaders. I know that an entry fee for an art exhibition is considered by many to be unreasonable and even a deterrent. I understand the costs, particularly when coming from South Auckland. Transport and parking alone is expensive. I can only say that the experience of Home AKL will confirm for Pacific audiences that our lives, identities and multifaceted contributions to Auckland are recognised and honoured in this exhibition. We will be visible and present; our issues and perspectives, our communities and environments – Home AKL is a celebration of Auckland through a Pacific lens.

Importantly, myself, Kolokesa and Nina have ensured that Pacific input has been present and considered at every stage of the exhibition’s development. For me, this is an important point of difference. I hope that this input has informed a new way of looking at and considering art made by Pacific people.

I’m looking forward to the show opening, the various public events, and importantly, the reviews and responses from the Pacific community and beyond.

Ngā Hau E Whā – The Four Winds

Ngā Hau E Whā – The Four Winds – A solo exhibition by Leilani Kake
Curated by Ema Tavola for the Auckland Arts Festival
Fresh Gallery Otara
South Auckland
Aotearoa New Zealand
4 March – 16 April 2011

Women, Water and the Moon

Fresh Gallery Otara is a community gallery in the Otara Town Centre, frequented by children, students, artists and the elderly. It has a mandate to reflect life in Otara, to engage audiences and stimulate discussion.

Leilani Kake is a member of the Otara community; an educator, mother, artist – a staunch ambassador for the Southside. Armed with strong cultural foundations and a firm foothold in a South Auckland / South Pacific reality, her four-channel video installation bravely confronts the cultural taboo of nudity. Whilst mass media imagery of women’s bodies floods our visual landscape, public displays of female nudity in a community context has the potential to inspire controversy and discomfort.

Inspired by the disproportionate statistics of preventable cervical and breast cancer amongst Māori and Pacific women, the artist invites viewers to consider the body and how we perceive it. And further, to consider that relationship in relation to our wellbeing as a community.

Enveloped in the watery darkness of this work, we are alone with our thoughts. The work’s four walls represent four pou, four stages of womanhood. In the watery darkness, the balance between the women, the water and the moon is in constant flux. As viewers, we are the centre of the gaze – confronted and surrounded, fluctuating between comfort and discomfort.

This work delivers the impact typical of Kake’s practice, speaking to the human condition, universal and primitive, and simultaneously to the special cultural context of indigenous women of the Pacific region.

Known for her emotional, performance-based practice referencing ritual and tradition, family and relationships, Kake’s visual language encourages her community to engage with issues affecting them. Ngā Hau E Whā – The Four Winds exposes the inextricable links joining Polynesian femininity to power, religion, sexuality and privacy.

In terms of scale and content, this is the most significant exhibition ever produced for Fresh Gallery Otara. Kake has been part of the Gallery’s community since it opened in 2006. She has been educated and trained in Otara and continues to live and work here. It is perhaps the most appropriate exhibition for us to present in the regional Auckland Arts Festival programme, to represent the site-specific curatorial approach that has been fostered here.

We are hugely grateful for the opportunity to present this exhibition for the Auckland Arts Festival, and for the significant support from Manukau Institute of Technology Department of Creative Arts and Toi o Manukau. The support from my colleagues in Arts and Culture South, Auckland Council, have made this project a reality; thank you so much.

Ema Tavola
Pacific Arts Coordinator
Auckland Council South

MyFace – A solo exhibition by Janet Lilo

Janet Lilo presents an exploration of provocative photography that comes straight out of popular culture via the web through social networking platforms. The photographs that are amassed provide a serious reflection on the preoccupation people seem to have with editing their identity and self-representation.

Fiji artists Luisa Tora + Sangeeta Singh at Fresh Gallery Otara

FGO daily shots | Saturday 13 June

MyFace is part of the Auckland Festival of Photography

A limited edition exhibition catalogue is available for free at Fresh Gallery Otara, featuring this essay by Wellington-based writer, Tessa King.

MyFace is an exploration of visual artist Janet Lilo’s fascination with social networking sites such as Bebo, MySpace and Facebook, and in particular the way people use them as a platform for personal expression and identity in the form of self-portraiture.

Lilo looks at how users unwittingly challenge attitudes towards the photographic self-portrait. The widespread ownership of digital cameras makes self-portraiture easy, and the fact that an unflattering image can so easily be deleted and replaced with one that is more satisfactory means network-users are posting only those photos that represent exactly how they want to be seen.

The photographs that make up MyFace draw the viewer in, provoking a response of mixed fascination and embarrassment – indicative of self-portraiture photography’s new, and indeed still delicate, near-acceptance. The nature of the images causes a curious tension between public and private space, inspiring an awkward sense of voyeurism from the viewing of seemingly private photographs in a very public space.

Lilo has taken this public viewing a step further than the internet, effectively ‘stealing’ these images from the social networking sites they have been posted on and placing them in a different public space, one unhindered by the confines of that pseudo-private realm. Network-users take photos of themselves in the most private of places – in bathrooms and bedrooms where they will not be ‘seen’ – but then confound this apparent embarrassment by posting the results on the most public of forums, the internet, often with no restrictions on their privacy settings.

Taking advantage of this, Lilo takes these photos out of their original context to expose a false sense of privacy encouraged by the fact that much internet use takes place alone and at home. But once a photo is posted publicly, fellow users can do what they will with images, as Lilo has done with MyFace.

The photographs range from blatant self-portraiture with arms extended at the edge of the frame and the subject looking directly into the lens, to images expertly made to look as though they were taken by a third party. Within these styles there is the sexual, the strange, the doe-eyed cutesy, and the rather mundane, as people seek to manipulate the way in which they are seen by the world.

Tessa King
June 2009

Janet Lilo’s Pecha Kucha Night presentation, November 2008
Pecha Kucha Night #11, Manukau Edition, Aotearoa New Zealand
Courtesy of Pecha Kucha Nights Aotearoa website

Janet Lilo, Skyping from Sapporo, Japan – Thumbs up to Young, Gifted & Samoan!

REPRESENT at Fresh Gallery Otara

REPRESENT artists: Genevieve Pini, Ema Tavola, Jane-Anne Akamoeau & Fofoga Setoga-Tuala

REPRESENT series by Genevieve Pini

Jane-Anne Akamoeau | Genevieve Pini | Fofoga Setoga-Tuala | Ema Tavola
18 April – 10 May 2008

Four Pacific photo media artists reflect on the people and spaces that contribute to their understanding of place and belonging in Manukau City, South Auckland. They offer insights into their lives and experiences, documenting events and mapping a photographic global / local geography of time and space and connections.

Joseph Ioretto Po series by Fofoga Setoga-Tuala

Fofoga Setoga-Tuala has extensively documented the life of a young New Zealand born Samoan man, from his life in suburban South Auckland to the process of being bestowed a chiefly matai title, in his village in Samoa. The work explores people and relationships, formality, pride, accountability and identity. Jane-Anne Akamoeau explores the relationship her children have with their family, illustrating how collective family experiences and foundational relationships have shaped their understanding of the world around them. The work acknowledges the role of family and extended family. Reflecting on initial plans to produce a series of self-portraits, Genevieve Pini depicts fragments of her space through domesticity and children. Her work explores Otara as an extension of enquiry into Samoa and Samoans, performance and gathering, Samoan marking of the body and the land. Ema Tavola’s photos depict people-less landscapes and daily sights from everyday life in Mangere, Otara and Papatoetoe. As observations, they are literal and personal drawing attention to oft overlooked vistas in the urban South Auckland landscape.

Each artist speaks to elements of contemporary Pacific experience in New Zealand. From collective upbringing and extended family to the transnational lives of New Zealand Samoans, the artists represent pride and cultural continuity and an evolving generational sense of belonging to this space. This exhibition is site-specific at Fresh Gallery Otara. It aims to address common misrepresentations of the richness and pride, and the complexities of cultural relocation and socio-political realities of Pacific people in South Auckland.

More photos from REPRESENT at Fresh Gallery Otara

FAMILY WITHIN series by Jane-Anne Akamoeau


More photos by Ema Tavola from sub urbia 2008 series

“Ariki” (2007) by Leilani Kake

“Who is this man child in my arms? He is my ancient Tangaroa, waiting in the sea of Te Kore for the separation of Rangi and Papa, to emerge and stand strong in his whakapapa.” – Leilani Kake

Still from
Still from “Ariki” (2007) video installation by Leilani Kake

Cook Island / Maori video installation artist Leilani Kake is showing her current work, Ariki (2007) at Fresh Gallery Otara until Saturday 24 November. The artist will be at the Gallery on the last two days of the exhibition to speak to audiences about her poignant new work.

Ariki honours the Cook Island hair cutting ritual and the social processes that surround it regarding family, extended family and community; it is a ceremony that represents the transition from child to manhood.

This moving video installation, an audio visual experience, has been incredibly well-received at Fresh Gallery Otara. It is intercultural and intergenerational; a new powerful visual language rooted in an important and familiar cultural process, completely at home in Otara, Manukau City, New Zealand.

Still from
Still from “Ariki” (2007) video installation by Leilani Kake.

This work will be exhibited again at the Moving Image Centre Toi Rerehiko Gallery on Karangahape Road, Auckland Central from 25 January – 8 March, 2008. The exhibition will also feature Leilani Kake’s 2005 multi-screen video installation, Talking Tivaevae.

Currently, the work features in the group exhibition, Ka ‘apai nuku, ka ‘apai rangi – Lift the universe, lift the heavens (1-24 November 2007) featuring new work by contemporary Cook Island artists Nia-val Ngaro, Metuanooroa Tapuni and Veronica Vaevae. Fresh Gallery Otara is located in the Otara Town Centre, Manukau City, New Zealand.