Tāmaki-born Cook Island artist Ahsin Ahsin (Aitu, Aitutaki) distills his imagination into fantastic creatures, sigils, graffiti-marking and gestures suspended in hyperspace. Influenced by sci-fi films, street art and pop culture of the 80s & 90s, Ahsin communicates the notions of neo-pop in his mural sized designs and multi-disciplinary practice.
Working between Kirikiriroa (Hamilton, Aotearoa) and Naarm (Melbourne, Australia), Ahsin has exhibited extensively throughout Aotearoa in international shows. Most recently, participating in the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Centre Project – Te Whāinga: A Culture Lab on Civility at Silo Park as well as his exhibition ‘Neon Utopia’ at the Tauranga Art Gallery as part of the international show ‘Mega World’.
“My contribution to Moana Legacy is a mural of my crocodile characters, that I have been creating for a while now. They stemmed from an interest in ancient Greek/Roman vase paintings.”
Living and working on Gadigal & Darug land (Sydney, Australia), Talia Smith is a Taranaki-born artist, writer and curator who explores themes central to her Moana heritage through photographic and moving image mediums. As a second-generation Aotearoa-born indigenous woman, much of her practice explores the investigation of intangible space that those of similar backgrounds can exist and occupy.
Talia has been recognised for her curatorial practice by multiple Australian arts institutions including Firstdraft’s emerging curator for 2017 and Artbank’s emerging curator for 2018. As an artist she has exhibited widely in Australia and Aotearoa. In 2020, she is ‘the churchie’ curator for the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane and has completed the AIR_Frankfurt Program,as curator-in-residence with Basis in Frankfurt, Germany.
Her contribution to Moana Legacy ‘Surfacing’ is a photographic installation based her Masters of Fine Arts research that explores the tenuous link between past, present and future. A stripped back frame adorned with dreamy images from her multiple homelands – her ancestral homeland of the Cook Islands, her current home in Sydney and her birth home Aotearoa.
“Exploring my lived experience of being Cook Island, Sāmoan and New Zealand European, this work looks to explore how the vā can be used as a space for those of a Moana heritage to create their identities outside of Western structures, a place where time is not linear and we are informed by ours and our ancestors experiences.”
Israel Randell is a multi-disciplinary
artist of Cook Island (Rarotonga) and Māori (Tainui, Ngāti Kahungunu) descent,
who explores the notions of innovation as tradition through installations,
performances and spatial activations.
Israel’s work often activates dormant
spaces within urban landscapes as a way to expose communities to new ways of
thinking. Her practice is underpinned by cosmological theories of space and the
parallels found in her Pasifika and Māori culture.
Born in the Waikato region, Israel attended Hungry Creek Art School in Tāmaki Makaurau before moving to Toi Moana (Bay of Plenty) with her young family. Most recently, she was the Supreme Award winner at the 2020 Tauranga Art Gallery, Miles Art Awards.
“Randell works with light and its adversary – dark. Her sculptural light forms create a space where one can experience Matauranga Māori (knowledge)”
Gina Ropiha (Ngāti Kahungunu/Ngāti Kere, Ngāti
Raukawa/Ngāti Rakau) is a practising artist who hails from Heretaunga
(Hastings) and is based in Naarm (Melbourne, Australia). Working primarily with
found and repurposed objects, Ropiha’s art reflects her experience addressing
the harsh realities and tests of living as an indigenous woman within colonised
lands, while trying to maintain a sense of Māoritanga (Māori culture) and
Rophia has exhibited internationally and was an Artist in Residence at the Australian Tapestry Workshop 2017. She is active member of Motu Taim (formerly Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle) and has been a teacher and tutor in arts education for 19 years.
Featuring works with her actual hair in the exhibition, Gina has gently woven kete as a tribute to Wurundjeri artist Georgia MacGuire. The use of hair was a means of expressing the regret, sorrow and grief felt when witnessing Georgia’s story.
Born to a Kanak father and Anglo-Argentinian/European mother, Naawie Tutugoro is a Tāmaki Makaurau-born multi-disciplinary artist. Her practice comprises of site-specific works that illuminate negotiations of place and space specific to the urban Pasifika experience.
Tutugoro is currently living on Waiheke island, and has exhibited throughout Tāmaki Makaurau. Most recently, she collaborated with her friend and sculptor Jenny Takahasi Palmer on the exhibition ‘*subtleRESPECT’ at Window Gallery and is currently completing her Master of Fine Arts at ELAM.
“Hair discrimination and invisibility has been something I have become aware of growing up with afro hair.”
– Naawie Tutugoro, 2020
Growing up, especially as women, we are bombarded with contradicting desires and messages regarding beauty standards and self-acceptance. The idea of taming one’s hair is assimilation in practice, altering oneself to fit into the mould of what is considered acceptable.
“Bendy Rollers”, are a product used to alter the texture/style or hair speaking to ideas of cultural appropriation and fetishisation of black and brown bodies. By re-purposing the curlers as connections of a lei, Naawie dismantles the meanings attached to the material and in a decolonising act, the lei of hair curlers is transformed into an imagined umbilical cord to the spirit world.
“…Maybe in a few million years I’ll still be here to hear that star answer back. Somewhere still standing with you, still there above and roaring, well above, at the apex of all things, seeing our flaming sun dim above a dying world…”
– Excerpt from Across the Face of the Moon (2019)
Rangituhia Hollis (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu) is an artist, writer and educator. His practice employs a range of collaborative strategies, often resulting in large-scale digital animation video works or interactive social engagement projects that explore Aotearoa’s postcolonial context. He often develops work using emerging or unconventional technologies. He has exhibited throughout Aotearoa in leading public museums and galleries.
Brisbane-born Fijian artist Mereani Qalovakawasa uses her multidisciplinary practice to shed light on living with a chronic illness. Sharing her personal experiences living with the autoimmune disease – lupus, she aims to reduce the fear and shame of being sick, particularly in Pasifika communities.
In 2018, Qalovakawasa participated in her first exhibition with New Wayfinders called ‘Ocean Stories From Home’ at Connection Art Space, this will be her first time exhibiting in Aotearoa.
Mereani’s illness and the experiences it brings to her life spark her use of online and computer-based media works. Filming on an old Big W camera, drawing using MS Paint and editing on MovieMaker, she depicts her own legacy through sharing the timeline of her health. These small clips give an intimate part of her journey through chemo and the battles she faces daily.
“Pacific people are often depicted as the image of vibrant health and beauty, physically strong and joyful, glowing brown skin, thick hair, skilled athletes and graceful dancers, laughing in the hot sun. My life isn’t bad, it’s just different from most people. I try to make life with a chronic illness as pleasant as I can. I find joy in making films to share a glimpse of my life.”
Originally from Waitakere, Cora-Allan Wickliffe (Ngāpuhi, Tainui, Alofi and Liku) is a multi-disciplinary artist and curator, who likes to examine and explore representations of Indigenous people through her work. Her sister Kelly Lafaiki, based in Naarm (Melbourne, Australia) is a student of hiapo and has helped to collaborate on the exhibition piece.
Exploring themes of ceremony and memory we are re-tracing using silhouetted objects filled with the language of hiapo to share stories of Niue that were passed down at the food table from our grandparents.
Stories of Niue, dances, mena kai and songs were shared throughout our childhood in comfortable and often uncomfortable moments of learning dances and how to cook traditional dishes.
“Our grandparents guided us with stern voices when we were young but grew softer as we all aged. Time spent together over meals and over beers became an environment of admiration and learning.”
Cora-Allan Wickliffe, 2019
These moments would tie them to becoming hiapo makers and this current work explores the moments of mourning they experienced with the passing of their Grandfather Vakaafi Lafaiki in April 2019.
As a contemporary practitioner of hiapo (Niuean barkcloth), Wickliffe has revived a sleeping artform. Her work is very important to her community and has been exhibited in Australia, Aotearoa, England and Niue. Currently, Wickliffe is the curator and exhibitions manager at Corbans Estate Arts Centre.
Moana Legacy is Tautai’s first exhibition in its new gallery space, the show has been developed from an existing partnership with Blak Dot Gallery, Naarm (Melbourne) featuring moana artists working in both Aotearoa and Australia. Continuing the conversation in Tautai’s new expanded space in the heart of Auckland, this show offers up assorted approaches to the idea of legacy.
As artists of the moana, one often looks back to move forward, contemplating the connections to ancestors and finding a place within a narrative that is as deep as the ocean itself. Our ancestors left behind stories of legend with impressive characters, some continue to shape our contemporary stories of today.
A legacy is the story of someone’s life, it is something that a person leaves behind to be remembered. Legacies are pathways that guide people with their own decision-making – inspiring them to build a legacy of their own.
With this in mind, the artists in this exhibition investigate notions of legacy and their link to the moana. Featuring photography, installation, video, sculpture, hiapo and painting, Moana Legacy is a celebration of our own legacies and what it means to be an artist of the Pacific
Curated by Cora-Allan Wickliffe, this show features Ahsin Ahsin, Cora-Allan Wickliffe & Kelly Lafaiki, Gina Ropiha, Israel Randell, Mereani Qalovakawasa, Naawie Tutugoro, Rangituhia Hollis and Talia Smith.
Moana Legacy runs from 6 July – 18 September, 2020.
Exhibition details: Moana Legacy Tautai Gallery , 6 July – 18 September 2020
Sitting down with artists Courtney Sina Meredith and Janet Lilo in their Avondale home and listening to their story is compelling and uplifting. It’s a story filled with mana; tales about love, family, community and giving back.
It would be easy to just label them a “power” art couple; Courtney is an award-winning poet and the director of Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust; Janet is an influential visual artist with permanent works in Te Papa and the Auckland Art Gallery.
Yet it’s soon evident that family and community are their most important works to date; each of them excelling in their respective roles as mothers, lovers, civic leaders and artistic pioneers.
Lately, Courtney’s focus has been on Tautai. Previously inhabited by Artspace (which has moved downstairs), the gallery is expanding to take over the whole of the first floor to include a new space, which is a first in Tautai’s 34-year history.
The new gallery, when it opens, will be a platform for artists making room for more exciting Pasifika-curated exhibitions. “Artspace has been an emblem for contemporary New Zealand art. So now to occupy that space and make it all about contemporary Pacific art, well there’s something really beautiful in that and something really now,” says Courtney.
“When we talk about the rise of Pacific art,” she continues, “I genuinely believe there’s a new consciousness, or an awareness, that [Pasifika artists] have always been here. That these aren’t new voices, it’s an awareness of those voices, and an infrastructure for those voices, and I’ll say it — new funding for the amplification of those voices — where we’re seeing change. More and more we’re having people in leadership positions who are saying ‘This is important to us; these are our key values’; it’s not just dressing.”
She and Janet have known each other for years, since they were both high school students at Western Springs College, but fell in love and moved in together just a year ago. They share their home with Janet’s boys — Harry 12, Milo, 9, and Manaia, 3 — and Courtney’s “baby” Sadie Rose, a dachshund/shih tzu puppy.
Courtney has lived in the home for nearly two years; it’s been in a family trust for some time and several years ago she helped her father renovate it. With vast open views to the Waitakere ranges, the house has an enormous, slightly sloping backyard that the boys turn into a giant waterslide in summer.
Their love affair represents the merger of two incredibly talented Pacific artists. In addition to her role at Tautai, Courtney is an award-winning poet, playwright, fiction writer and musician.
She’s earned critical acclaim for her published works, including Tail of The Taniwha, a book of short stories, and The Adventures of Tupaia, the story of a Tahitian priest navigator who sailed on board the Endeavour with Captain Cook on his first voyage to Aotearoa.
Janet, an artist, lecturer and social commentator, uses digital photography, video, and multimedia installations to explore issues of popular culture, and is prestigiously represented in permanent collections at the Auckland Art Gallery and Wellington’s Te Papa.
“I went to all of her shows, I fan-girled her!” says Courtney, who is four years younger than Janet. After high school their paths would criss-cross over the years.
When Courtney was 24, and working at Auckland Council, she curated an art project and recruited Janet to be involved. Subsequently through their mutual involvement with Tautai — Janet was previously on the board — a seed of friendship was born that later blossomed into love.
“Part of why we fell in love and why I’m so in love with Janet and so obsessed with her — I’m infatuated, I really am,” says Courtney, “[is that] there’s a natural ease in our relationship.
Their mutual love is palpable. Displayed on a living room sideboard table are a collection of works by Courtney, including the Poetry New Zealand 2020 Yearbook which features a love poem written from Courtney to Janet.
Will they plan on having children of their own? “It’s a work in progress,” says Janet, adding with a laugh. “We already have a fourth child, Sadie.”
Although Janet only recently moved in with Courtney, she is no stranger to Avondale, having grown up in the suburb with most of her family close by.
She’s also no stranger to giving back to her community; as a trustee of Whau the People Charitable Trust, an Avondale-based arts collective, she co-runs the All Goods Gallery, a non-profit space for arts, established a year ago.
Her next big project is organising The Whau Arts Festival, set to be this June. “I have always worked with community in the context of arts. There’s a balance: to do the little things, you do the big things,” she explains.
After the Christchurch attacks a little over a year ago, Janet decided to show her solidarity with the Avondale Islamic Centre by anonymously leaving an artwork on the fence inscribed ‘ISLOVE’, along with the hundreds of other tributes from other strangers.
Twelve months on her sign is the only message the centre has not taken down. “The community is our home,” says Janet. “It’s probably my most favourite work of 2019 in terms of what it means to me.”
Their house is a “work in progress” from a decorative point of view, mainly due to the fact they’ve only recently moved in together. “We haven’t been together for so long to ‘grow up’ a house. These things take time,” says Janet, showing me one of her favourite pieces — a milk bottle punctured by thousands of tiny holes, which she explains is the result of the dog’s teething period. “That’s quintessentially New Zealand.”
The walls are filled with pieces of deep sentimental value. Courtney’s pieces include a photograph taken by Ralph Brown of Coven, a collective of queer artists activating an arts space. Below that is a painting by Courtney’s step-grandmother Patricia Melhuish, of a beach scene in Napier.
Janet’s recurring use of bananas as iconography — think of her 6m-high light poles on the Karangahape Rd overbridge in 2017 — began with her original work, Banana (2012), which now sits on the living room wall behind the sofa.
She explains her use of bananas was originally inspired by her late Samoan grandmother, who used to hand out bananas to her and her cousins when they were children.
For the Viva shoot to accompany this story Janet has set up a temporary installation of corflute laptops — emblazoned with MAKE WRONG RIGHT NOW — in the backyard. It’s an edit from her work Man in the Mirror that was part of the 2019 Honolulu Biennial, where she represented New Zealand. “I quite like using things that have a local or global context,” she says.
Above the mantle in the living room is a painting by Courtney’s cousin Danielle Meredith — appropriated from an early childhood photo, which her grandfather still carries in his wallet — that holds a special place in Courtney’s heart.
As a child growing up in Glen Innes, Courtney Sina Meredith developed a deep love for her grandmother who she fondly remembers as an incredibly kind and empathetic soul; she remembers her working tirelessly in a denim factory for much of her life, having immigrated from Samoa at the age of 17.
Despite her grandmother’s death just a couple of years after the photo was taken, the legacy of her hard work and passion is what inspires Courtney every day. “She encouraged me from a young age to speak my mind and have a voice,” she says.
“From her challenges and her journey, to having a grandchild who’s now opening this beautiful big space [Tautai]; the journey for me to be able to do these things began a couple of generations back.”
Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust was set to reopen on March 26, with Moana Legacy, an exhibition curated by Cora-Allan Wickliffe. It has now been postponed due to Covid-19. Check Tautai.org for updates.
Now we are open again we will be adhering to government guidelines around Covid-19.
The safety of the community and our staff is our top priority, therefore we will be taking the following precautions:
Please ring our office landline +64 9 3761665 or email us to schedule a visit/ meeting/ appointment with a staff member
On arrival you must sign into GuestHQ by scanning the QR code with your mobile phone and completing your details
A maximum of 10 people are allowed in the office at all times
If you are unwell, stay at home
Exercise social distancing at all times
Please wash your hands, we will provide hand sanitizer for our visitors
Cough and sneeze into your elbow
Be respectful and patient, we are doing our best to adjust to this new way of life.
Once we are back in the office we will
get the ball rolling on opening our gallery.
Stay up to date on our announcements regarding the Moana Legacy exhibition opening by following our social media accounts and joining our mailing list. We can’t wait to share our new space with you all! Thank you for your ongoing support during this tough time.
We have been working hard to stay connected, head over to our website tautai.org to see what we have been doing to share alofa and creativity over the past eight weeks.
Digital postcards from Pasifika artists across Aotearoa and beyond
Postcards Unlockedwas a digital activation featuring 40 artists over 40 days. The project was launched during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown in Aotearoa to encourage meaningful connections through the digital moana to uplift our community and celebrate Pacific creativity. Additionally, Postcards Unlocked provided some financial relief for the community, as each featured artist was gifted a koha.
Every postcard offered a peek into the creative process and inspiration from members of Tautai’s treasured Pasifika arts community – covering visual arts, music, dance, tatau, design, poetry, prose, performance, film, fashion, and emerging art forms. The mixture of participating artists allowed us to tautoko some well-known names as well as emerging talents working in a variety of mediums.
The activation used Tautai’s social media channels as a platform and included artists at all stages of their careers, from all over Aotearoa and beyond. Using the digital moana we extended the reach of Pacific art during a time when people were using the internet more than ever. Originally the tagline for Postcards Unlocked was “30 days 30 artists” but due to the overwhelmingly positive response to the project we showcased an additional 10 artists, resulting in the 40 postcards over 40 days. Tautai felt the alofa from our community with many likes, shares, comments, and new followers across our social channels – the Tautai Facebook Page now has over 5,000 followers!
Tautai exists to uplift and celebrate Pacific art in its many forms. We acknowledge the participating artists who made every day a journey of discovery for our aiga and supporters. As we ease our way out of lockdown in Aotearoa we are adapting to meet the needs of a changing world. Placing our makers and our thinkers at the forefront of all we do – there are new opportunities on the horizon grounded in the resilience and innovation of Postcards Unlocked.
Tautai Information Your first port of call, if you’re not sure what you need, email Tautai Info and Zoe will send you in the right direction. Zoe Lewis, Tautai Assistant – ddi +64 9 376 1665 | +64 21 065 1656
Tautai Gallery Curious about an artist or wanting information on upcoming Tautai exhibitions and activities? Email Tautai Gallery and you’ll soon hear from our gallery expert Gloriana. Gloriana Meyers, Gallery Assistant – ddi +64 376 1665 | +64 27 688 8518
Tautai Administration Wanting to find someone specific or book in a meeting or anything logistical? Email Tautai Admin and Danielle will help you out – she runs everything. Danielle Meredith, Operations Manager – ddi +64 9 376 1665 | +64 22 561 4098
Tautai Media Looking to feature an artist or Tautai activation? For content and media related enquiries, please email Tautai Media to connect with Aimée. Aimée Ralfini, Strategic Programmes Manager – ddi +64 9 376 1665 | +64 21 177 5939
Tautai Director Interested in finding out about the future of Pacific creativity in Aotearoa? Needing an expert opinion on Oceanic expression? Email any of the above contacts first, or reach out to the Tautai Director and Courtney Sina Meredith will reply in due course. Courtney Sina Meredith, Director – ddi +64 9 376 1665 | +64 22 532 0806
Over the past 30 years we have grown to become Aotearoa’s leading Pacific arts organisation with a multidisciplinary focus.
Open Mon–Fri 10–4pm About us in regards to Covid-19 – The gallery is currently closed.
Welcome to Tautai, Aotearoa’s leading Pacific arts organisation.
Located in Tamaki Makaurau, Aotearoa New Zealand – Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust is a charitable trust dedicated to championing Pacific arts and artists. Tautai was formed in the 1980s when leading Samoan artist Fatu Feu’u and his peers came together with a shared aspiration to support and promote Pacific visual artists.
In the years since, we has grown to become Aotearoa’s premiere Pacific arts organisation with a multidisciplinary focus. We bring artists and the wider Tautai aiga together through a range of events and activities locally and globally.
Proudly supported by Creative New Zealand, Foundation North and Fetu Ta‘i Patrons, Tautai is able to provide unique opportunities for the Oceanic arts community. Situated in the heart of Auckland’s CBD on Karangahape Road, Tautai’s newly expanded premises now includes a gallery space dedicated to showcasing the works of contemporary Pacific creatives all year round. In addition, Tautai’s full programme of activities and events include live-streamed artist talks and performances, a brand-new international strategy, workshops, internships and partnership initiatives that encourage growth in the sector.
Tautai draws on the Samoan word for navigator and illustrates the organisation’s commitment to guiding moana arts in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Tautai’s Board of Trustees is chaired by leading Pacific artist Lonnie Hutchinson (Ngāi Tahu, Sāmoa), she is supported in her role by fellow Trustees: Brenda Railey (Secretary), John Gandy and Stephen Tamatoa Cairns.
“Tautai is a place, a people and a purpose.” – Director, Courtney Sina Meredith
With major funding secured from Creative New Zealand, the new Tautai headquarters places them alongside other key organisations such as Te Papa and Auckland Art Gallery as a platform for amplifying Pacific creativity.
When Tautai HQ reopens, it will be to a beautiful expanded space of over 500 square metres with a myriad of new initiatives planned for the coming year. Tautai’s Director Courtney Sina Meredith says the extra space, which includes a dedicated gallery, will enable Tautai to expand on its current programmes and activities from a central location.
The key contributing factors that make up Tautai is the work we do within education and institutional facilities, with artists, industry and our fundraising abilities. With this new expansion comes greater opportunity in all these areas.
Artist support If you are an artist interested in becoming part of Tautai’s creative community please follow our facebook page, which is regularly updated with new opportunities.
Tautai Oceania Internship Programme Tautai’s treasured internship programme, now in its seventh year, is currently paused due to COVID-19. If you are interested in becoming part of our internship programme in future either as a host organisation or an intern, please contact us via email. Check out our coverage on our 2019 internship programmes.
Fundraising Tautai is a Toi Tōtara Haemata investment client, our main source of funding comes from Creative New Zealand. We also receive generous support from Foundation North and our Fetu Ta’i patrons. Tautai work with additional networks to further strengthen the creative Pacific community. In 2020 we plan to expand even further, connecting in with aligned Oceanic arts organisations and Pacific media to profile and uplift our arts aiga.
Tautai Gallery Open Mon–Fri 10–4pm | Gallery Opening Friday 3rd July, 4:30pm Level 1, 300 Karangahape Road, Newton, Auckland. PO Box 68 339, Wellesley Street West.