Applications close Friday 5th June 2020 at midday.
TheTAUTAI FALE-SHIP Home Residencies will feature 20 Moana artists over five months via Tautai’s website and social media platforms between July – December 2020. Artists will undertake a 1-week deep dive into exploring the creative wellbeing, inspiration, disruption, and coping mechanisms used as part of their creative processes. Each artist will receive $1000 NZD koha. This opportunity is open to arts practitioners from visual arts, music, sculpture, dance, design, poetry, prose, performing arts, film and fashion through to emerging art forms.
Moana artists make some of their best work at home; at the kitchen table, in living rooms surrounded by family, in bedrooms and garages, in home studios where we feel safe and connected to those around us. We are constantly creating and thinking of new ideas, informed by the people and places that give life to our creativity.
We invite our community to share their home practice as artists in residence, responding to a period of global transformation through a localised lens. Experienced digitally but grounded in the physical, the TAUTAI FALE-SHIP Home Residencies place value on the everyday experiences of Moana artists operating in their own centres.
APPLY NOW If you’re interested in the ‘TAUTAI FALE-SHIP Home Residencies’ – please submit the following information via email to Tautai or, Download the application brief here
APPLICATION DETAILS When emailing your application, in the subject line please include: Full name + FALE-SHIP Application
1. About you A short biography also including; ethnicity/ villages/ identifiers, and your practice
2.Images 1x hi-res profile image of yourself 5x hi-res images or links of your work (please label) 2x hi-res images of your home and or creative workspace 1x hi-res image of where the residency will take place (suburb & city)
3. Contact details Full contact details and social media handles
4. Proposal 1x 500 word description of your residency proposal and how you would respond to 3 of the following explorations: – Show us something – Tell us something – Teach us something – Write us something – Perform something – Create something.
Applications are due by Friday 5th June 2020 at midday Assessments will take place 5-11 June and applicants will be notified by Friday 12 June 5pm 2020 Successful artists will be paid $1000 NZD koha in two installments: 50% towards development and 50% upon completion.
Follow our wave as we navigate the digital Moana together.
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.
An Australian South Sea Islander (Vanuatu) Multidisciplinary Artist
Postcards Unlocked #40
I have been locked
out of my studio for 4 weeks and I’m finding that my current creative outlet
lies within the kitchen. I reach for the bag of sugar and pour it into the pot
of coconut milk. This is not my first batch of pani popo since lock down. My daughter
stands at the bench behind me and slathers heaped spoonfuls of golden syrup
onto coconut fried scones… And all over the bench. Occasional treats have
turned into frequent requests. Warm, sweet, reliable comfort food, served up as
symbols of love to my family during these trying times.
with sugar however surpasses that of its soothing and addictive lure, the
sweetness belies our bitter history. The genesis of our story is often referred
to as blackbirding, a widely used but euphemistic term for the Pacific slave
trade. Early Australian sugarcane plantation owners employed a strategic
economic policy of sourcing ‘indentured labourers’ from the Melanesian
archipelagos. As South Sea Islanders, Australian born descendants of the
Pacific slave trade, these sugar companies are part of our history and material
We are a Pacific
slave diaspora, displaced and disenfranchised in Australia through forced
migration. Our community has had to reconcile the loss of customary practices
and create new practices to tell our stories and ways of being.
Our ancestors would
call it ‘had wok’, they wouldn’t call it ‘sugar’, they would say “Passem had
wok” (pass the hard work).
We were used to
create sugar… So, I use sugar to create for us.
My mahi as a
designer has been in digital or in print. I define graphic design as visual
problem solving, this is how I approach my work. My current project surrounds
language, in particularly Te Reo Maori. I am making sense of the words through
image, my translation of the word and how I picture them to mean. The way I’ve
shown the work, adding photography and adding moving image, helps the viewer to
understand my translation.
This work sits
within the reo revitalistion period that we are currently in, this period
brought on by colonisation. The project has it’s challenges but my role as a
designer is to solve these. I think my work comments on the conversation of the
language still not being easily accessible.
I draw inspiration
many ways, whether that be looking at art, watching film, feeling sense of
place or listening to talks etc.
I too could relate
to this. I looked into this and discovered the report of the Te Reo Maori
claim. I see this claim being my lived experience.
The more I understand the context, that being inclusive of colonisation, imperialism etc. the more this work feels important to me. It didn’t start like that though. The project is open ended, by this I mean it is always evolving. I call this project tamata reo meaning to revitalise language.
His book of poems Coconut Milk (University of Arizona Press, 2013) was on the American Library Association Rainbow List Top Ten Books of the Year. In 2018, Samoan Queer Lives, co-edited with Yuki Kihara, is being published by Little Island Press of Aotearoa.
performance poem The Bat and other early works received a 1997
Poets&Writers Award from The Writers Loft. His artwork was in exhibition at
the Metropolitan Museum, De Young Museum, Musée du quai Branly, Auckland Art
Gallery, Oakland Museum, Bishop Museum, NYU’s /A/P/A Gallery, and the United
Nations. His film Sinalela won the 2002 Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival Best
Short Film Award.
100 Tikis is an art appropriation video at the intersection of tiki kitsch and indigenous sovereignty, and was the opening night film selection of the 2016 Présence Autochtone First Peoples Festival in Tiohtiá:ke-Montréal; and was an Official Selection in the Fifo Tahiti International Oceania Documentary Film Festival; and at Pacifique Festival in Rochefort, France.
Taulapapa’s art studio and writing practice is based in Hudson, New York, where he lives with his partner. He is currently working on photo-collage and appropriation books.
Talanoa with Tautai’s Director and Sāmoan artist and poet Dan Taulapapa McMullin
CSM: Firstly, where are you in lockdown and who’s in your bubble? DTM: My partner Stephen and I live in Hudson, New York (although I will be living again in Aotearoa later this year and going back and forth again over the next few years). Our town is a country village of people from The City, as we call New York City, who migrated up here, or have second homes here, for the farms and green mountains. There are a lot of gays, lesbians, transgenders, straight women, who were involved with Act Up during the height of the AIDS era, so I think of it as an Act Up retirement community. And we’re known as an arts community: Glenn Ligon, David Hammons, Philip Glass, Robert Ashbery, many artists, composers, and poets, reside in our small town of 5,000 people, and more in the surrounding country side, in barns converted to art studios, but mostly those are working farms still. Stephen recently had heart surgery so we’re being very careful, a young friend does our shopping. I work in my studio, Stephen works upstairs creating piles of paperwork, mostly pro bono legal work for community groups. Also we have a schnoodle (schnauzer-poodle) named Roby. Meanwhile, I’m in daily contact with friends and colleagues like Yuki Kihara in Samoa, Sia Figiel in Florida, Albert Refiti in Aotearoa, Maia Nuku back in New York City, and the editors ofQueernesiaa book project I’m co-editing, and the curators of Hudson Eye an exhibition series here in Hudson, so I’m constantly in conversation through text, FB, Zoom, Skype, phone, email, and so on.
CSM: How has COVID-19 impacted your creative plans for 2020? DTM: Yes, well, I was hoping to be in Aotearoa in July to work on a PhD with Albert Refiti and Welby Ings but that’s delayed. Also I’m involved with Hudson Eye which is the main arts series locally in this part of upstate New York, curated by Jonah Bokaer and Aaron Levi Garvey, and our plans are in flux as we cope with the changing protocols around COVID-19 and public spaces.
CSM: As an artist, what are the learnings you’ll retain from this time of crisis? DTM: Communication! I’ve become a better communicator. I used to hate the phone, still do mostly ignore it, but I do like scheduled video conversations, and like almost everyone I know, I’ve become a regular on Zoom. I’ve also found that globally the world, which shows through the internet, has slowed down in physical space but seems to move more easily in cyber or mental spaces, the cyber Vā, and the mixed Vā that is our immediate space-time and cyber space-time intertwined.
CSM: Who are you inspired to reach out to and collaborate with next? DTM: I’m working on a photo-colllage/graphic-novel historical work A Queer History of Polynesia, based on archival research of the past couple years that was the background work for Taulaitu my a novel-in-progress. Albert Refiti and AUT have been supportive of this work, and Rosanna Raymond as well. I will also return to collaborating with my co-editor ofSamoan Queer Lives (2018), Yuki Kihara, on a text and poems I’m writing for the book of Yuki Kihara’s Paradise Camp exhibition, the book will launch at the Venice Biennale next year. And I’ve been invited by Tagi Qolouvaki, No’u Revilla, and Leiana Naholowa’a to co-edit an anthology of queer Pacific writing and art that we’re calling Queernesia, which is part of the Oceania Literary Series published by University of Hawaii Press. The series is curated by Craig Santos Perez who with Brandy Nālani McDougall edited my book of collected poems Coconut Milk (2013). So that’s all sort of set in place. At the moment I’m working on a sort of cubist influenced portrait of Sia Figiel so I’m chatting about that with her, she texts me photos etc.
CSM: What sort of developments and disruptions would you like to see in the arts worldwide? DTM: In Aotearoa, and somewhat in Australia, there’s a Pacific Islander contemporary arts presence, but not globally. That needs to change globally on the international stage, in order for the Pacific Islands to have more hegemony over our fates. Also in the American island states and territories (Hawai’i, American Samoa, Guam-Guahan, Micronesia) and in the diaspora in “the mainland” (such a horrible expression) there’s almost absolute invisibility. To be frank, it’s more likely that a Pacific artist from Aotearoa will represent us in a public space in the U.S. than an artist from the U.S. island areas, it’s rare for a Pacific Islander from the U.S. territories to have work shown in the U.S., it almost never happens, believe me I know! I think also this is a problem in the French and Spanish territories – Chilean territories, wherever the white power structure is invested in suppressing indigenous voices. Our global presence as Pacific peoples is nonetheless growing, and I hope it becomes even more diverse and stronger year by year.
CSM: Can you share any strategies around work/ life balance and artistic replenishment – especially while you’re in New York, the epicentre of COVID-19? DTM: Thanks to my supportive partner, we have a city apartment in Hoboken, which is on the Hudson River across from Manhattan, we’re a brief subway ride from Chelsea, but we haven’t been to the city apartment in months, and a lot of our NYC Pacific friends have returned to Aotearoa and Hawai’i because of the Coronavirus, or they are struggling in isolation in the city. In my work, as I’ve been doing the past couple years, I delve into the archives daily, it seems so many major publications of Pacific “oral tradition” and historical account and image are now available online, it’s a matter of search words, detective work, and developing language skills. I’ve been working on my Samoan, Hawaiian, Maori, Tongan, Fijian, Maohi, French, German, Spanish; I’m not fluent in anything but I have a working knowledge.
CSM: Who are the emerging artists you’re excited to see more from? DTM: I met Jahra Rager Wasasala when she was invited recently to perform at Atea the exhibition curated by Maia Nuku at the Metropolitan Museum. I’ve always loved Jahra’s poetry that I follow on the internet, but then her dancing blew me away, it reminded me of what felt like a turning point when I first saw Lemi Ponifasio’swork in Samoa in the 1990s and Rosanna Raymond’s work with Pacific Sisters at that time too. I also love what Pati Solomona Tyrell, Tanu Gago and all the FAFSWAG crew does, they’re beautiful and inspiring, they remind me of how I felt the first time I saw Yuki Kihara’s work, that spirit of camp and Fa’afafine mana that I identify with and feel at home in, although to the rest of the world it’s camp, to us it’s just life.
CSM: Are there any words of wisdom you’d like to share with Pasifika artists who may be struggling at this time? DTM: Well, other than beware the “wisdom” of other artists, all I can offer is what I tell myself at times and rarely follow: Hold on, stay the course, believe when no one believes in you, because your ancestors believe in you, they put you here darling, that Alofa that created you is your Mana, do what you have to do to survive in life, and be kind to others and to yourself, but in art be fearless, take that walk into the unknown, your future is there in the darkness, that is where your light will shine.
Chris Van Doren is
of Niuean, Samoan and Dutch descent and has been a sculptor for the last twenty
years in Auckland and Wellington. Chris is currently the resident at the
Pacific Arts Centre At Corban’s Estate in West Auckland. Chris has a background
in panel beating and uses the skills of his trade to sculpt a variety of
mediums such as copper, stainless steel, wood, hard stone and recycled car
Chris’s own journey of discovery with the impact of fatherhood, the journey back to Niue and the importance of ancestry and growing up in New Zealand as an artist.
Van Doren has
participated in solo and group exhibitions including in the Cook Islands, and
has attended numerous sculpture symposiums and workshops in New Zealand and
Taiwan. Van Doren has three times been a finalist in the World of WearableArt
Awards. In November 2010, Chris was invited to take part in the Taitung
Austronesian Cultural Festival in Taiwan, where he collaborated with indigenous
artists from Taiwan, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and New Caledonia.
For this postcard Chris has assembled images of old and new works to capture his progression over the years of playing with shapes and forms of large and small scale mediums.Chris feels that with this lockdown going on. Now is a great time to sharpen your chisels or grab a hammer and nails and unlock that creative mind.
Growing up I found it hard to accept and fully embrace my artistry. First generation NZ–born, I was very focused on being the best I could be in the papa’a world and attaining the prescribed level of “success” in order to take care of my family. Thinking back, I felt a lot of guilt for having a love of storytelling and music when my parents worked so hard to provide for our family in the world outside of my head. Penny dropped one day in 2014 when I rang my mum crying saying that I was miserable in law school. I remember she told me “We don’t know why you were studying law, but we thought you were happy and that’s all that matters”
For years I had
tried to suppress what I love to make my parent’s “proud” when all
they really wanted was for me to be happy. I’m not going to lie, most days I
still question if this is the right thing to do but it’s kind of like a game
now where I make art, surprise myself and just continue to have the audacity to
make more art lol. I just released my first single a month ago, I still can’t
believe it. It means so much to me because I fought against myself for years to
just release anything.
I have been sitting on an E.P for a few years
now, I’m hoping to defeat my boss level inner perfectionist again and share it
soon but taking some time to sit inside the feeling of releasing my first piece
of work. To think of all the ups and downs it took to get here and this is only
the start of my journey. Madness…lol
A Sāmoan (Laulii, Malie, Leufisa, Tufulele) / Chinese Visual Artist, Contemporary Pacific Jeweller, Designer, Florist & Lei Maker
Postcards Unlocked #35
My name is Fa’amele
Etuale I completed a Bachelor in Creative Arts and an Advanced Diploma in
Jewellery at Manukau Institute of Technology. As an artist, my passion stems
from my formative nature as a painter and maker. Contemporary jewellery offers
a medium to capture and archive memories through the objects I create. My
process is indicated by pivotal moments in life, adornment has created a
structure for me to encase, reflect and release emotion.
contemporary jewellery, I am able to capture the past and deliver it into the
now conceptual and use contemporary methods to tell my stories and through this
there is healing, have the ability to comfort others and grow. The narrative
behind my work comes from a dark place where there is great pain, sorrow where
there is no hope.
I am not afraid of
vulnerability because it belongs to me. God gives me direction and confidence
in what I do, and through these gifts he has given me I am encouraged to share
and reach people who I need to meet for them to reach their destination.
My family are the paddles that help my canoe through the seas, God is the anchor and my parents and sister who have passed on are the stars I look to when I need strength and courage to continue this work. I have dedicated my life to my Art and every time I felt like giving up I am reminded of my dad the Orator, musician, artist who never got the chance to share his experience and gifts with the world and I realize the privilege that I have. My husband of 20 years Gasu Apelu Etuale from Tufulele and my children have been the force behind me and my siblings who walk beside me. They are all part of the armour I wear with honor and love every day.
I love to work in
metal to modernize and preserve the objects that I create that are influenced
by my cultural identity. My Samoan/Chinese DNA enriches my concepts and vision,
taking it to another dimension where my skill level and thinking are
Art is my life’s
work and I will continue telling stories and making art till the end of my
A Māori (Tainui) / Greek Painter based in Auckland, Aotearoa
Postcards Unlocked #34
Jimmy James Kouratoras has always worked with his hands. A descendant from a long line of artisans, his artwork weaves together his Cretan and Māori (Ngāti Tiipa) heritage while simultaneously inspired by a range of different spiritual and cultural motifs. Rather than relying on simply replicating traditional signs and symbols, I use living indigenous methodologies and practices such as karakia (prayer), rongoa (medicine), carving, the colloquial form and texture of Indigenous architecture, creation stories and ritual as my guiding sources.
In drawing upon these traditional resources, his works are seen as contemporary artworks that are in conversation with our current socio-political concerns.
Jimmy is firm in iterating that his art is about empowering and enabling indigenous youth to connect to their higher selves. He does this by creating funky modern contemporary works of art that aim to inspire youth to express their full potential and is committed to supporting and facilitating these journeys.
A Sāmoan artist specialising in Indigenous Art Installation
Postcards Unlocked #33
I work mainly with textiles that are indigenous to Sāmoa, but my work is also inspired by other practices such as tātatau and Sāmoan oratory and mythology.
Growing up in Aotearoa, gagana Sāmoa and aganu’u fa’asāmoa were both encouraged at home – my parents and grandparents were raised in Sāmoa, so most of my work stems from that foundation. My identity is very much rooted in who I come from, so when I look to my tuaa/ancestors, I’m very humbled to see that they too were makers, but most of all, I am empowered by their courage- they didn’t spend a lot of time overthinking the process, they just made things.
A lot of the time
though, my vision is blurry- which is why this is an art practice lol.
At the moment, I am working on an indigenous Sāmoan installation. It has been a long process – lots of behind the scenes mahi, but also one that I am almost always in awe of. I am so humbled and grateful to the lineage of Oceanian makers who have paved the way for me. Thank you.
Williams is an emerging artist who is studying her Fine Arts degree at The
University of Auckland. The Corrupted Candy brand was founded in New Zealand in
2018 at Manukau Institute of Technology, where Williams initially started her
training for a career in the creative arts. Corrupted Candy is a creative
outlet where Williams can create and find her identity in regards to her
culture and heritage.
She is multicultural with her mother born in Vava’u, Tonga who is Tongan, Samoan, and Fijian and her father was born in New Zealand who is Maori and European. With such a mixture, Williams is determined to find out more about her customs and traditions. Growing up in a strict household, once Williams left school she was told to become a nurse. She did try nursing, however, did not feel that was where she was meant to be. With jobs working from nine to five her life had no meaning, apart from when it came to her own little family.
When life threw
hard decisions her way, she had the choice to either stay on the safe side or
do what she was passionate about. When she first started to create paintings
there was no meaning behind them, just pretty pictures.
She creates and
incorporates her heritage, myths and legends into her art pieces, which range
from photography, painting, screen printing, and designing.
Her dream is to hold her own solo art exhibition, develop and shape her art into creations to share with the wider community. To Williams art is not just creating things, but breathing life into art and finding comfort that her ancestors are watching her and showing her the way.
In 1978 I moved out of our humble Aiga working class Samoan home of 28 Scanlan street Grey Lynn Auckland to Palagi middle class Palmerston North Massey University to do a Bachelor of Social Work degree programme. I moved into a campus hostel of predominantly Palagi agriculture, horticulture, wool dips, business studies, food technology, computer science, education, social work and veterinary science students.
But what opened my heart my mind my spirit to Lavalava Art was meeting our very own overseas Aiga Whanau family of humble inspirational Pacific scholarship students from our nations of: Cook islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Solomon islands and Tonga. The impression when visiting their hostel rooms was the visual tapestry on the wall of either a Fala a humble mat or even a Lavalava on the wall. When you are a New Zealand born Samoan working through your identity issues and Fiapoko know it all,
These Pacific family members had travelled thousands of miles leaving their families their island nations to a foreign nation to pursue further education and a strong sense of contributing back to their family, communities and nation’s development. They also shared their vulnerability that fear of failing their family their village their nation their beloved ancestors. On their wall a spiritual, cultural and political marker announced who they were from the photos of loved ones in their ancestral island, icon and motif of their islands to the latest letter shared to encourage. Hence my introduction to the Fa’atuatuaga Tumanako Hope Tikanga Fa’avae principle of Lavalava Art.
A Tongan Tattoo Apprentice, Illustrator and Spoken Word Poet
Postcards Unlocked #30
My work is based around well lived life experiences and navigating what it looks and feels like to heal from these lessons we are all given, through poetry and illustrations. The name “Brown Sugar” refers to the bitter sweet taste of my urban Pasifika heritage in reclaiming it, recognizing myself in it and the ongoing lessons of how to celebrate this. I wouldn’t have had the patience to constantly pursue a greater understanding of Tonga if it wasn’t for all the mentors, teachers and loved ones along the way, who have taught me how deep colonization runs but have inspired me in the beauty of taking back the narrative. The constant pushing to create spaces to help lift up our own communities, that true leadership is through service and the willingness to never stop learning.
I am a (slightly) regular spoken word performer at events such as the Wellington Feminist Poetry Club, Poetry in motion and have competed in two regional slam poetry finals. My style of poetry is off the cuff and raw, often speaking on mental health, sexual assault, sexual health and the constant pursuit of coming into your own as a queer, Pasifika, gender nonconforming woman.
I’m currently training as one of the two tattoo apprentices at Taupou Tatau Tattoo Studio based in Wellington city, under Tuigamala Andy Tauafiafi. It is like doing a university degree with a range of different lectures in various fields but in real life context with both practical and theory work. Learning things I wouldn’t have been able to understand without being in such a creative melting pot, the biggest lesson being that,
Most importantly, where there is artistic excellence, there is human dignity. I’m incredibly thankful for the amazing environment at Taupou Tatau, for every person part of the Aiga and for shaping me to always remain a student of the game, to never stop growing and to never take life too seriously because there should always be room for laughter.
Māori (Ngāi te Rangi, Whakatoahea, Tuwharetoa) Painter & Poet based in Piha
Postcards Unlocked #28
My art practice begins in the grassroots movement of
Māori conscious raising around land theft, systemic racism and colonial
practices of assimilation which in effect forced Māori to leave their own
systems of wellbeing. My art was given to me by my ancestors and I’ve used it
for my own wellbeing and as a shared medium for all others wellbeing.
I went on a trip to Hawaii to propose a project with friends around the
primordial connection of our islands and in particular – the pacific triangle.
The three points on that triangle are Aotearoa, Hawaii and Rapanui. The centre
of them being Tahiti. I took three pounamu to Hawaii and planted them in three
sacred sites there. My aim was to begin the revival of my own consciousness
around the ancient sites that bind these three islands. My vision was that by
reconnecting these sites a power of magnitude, would force a shift in
consciousness. I love a project where my ideals surpass actual reality.
very fortunate to stay with Dr Kalani Young and Pāke Salmon. Both part of
grassroots Hawaiian activism. Divine guidance is when you find yourself exactly
where you wanted to be. Amongst scholars of indigenous practice.
is a page from my journal while in Hawaii, 29 November 2019:
Be open and be vulnerable. It’s okay to feel inadequate amongst grassroots legends.
(A note to self)
I’m in Makaha on Oahu Island Hawaii and last night our Hawaiian whanau threw us a party. They were honouring us by making time to connect with each other, with us and I felt undeserving of the beautiful love. They say my art is a picture of our future vibrating the new frequency. And that is the highest compliment I’ve ever received.
Aloha is the grounding principle here; the people are vibrating love as easily as breathing and all this is done in the midst of uneasy state control. The grassroots movement knows the new world lies in the ancient natural ways, that these ways are in line with nature’s greatest purpose, to be our supernatural home. They talk of transitions necessary to go from corporate dollar economy to grassroots economy, they talk of new paradigms that require new consciousness, they talk of ancient practices of acknowledging Nature in rituals of pure positive intention. The essence of these cousins of ours is positive production and progressive purpose.
19 is perhaps part of the paradigm shift we discussed in Hawaii. But of course,
we didn’t know how it would happen; we just knew it would inevitably have to
My earliest memories of Art was running around on top of large Tapa Cloth laid out by my Grandmother on the lawn to dry out after months being wrapped and stored in between mattresses. I remember first the smell of the fresh Hiapo plant scent as if it was freshly beaten and also the beautiful brown earthly colours which have a shiny coating as if it was glazed as a natural varnish. Then finally the amazing geometric patterns as well as the figurative images which unconsciously would become the basis of my Art practise in the future. This led me to research these images and the significance it has on our culture and find out more about their meanings as well as its function. I carried out my research later when I attended Manukau School of Visual Arts in Otara and graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Arts and then a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching 2009.
Having a young family at the time teaching was my best option that I was able to keep practising my Art and also provide. It’s great being a Pasifika Art teacher because you can relate to the students and understand some things that you may have in common and assist them with in particular my strengths. Also, every year you have new challenges and I like the way we are naturally adaptable to work through them in order to find success with your students.
When I was a student there wasnʻt a lot of knowledge and interest around Tongan and Pacific Art as there is now, so there is so much resources now to work from. Art is a subject where students can use their creative side and think creatively which other subjects can be quite intense, so they can get a good balance. I truly believe with hard work and with a positive attitude, the talent will develop. It’s just a matter of hanging in there and not giving up.
It’s not only about Art but finding success in Art and hopefully transitions into other subjects as well. The best feeling is when you see the development of skills by your students and of course gaining the rewards of reaching higher honours in their results.
Just recently I have been fortunate to be commissioned to create artworks for the Britomart Flags Project. I was approached by Paul Baragwanath from Artform Ltd to create a mural in the historical South British Insurance Company Building in the City. It was the first time for a Pacific Artist to show in this space and being in Central Auckland is a wonderful opportunity. So recently I was invited by Jeremy Hansen from the Britomart group to design some artwork to be printed on flags and to be decorated along the Te Ara Tahuhu walkway at the Britomart station. These opportunities have been a blessing.
In these projects I was able to really express my art practice in such a significant area such as Central City and in Britomart which is the heart of Auckland. So really it was my opportunity to share my works with the wider community outside my usual space. The design of the flags really goes back to one of my first inspirations– the tapa designs, not so much the visual imagery such as the birds and plants, more of the geometric shapes. I just find it interesting why our ancestors used simple lines and shapes and, with the process of repetition, they created some amazing new designs or meanings. I wanted to express that in this project. I’m also thinking about nationalism, and about the Mate Ma’a Tonga success in rugby league, how the Tongans are so proud just to back their little country by buying every single flag out there. These flags in Britomart are my expression of myself being Tongan and being an artist and a New Zealander. I think it’s like a fusion of everything in one.
During this lockdown period it has given me time to think about the most important things in life that we may take for granted. I have also had time to work on an exemplar painting for my students and also some commissioned works that I haven’t had much time previously to work on. I will have to see the outcome after this lockdown of how and when we get back to normality and look for exhibition opportunities. Currently I have a dual show penciled in for the end of the year exploring personal patterns.
Sāmoan / Tongan / German Performance Artist & Poet based in South Auckland
Postcards Unlocked #27
introduction into the Arts was via my family. Both my older brothers Dietrich
and Zech are established Spoken Word Artists, and so I naturally stumbled into
poetry having these two awesome people as mentors to look up to. It started out
as something I did, kind of just to hang out with/around them, but I ended up
realizing I really enjoyed the craft itself too. The thrill of being on stage,
mixed with a dope community that supports me, really solidified that Spoken
Word, but also more broadly the Arts is a space that’s definitely for me!
This is done through a healthy mix of therapy, meditation and recollecting/reminiscing with those who have shared past experiences with me. (Re)Telling important narratives that intertwine with my own embodiment for me is a form of advocacy I really enjoy being part of. Whether it’s telling the tales about immigration through and around the Pacific, and what it means to exist as a diasporic being. Or my own experiences of growing up ‘Working-Class’ in ‘Upper-Class’ spaces, and the performative nature of being the ‘token brown’ in that space.
A project I’m working on right now, which I started
during my Indigenous Story Tellers Residency in Banff Canada, earlier this
year, is my first Poetry Theatre show ‘Stray Dogs Howling’. Which will be based
around the idea of animism of the Pasifika male. Playing on the idea that we
are only indigenous, because we whakapapa back to somewhere, in the same way
the ‘Stray Dog’ is only ‘stray’ because it had/has a home. What would it mean
for the prodigal son to return to the village, what would it mean for the stray
dog to come home? Exploring less of the trauma of the journey of what chains us
and looking more at the healing that frees us.
never really set out to be a tatau artist, but here I am. Tatau has provided a
way for me to bring together my passion for art, culture and community. I’ve
been tattooing with machine for 11 years now, specialising in Sāmoan and
Pasifika tatau – and the journey is only really beginning, although it is on
pause for a bit while we navigate these uncertain times.
I predominantly work freehand, drawing on the skin as we talk about the intention behind the piece. Each tatau is custom designed to represent culture, heritage, family, milestones and so on. It’s about talanoa and allowing what’s inside to come to the surface. Due to our interconnectedness as tagata o le moana it’s been necessary for me to have an understanding of patterns from around the Pacific.
My background in Pacific art history and the connections I’ve made with other cultural practitioners informs a lot of the contemporary work I do.
my practice as being driven by the community and it was friends, family and
people who receive tatau from me that have encouraged me towards learning
customary Sāmoan tatau. I’m currently in an apprenticeship with Su’a Sulu’ape
Alaiva’a Petelo and have been working with the ‘au for over a year now. It’s
new ground and it can be a daunting space to operate in as a woman but I’m
driven by, and grateful to, my many supporters – it takes a village!
Tatau is one of our oldest measina and yet it is often under-represented in art forums, so I thank Tautai for their inclusivity and support of my practice. I look forward to making connections with other Pasifika artists through these digital postcards and I’m keen to collaborate so get in touch! Since tatau is reliant on close contact with other people I’m really missing doing what I love – but I’m also looking forward to what the future holds.
Telly Bronson Toutai-i-moana Tuita (b.1980) is part pragmatist and part alchemist. To see his work is to see intuitive magic borne out of the Tā/Vā Tongan philosophy married with Western formalism.
Tuita belongs to the Tongan diaspora and was not raised entirely on his tūrangawaewae (Māori concept – a place where one has the rights of residence and belonging through kinship and genealogy). In Tuita’s own words he was “spirited away” from Tonga to the Eora Nation (Sydney, Australia) by his grandfather, Solomone ‘Alokuo’ulu Tu’iniua Tuita when he was 9 years old. On this life-defining journey, Tuita was chosen by his grandfather to the be the recipient of ancient knowledge. Solomone knew that this was going to be his only chance to etch Tongan lore and philosophies into his grandson’s intellect and this knowledge would be the ocean that would connect them forever.
Tuita freely experiments with Western art history, deconstructing its frameworks in order to construct his own hybrid aesthetic: Tongpop. Born from the artist’s love of colour, Tongapop places bright bold hue alongside an exploration of Tongan symbolism and pattern. Adornments and trinkets are drowned in strong pigment then layered, recasting them as new fetish objects that simultaneously celebrate and critique their proliferation as souvenirs from an island paradise.
Rather than lamenting the synthetics used to create lei, mats and bowls – objects that would have been made with natural materials in the past – he embraces the vibrancy made available through artificial mediums. The parallel and opposing streams of thought in Tuita’s work define a different way in which we can value the things we surround ourselves with. He energetically imbues his finds with an alternate purpose – that which was discarded is now prized.
When you look at Tuita’s paintings they are a celebration, a refutation and recognition of Tonga – as it was, as it is now and what it could be.
“It all comes from a place of not knowing, because how could we know? After what the settlers did to us, and what we did to ourselves? It is about living inside that not-knowing and going ‘Fuck it! We can create it here and now, for the future and for the past! For our mokopuna and for our tūpuna!’ These paintings are a guide over that uncertain sea.”
Source acknowledgements: Leafa Wilson, Zoe Black and Essa May Ranapiri.
Tongan (Lapaha & Ma’ufanga – Tongatapu and Niuafo’ou) Illustrator / Mixed Media Artist
Postcards Unlocked #24
I am a continental U.S. Pacific northwest artist, illustrator, community organizer, and storyteller living with my partner and child in Seattle, Washington. My artistic practice and influences are firmly rooted in my Tongan cultural upbringing having grown up in Lapaha, Tongatapu and spent parts of my childhood in Onehunga & Mangere Bridge, Aotearoa. I had the good fortune to grow up among talented musicians, scholars, storytellers, and my wonderful late mother who helped establish and shape my love for the arts from an early age.
Over the years, my pursuit of the arts was relegated to a hobby though I continued to practice and use this gift to support a number of work and community based initiatives all throughout my student and professional career. Last September, after working in higher education and outreach for over a decade, I decided to take a leap of faith and pursue my art practice full-time.
In the past, my work has explored dichotomous themes of diaspora, Pasifika folklore, religiosity/spirituality, and solidarity on native Coast Salish land. Today, while I still intend to create work within these tenets, I am particularly interested in the concept of space (vā & tauhi vā/vaha’a) from a Tongan/moana perspective and the consequences of our nurturing and/or neglect of that space. My intention is to lean into this notion as a way to ground my work moving forward while continuing to grow and stretch my understanding of different mediums and of Tongan/Pasifika identity in the diaspora.
I am currently a resident at The Seattle Residency Project through the end of June, 2020 along with five other amazing artists. Given the nature of our current circumstances, we’ve had to switch gears on a number of plans but are collectively working toward our first group show to be debuted online.
I am privileged to still be able to be working on a couple of public art projects even amidst these challenging times and am grateful for the ability to contribute to supporting my family’s needs.
Rarotongan / Māori (Tainui & Ngāti Kahungunu) / English / Irish / Scottish Media Installations
Postcards Unlocked #23
Randell is a multidisciplinary artist who explores the notions of innovation as
tradition. These concerns are examined through installations, performances and
spatial activations that are informed by her dual heritage (Tainui, Ngāti
Kahungunu, Rarotonga). Born in the Waikato region, Israel attended Hungry Creek
Art School in Auckland, before moving to the Bay of Plenty with her young
family where she completed a Bachelor of Creative Industries. Israel’s work
often activates dormant spaces within urban communities as a way to cultivate
new conversations and expose communities to new ways of thinking.
She has an arts administration background and has been
involved with many community arts events in Tamaki, Tauranga and Rotorua. Her
work is underpinned by cosmological theories of space and the parallels found
in her Pasifika and Maori culture. This in-between space allows her to
investigate unknown territory, which influences her thinking and making
I also host a podcast called Making Waves Podcast where I talk with artists and designers about their practice. I like to use this as a way to connect with other artists and share it through a super assessable and easy way. I’m inspired by my peers and other creatives in their respective fields. If I wasn’t totally seduced by art I’d probably be a musician or a maker of clothes. These strands of creativity flow through my work sometimes and I do like to explore them in more abstract ways, like using sound or fabric. Everything inevitable feeds into my art-making practice.
Talanoa with Tautai’s Director and Sāmoan poet Tusiata Avia
Courtney Sina Meredith: The year was 2008, I was a 22 year old newbie poet and I’d gone along to ‘Polynation’ at the Going West Books and Writers Festival in Titirangi to bear witness to some of my favourite Pasifika writers. I was already a big fan of Tusiata Avia’s work but I had never seen her perform live. She emerged about halfway through the programme, with her hair up in a gorgeous outfit, and she was unashamedly and completely herself. She owned it. Tusiata didn’t shape her words around the page, I was convinced the page bent with the heat of her verse.
Of course I hung
around afterwards like the excited young blood I was, and as a student of
Selina Tusitala Marsh’s I was brought into the tight circle of goddesses
hanging out by the stage that included the likes of Karlo Mila and Serie
Barford. Selina introduced me to everyone and I remember turning to Tusiata and
telling her that I thought her work was amazing. She turned back and said –
without missing a beat – that she’d heard of me and she was sure my writing
would take me to New York one day.
Fast forward seven
years and I found myself working alongside her in Creative Arts at Manukau
Institute of Technology. We worked together for over two years which was a
dream, and in that time I was privileged to truly get to know her and her
wonderful daughter Sepela. I find it hard to describe Tusiata without using the
word ‘magical’, she has an extraordinary power completely unto herself that
transcends time and space – collapsing the distance between herself and the
reader, or herself and the audience, until you feel as though you are nestled
in her ribcage while the power of her poetry moves through you.
True to Tusiata’s
vision, I did make it to New York with my poetry. Magic happens when great
leaders take the time to believe in the young people around them. The following
talanoa honours our community by hearing directly from Tusiata with her
thoughts and contemplations during lockdown. She continues to be an urgent and
prominent voice within literature and performance in Aotearoa and beyond.
CSM: Firstly, where are you in lockdown and who’s in your bubble? TA: I’m in Christchurch where I live and am in lockdown with my 12 year old daughter and my 86 year old mum. We are a small bubble, but certainly not the smallest.
CSM: How are you feeling about the pandemic and what’s helping to get you through this extraordinary time? TA: I experience varying degrees of anxiety depending on how trapped/ paralysed or managing-to-cope I’m feeling on the day. Sometimes I can listen to the PM’s updates and news re Covid and sometimes, to keep myself sane, I need to block it out and concentrate on getting through the next 2 minutes. In the last couple of days I’ve been doing virtual yoga with my friend online and that has helped hugely.
CSM: Are you finding inspiration in the new normal? TA: Hmm, I wouldn’t exactly call it inspiration, I’ve got more to say on that in the last question.
CSM: How has the lockdown impacted on your craft? TA: I work from home anyway, but I generally don’t do well alone. I’m very much like my dad in this way, I need to be around people, I am not a loner who is happy in my own company for more than a very short time. I think that’s also a common Sāmoan/ Pasifika way to be. Writing is traditionally such a solo art-form so I’m always looking for ways to do it in community: writing groups, being with other creatives as much as possible etc. In normal life, I usually write in cafes so I can be around people. I only really write at home when I’m drastically behind on a deadline or have to work at early hours of the morning. So, being stuck at home has meant my work has slowed right down. I’ve only written 3 new poems (one about Corona and I’ve lost the damn thing!). I know some artists are just loving all the time and space to themselves to work and are just pumping out stuff – I am not one of them.
CSM: What are you reading, listening to, or watching right now? TA: I’ve been reading a heap of novels – I love the novel’s ability to take me out of this world into another one. Also the poetry of Joy Harjo, who is also the current – and first ever – indigenous American Poet Laureate. She is one of my favourite poets. I’ve just finished her memoir ‘Crazy Brave‘ – fantastic. I’m watching comedies, anything that can make me laugh – ‘Man Down‘ is working quite well at the moment. My daughter and I have gone hard on ‘Laughing Samoans’ and every night is movie night with her, so lots of kids stuff.
CSM: What are you looking forward to most once the country is back in good health? TA: My daughter going back to school! That will be a huge relief for both of us – we’re driving each other mental! And of course, getting out of the damn house and being with my friends and family – face to actual beautiful face.
CSM: Is there anything else you want to share directly with other Pasifika creatives? TA: I’d like to encourage any Pasifika creatives that are struggling. If you’re finding it hard to produce work please know that you’re in good company. I’m guessing that I’m not the only one finding it hard to work atm. Just do what you can manage, even if it’s just having a shower and brushing your teeth. That’s a win! I’m reminding you – and myself – that our creativity is a mysterious thing, it might not feel like anything is happening right now, that you are ‘wasting’ all this lockdown time. I encourage you to trust that your creative work will not disappear just because you may not be overflowing with inspiration and/ or the energy to make it into a physical thing. For some of us it is just underground, and that is an important place to work from when we are ready.
It is rooted in the skills my mother taught me when I was growing up in our village of Falevai, in Vava’u, Tonga. She taught me the crafts of weaving, tapa making and painting and kupesi etching, the making of kahoa heilala floral necklaces and sewing.
My mother was a stickler for quality work. She said when you do something or you make something, you always do it the best you can. I have followed her motto over the years and it has helped lift my work from the marketplaces of Tonga and Auckland to being exhibited in the modern galleries and purchased by museums in New Zealand and around the world.
I do workshops in schools and in galleries to pass on what I have learned to the community and was awarded the Creative New Zealand Heritage Art Award, along with my daughter, Tui Emma Gillies, in 2018. As well as doing our own individual work, Tui and I often collaborate on projects. One of those was ‘Falevai Flava’. We travelled to my home island, where the practice of tapa art had stopped, and brought it back to life by working on two large ngatu with the women in the village. A documentary was made to complement the exhibition, ‘Falevai Flava’ at Mangere Arts Centre. Pauline Adalid made another short documentary about Tui and I, ‘Back In The Water House’, and it played during an exhibition of our tapa art and weaving at Corbans Estate Art Centre in West Auckland.
Our next project is called ‘The Cave of Stars’. We have already spent two weeks in Hawaii making contacts, hosting workshops and researching the pictographs or rock art there and how they compare to ancient designs in Tonga. This exhibition was due to open in Hawaii in October this year. But those plans – like everything else at the moment – may have to change due to the coronavirus.
My name is Sivaovao Tuialii I’m 23 years of age, I’m full Sāmoan from the villages of Vaivase Uta in Apia and Salelologa in Savaii, born and raised in South Auckland. I’m a full-time third year student at the Unitec Institute of Technology in Mt Albert, studying a Bachelor of Creative Enterprise.
I was originally at Manukau Institute of Technology last year studying Creative Arts before all visual arts students were transferred over to Unitec to finish their studies there. My art practice is painting and photography. I admire abstract, nature and landscape paintings etc, but now that I’ve tried photography, I’m liking it so far and try to capture interesting things around me. My projects for both of my classes this semester are different.
My first class ‘Applied Research’ is a compulsory subject and for that project I am doing street photography. I’ll explore a busy area such as the city to capture something that catches my eye and is interesting through the viewfinder of the camera.
Why do I want to do street photography? I really want to challenge myself to go walking, travelling and become more adventurous in life. Street photography gives us the opportunity to speak and connect with others, meet other street photographers and create a new group of like-minded artists. It also helps us to share artwork with each other.
The more social we are, the happier we are. Street photography is helping us to be more social, therefore making us happier. My other project for my second class is ‘Contemporary Arts’ which is based on the hibiscus flower and how I can recreate it with various materials and techniques. I mostly work with the tools that I have on me, such as patterning paper, colouring pencils and colourful string.
Why I did I pick the hibiscus flower? Well, the hibiscus flower is my favourite kind of flower. It reminds me of cultural and traditional things in the Pacific. With the hibiscus flower, I tend to make whatever I have on my mind – creatively exploring, inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules and having fun while making it.
At the moment we are all in lockdown and staying safe in our bubbles, this for me means I am at home with my 3 month infant Wakiya-Wacipi, 3 year old son Chaske-Waste and my fiancé Daniel Twiss. Being home for us is strange even though we are home bodies; my family often visits as we have two meals a week together and have done this since I was 16.
Being a traditional Hiapo maker I have taken to using this time to prep materials slowly and have enjoyed having my son around to watch me. Even though he is 3 years old he is seeing a traditional art form that not many get to see and when he can be bothered he has a go at beating cloth as well. Slowing down has really allowed to me to think about my time with my kids and what my practice might mean to them when they are older and I wonder if one day they will be able to make the piece of cloth my body will be wrapped in when I pass away.
This Hiapo is something I want to really take my time with and not rush; I don’t often make for exhibitions or for commission and produce works organically so I don’t feel pressured and have a sense of peace when I complete something.
I am really interested in other cloth practitioners as well and stay in contact with many of them, this part of making is what I enjoy and like being in a community that knows what it means to make with the seasons of harvesting and when the weather is good it is time to produce materials for the Winter ahead. However with two kids at home this is not easy and they demand more time and energy than Hiapo ever has, which is fine and I don’t mind it but I am looking forward to a day where we get to drop the kids off to our whanau who miss them dearly.
NZ born Sāmoan (Tāga & Salelologa, Savai’i) Creative Producer Artist – Sound / Music / Video / Entrepreneur
Postcards Unlocked #19
In the same way that our ancestors from the Moana | Oceania | Pacific were able to creatively repurpose a natural resource like sennit into multiple end outcomes for architecture, boatbuilding, textiles and fishing, I have always been fascinated by the ‘digital’ equivalent of this; as a digital creative, how many ways can I creatively repurpose the resource of a captured digital signal?
My early career was mostly producing within the music industry, specifically the NZ / South Auckland Hip Hop scene. Eventually, music production sampling expanded into avant-garde sound & scoring for film & theatre. Some of my larger projects to date have involved weaving together recorded sounds and video from hundreds of participants within different communities. I also love to create works bringing together people from opposite ends of the social spectrum.
2014 -2018 were majorly influential years that expanded my career to include videography. I was regularly travelling during this period to eleven cities around the world with the Aganu’u Fa’asāmoa 101 Sāmoan Cultural revival programme as their content creator, documenting the personal journeys of thousands of our Sāmoan diaspora around the world reconnecting to indigenous knowledge & traditions; observing & experiencing such insights & data at scale up close and personal has proven to be invaluable in calibrating my artistry. The programme’s partnership with the prestigious Sā Su’a Sulu’ape traditional tattooing ‘tatau’ clan also meant regular and rare access to tatau footage, audio samples and information that has often been embedded into some of my more recent works.
I am blessed to serve alongside my best friend in life & business, my wife Noma Sio-Faiumu. We are currently locked down in our home | creative agency | production facility “37 Hz” next to the Manukau Harbour (Te Wai-O-Hua) looking out across the moana towards my beloved South Auckland & Māngere Mountain (Te Pane o Mataoho) #275 #FDKNS
Pule alofa le Ali’i, we can’t wait to see our families, friends and creative colleagues again soon. Alofa telē atu to you all. Soifua.
Fijian (Kadavu vasu Bua) Photography / Digital Art / Poetry
Postcards Unlocked #18
I was born and raised in Fiji. I have some of the most incredible and enchanting childhood memories. Everything was always green, lush, thriving and beautiful.
The land calling us into dusk when we’d play games all day long, feeding us with mangoes and guavas, holding firm our feet when we’d climb the trunks of tall coconut trees and always cushioning our fall on thick wet grass. I didn’t realise how blessed I was to call this home, to be part of this ancient bloodline until much later in life.
I was also raised in Australia, U.S, Aotearoa and the U.K. I took on the form of a “Third Culture Kid” from the age of 6 when we moved to the U.K. Always in and out of Fiji, always reminded of what was and what could have been.
My parents, both Fijian intellectuals, activists, artists, philosophers, and academic art lovers; were both contemporary and traditional in their approach to raising my brother and I. This heavily influenced the lens with which I perceived creativity.
My artform is digital, photography and poetry. It is largely inspired by being raised as an Indigenous Fijian woman on stolen lands and the land of my ancestors. I love to celebrate the “oneness” of indigenous peoples by dismissing the geo-political borders that colonialism has structured around us. My creative expression is also stirred by thoughts that my great great great grandchildren will see my works one day. Above everything I try to centre our Moana family, our connections to land, ocean, lineages and how we have overcome, survived and continue to prosper.
I use bodies, colour and words to convey na i cegu (energy). I like to think of my process as throwing all of my realities and imaginings into the cosmos and the end result is whatever it throws back! I travel between realms, physical and spiritual, the past, present and future and I exchange na i cegu with the entities that inhabit them – my ancestors, the land, moana, mana etc. In these exchanges I learn and unlearn my story again and again. And because of this I am able to create something that centres my indigeneity and my people.
The use of our bodies also serves as the perfect vessel for energy that is exchanged between realms. Creating has been healing and empowering for me and I hope this same energy is exchanged with anyone who connects with it.
My name is Ash and I am a sculptor based out in West Auckland and have ties to Hauraki and Sāmoa. I am quite a sentimental person and often hoard and collect objects / images to keep memories physically present and near me. I am one of those people who will read books over and over again to catch that fleeting first feeling, draw reiterations of one thing – be it a stone or a mountain – until it “feels” the way that I feel about it, or spend time on google earth virtually walking streets I grew up in and even visiting my favourite childhood dairy via the interweb. I think that these obsessive and nostalgia-chasing tendencies are why I make the way I do and always feel so connected to my works and the places where I work.
My process usually starts off by visiting places of significance, being present and listening, documenting space and phenomena through photography and drawing, and then bringing it all back to studio to recreate through hard material sculpture. I talk a lot with my nana and aunties to gather stories – mythological, personal, and historical – to understand that the importance of these places extend far beyond myself.
My ancestors travelled insane distances across the Pacific to settle on these Hauraki wetlands and mountains. My Māori Nana swam in the same Whiritoa waters I would swim in as a child on my summer holidays. My Sāmoan grandparents took a chance in the 80’s and flew to Aotearoa, finding West Auckland’s Rānui where we currently live. Grandad still grows hibiscus and taro in our yard to keep his own memory of home close-by.
These experiences are never-ending, reflective, and are all grounded in the places which bind us.
My art inspiration focuses on the concept of family and the diaspora of culture. It seeks to express how contemporary Sāmoans accommodate a shift in history to upkeep the olden traditions of Fa’a Sāmoa and fa’alavelave. My art is reminiscent of the earliest Sāmoan traditional motifs used in siapo and tatau. It merges the present-day Sāmoan way of living and its distant past. Moreover, it’s a depiction of how over time the traditions that maintained our communities have evolved to adapt to the influences of the modern world. It is a storyline of how my people struggle to maintain their cultural identity and journey to find their place in a fast changing world.
As such, my quick and methodical process demonstrates this cultural change. It is decorative, rhythmic, and symbolic.
It is my perspective of the human condition shaped by my triumphs, heartbreaks, and love. Each canvas is coloured by nature, the beauty of island living and its connection to human care and dignity. My collection tells a story of coming of age and my grappling with the elusiveness of cultural identity and hope.
Digital postcards from Pasifika artists across Aotearoa and beyond
Postcards Unlocked is a digital activation featuring 40 ARTISTS OVER 40 DAYS! A platform for a diverse range of Moana creatives to stay creative and stay connected.
Taking place via Tautai’s social media platforms, each day we aim to share a snapshot into the creative process and inspiration from our treasured community. Including visual arts, music, sculpture, dance, design, poetry, prose, performing arts, film and fashion through to emerging art forms.
This initiative encourages meaningful connections through the digital moana to uplift each other during the lockdown period.
If you’re an artist and would like to be involved, please email us. Successful applications will be given some Koha for their contribution.
Tongan (Falevai, Vava’u) / NZ Tapa Artist based in Kawakawa, Aotearoa
Postcards Unlocked #15
Like everyone else, I have been watching the world respond to the coronavirus. Watching people around the world get sick and die. Watching this unseen enemy inspire people to risk their lives to save others. Watching people laugh and make jokes about a crazy way of life that has been forced upon us. A life under lockdown. I am experiencing a World War against a shadow. And as an artist, I have been watching myself respond to it. I’ve been looking back at the world I knew before this great change. Looking back at work I did before all this happened and wondering how on earth I will now express what I’m feeling and observing and trying to understand.
How will I do justice to the responsibility I now feel? We are moving through a gateway, a portal from one world to the next. What are the things we need to take with us and to fight for? And what are the things we must leave behind? These are the questions we are all asking ourselves.
The world is taking a deep breath and a moment to allow its wounds to heal. Even as thousands of us have been invaded and killed by these blobs fastening their suction pads to our lungs, millions more of us have been forced to look at our lives in solitary contemplation as the jobs and the toys and the hobbies and the obsessions and the money fall away, even though not long ago they felt as real as that dream you woke up from, sweating. Now we are being forced to look at something much more real, our lives, stripped down to their barest essentials.
What is left? What is important? That’s what I want my paint brush to explore and discover with me. That’s the place I want my ancestors to guide me to.
My name is Tui Emma Gillies. And I am a tapa artist.
Māori mixed media artist based in Auckland, Aotearoa
Postcards Unlocked #14
Tena Koe, Ko TeRina Heeni Mana-Tukaha tōku ingoa. (My name is TeRina Heeni Mana-Tukaha)
Ko Hikurangi tōku maunga Ko Tawa puku tōku awa Ko Ngātokimatawhāorua tōku waka Ko Ngāpuhi tōku iwi Ko Ngāti Mahia tōku hapū Ko Wihongi mea Ko Heke ōku whanau No Awarua ahau Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.
This artwork in progress was born out of pinnacle moment in my life.
At the age of 16 years old my mother told me that I was supposed to have been aborted.
She had gone to the family doctor to get an abortion, however as she was one month too late she was unable to get the abortion and so I lived.
I have lived up
until the deaths of both my mother and father knowing and feeling that I was
unwanted. Within this artwork is all the positive affirmations that I did not
hear during my life with my parents, Kua whakanekeneke ahau mo āku tamariki, it
is my conscious shift for my 7 children to instil within them, the following
attributes in te reo Māori: fearless, strong, educated, beautiful, grateful,
decolonising, descendant of Māori and most importantly knowing they are loved
Words have the
ability to heal us especially when they are spoken into our lives.
Sāmoan / Scottish / Irish Painter based in Auckland, Aotearoa
Postcards Unlocked #13
Malo everyone – I am half Sāmoan, half pakeha (Scottish Irish ancestors). I grew up in Mangere Central in a household where art was a key influence during my teenage years, and into my adult life. It was only until I got to my forties that I started to make and form my own art practice after completing a Bachelor in Art and Design at Unitec.
With the necessity of working full-time I can still continue to create and be a part of projects, connecting with like-minded creatives, from all disciplines, and this keeps my foot in the door.
It is a theme that allows me to reflect in my creativity the need to constantly consider, seek, connect, heal, and understand the nature of human frailty and our relationship within the planets vast internal knowledge of adaptation, change, regeneration, and growth.
Though I do paint acrylic on canvas occasionally, my main material is good quality Hahnemuhle etching paper, which allow me to run watered down inks on to backgrounds that flow, merge and saturate alongside bursts of metallic glitter and shine. Drawn figures are added; creatures within other worldly realms that morph, float, reach, hover or fall. Circles of community, or separate identities of mythological forms that guide and stand. Pacific motifs and symbols speak of strength, armour and protection in an ever changing internal and external landscape.
I get inspiration from nature, science, philosophy, mythology and poetic forms of spirituality. Artists that inspire me are many, mostly found in Instagram such as @alexandra_levasseur or close to home, Star Gossage and Peter Hammond.
I’ve also had a studio at Corbans and look forward to possibly doing some work at Te Henga Studios when the lockdown ends.
I write to find myself, to untangle how I feel about a thing – that thing might be as big as the injustice in Gaza or small as the dream I had last night. When I write a poem, I most often don’t have a plan. The beginning of a poem is like an itch or a spangle or an image or an overheard snatch of conversation. This thing, this ‘inspiration’, (in whatever form it takes) will often hover near me, like a tiny spirit-bird, for a short time.
I have to be quick: reach out, take hold of it by the tail, swallow it and then let it make its way through me – along through the insides of my arms, hands, pen and onto the paper. Sometimes if I’m not quick enough, or not paying attention, the spirit-bird with fly away without me. If I’m lucky, the ‘inspiration’ will follow me about like a much bigger, more insistent animal – leaping up against me again and again until I pay it attention and lay it down on paper.
I’m grateful that poems are smallish things in size and can be captured and secured to a page or two. I’ve often wondered what it would be like if a poem was as long as a many-carriaged train. Luckily, I can leave the trains to be trapped by novelists.
One of the most satisfying aspects of poetry for me is the performance of it; leaving my writer’s garret and inhabiting the words on stage. I’ve been extremely fortunate with ‘Wild Dogs Under My Skirt’ , originally a one woman show I performed for 8 years (and had to abandon when I became a single-mother and found dragging my 2 year old around the world too difficult) become a 6 woman show and have a whole new life. Since 2016 (thanks to producer and cousin, Victor Rodger) ‘Wild Dogs Under My Skirt’ has travelled, picked up a slew of awards and debuted Off-Broadway in January.
My practice challenges the theory of nature vs nurture. My upbringing was predominately built around palagi tikanga, which always felt displaced.
Connection cannot always be taught. My art is motivated by the blood memories of my Polynesian ancestors through the vehicle of spiritualism. Constant talanoa of mumae such as colonisation, diaspora, afakasi imposter syndrome, in my work has opened up space to experience higher understanding of my connection to the Moana and my ancestors. The medium ranges from performance to painting but act of talanoa remains the same.
I re-imagine these blood memories into a new form with my postcolonial world views and available tools. My research gathering and creative process involves mediation by the Moana, connecting with the stories of my people and writing. I’ve coined the term “Neo-Nesian” for my art style.
I’m currently working on a performance piece that expands on the spaces I’ve been able to enter into through my initiation works “Claim Sanctuary”, “Te Lapa” and “Mark of the Beast” created in 2019. I’m currently in my last year of a Bachelor of Fine Arts through Whitecliffe College of Art and Design and working at Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki.
In response to the current situation we find ourselves in during the global Covid-19 pandemic, I would like to share my selected performative photographs from ‘Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?‘ (2013) series shot on location in Upolu Island, Sāmoa; and ‘Te taenga mai o Salome’ [The Arrival of Salome] (2017) series shot on location in Tai Ahuriri (Hawke’s Bay), Aotearoa New Zealand.
Both series feature myself dressed in the guise of a fictitious lone figure named ‘Salome’ – a Sāmoan woman resurrected from the 19th century who appears in various places which hold significance for Sāmoans, while contemplating the future of post-Independence Sāmoa. After coming off the back of the recent measles epidemic, Sāmoa currently does not have a confirmed case of Covid-19 yet.
Cook Islander (Aitutaki & Mangaia) Fashion and Textiles
Postcards Unlocked #9
My name is Sheena but my close family and friends call me Sheenz, ironically ‘Sheenz’ is also the name of my clothing brand.
I started Sheenz accidently because I wanted to participate in a local fashion show called Pacific Fusion run by Nora Swann and her team. I needed a brand name quickly and a friend of mine suggested Sheenz because I only had a short time to decide I ran with it and here I am. My husband and I live in east Auckland with our 3 children and family plays a huge part in my creative process. I’m inspired by experiences, my Cook Island culture and stories. My art practice consists of group exhibitions, runway shows, business collaborations and business in general.
In 2018 I participated in my first international show Pacific Runway, Sydney Australia. Last year I had the opportunity to exhibit in a local group exhibition curated by Giles Patterson called Garden of memories and more recently Moana Currents exhibition in Christchurch curated by Doris de Pont & Dan Ahwa.
I think there’s a perception that all Pacific designers create mu’umu’u dresses and aloha shirts and that’s ok if you do. However, there is also a community that don’t, where do we fit in? My aesthetic for example is largely influenced not only by my culture but ‘how’ my culture has adapted into New Zealand society. My past collections are far from traditional Cook Island costumes but large portions are inspired. If I were to describe a look from one of my many collections it would be contemporary.
A large part of my practice and research has been finding a sense of belonging in the fashion industry however moving forward I would love to explore more textile related projects especially with the way our planet is suffering due to unethical and unsustainable practises. Fast fashion has definitely made its mark on our world and our Pacific nations are now reaping the effects.
This pandemic and lock down has given me the opportunity to slow right down and explore what gives me joy and how I continue to operate going forward as a designer and business. I quietly look forward to what the future holds.
Sāmoan (Vaimoso & Siumu) Multimedia Performance Artist based in Hamilton, Aotearoa
Postcards Unlocked #8
Since beginning to make art in the 1980s, I have almost always used some aspect of performance art in my work. I find talking about my actual self tiring, but I do love to talk about the aspect of art that crank my gears. I love works and making works that confound or give me little to no clues. Not like a puzzle, but more of a metaphysical poke in the brain.
In the 1990s, my work had to alter because of having so many children, but it never ceased. I think it is most important for any artists not to fear appearing banal. I value depth, wading through these depths and relishing each tiny discovery. In the end, I think nothing is really ever ordinary and my own work doesn’t ever try to be extra-ordinary. It’s always just an offering.
Sāmoan / German / Filipinx / Chinese / Spanish Theatre Artist and Playwright based in Los Angeles, California
Postcards Unlocked #7
I’m a theatre artist/playwright born and raised in Hawaiʻi, but now based in Los Angeles, California. I grew up in a very special district called Waiʻanae on the island of Oahu, specifically Lualualei, where Maui’s birth story takes place based on Hawaiian mythology. It’s also the birthplace of my aloha for ʻāina (land) and community.
My art is based on uncomfortable conversations amongst Pacific Islanders—the experiences of sexuality, religion, migration, family values and expectations, [dis]connection between homeland the diaspora, and indigenous people’s rights. I started as a playwright 5 years ago under Victor Rodger’s mentorship and went on to get my MFA in Playwriting at the University of Hawaiʻi. My intention is to use theatre as a tool to heal our collective traumas as well as build capacity for other Pacific people in performing arts. It’s much more difficult to find Pacific Island identified theatre artists or content in America, which means there’s a lot of room to grow and expand in various ways. Recently, I went to Wellington as a featured playwright for Breaking Ground Festival hosted by Tawata Productions then unexpectedly traveled to Christchurch to collaborate with DJ Linda T last June. It’s a beautiful thing—the Pacific worldwide web!
Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve been connecting and collaborating with A Stage Of Our Own and Download Movement both run by Filipinx creatives whose work is at the intersection of art, activism, and activation. My creative roots are also in traditional Asian theatre forms of China and Japan, which influences the way I see and create, so these future collaborations will see a fusion of dramatic forms based on rituals, performances, and storytelling of the Philippines and Samoa. Also on the horizon, I’ll be co-producing an Oceanic Arts symposium and performance event intended as a gathering and celebration of arts and artists of Oceania.
Telling our stories are so important, but even more important is how we tell them. I’m not so much of an essentialist. I believe our stories need to be told in our own way, with each of our experiences at the forefront of how it’s shaped.
Sāmoan/Māori visual artist based in Auckland, Aotearoa
Postcards Unlocked #6
My creative work includes spray painting, drawing and tattooing. These passions range from painting customized canvases and murals.
As a freelance artist the work I produce originates primarily from the ideas of various clients with my own creative interests amalgamated into the final design. During the development of a concept I begin with a conversation attributed to what the client would be gratified by. This process includes researching connections that resonate with my community. Having the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in a gallery and in a public setting has been highly rewarding as we share a common interest which promotes growth. Spray paint is my preferred medium as I fancy the versatility it has for easy application and effectiveness. This can be seen throughout most of my artworks which are visible in past exhibition pieces and public spaces.
Most recently I have been painting murals around my hometown of Papakura. The most recent being a floral piece that was painted on the Kiwibank wall in the township. The murals I create alter the appearance of the blank walls I paint and add vibrancy and enhance connectivity for the community. By engaging with Papakura Business Association and local shop owners we are working collectively to help beautify Papakura town centre. My current projects involve painting Montrose Electrical Boxes for Auckland Transport and walls for public art projects. In 2018 I graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Arts [visual], from Manukau Institute of Technology, Faculty of Creative Arts.
I have exhibited my works at Papakura Art Gallery, displaying various forms of works ranging from paintings to sculptural pieces. While studying for my degree I was employed at Tautai as Tertiary Liaison 2017. I truly enjoy working on community-based projects and accredit the skills, experience, knowledge and support I have acquired thus far to my lecturers at M.I.T (FOCA), Tautai, Art Collectives, fellow art practitioners and family and friends.
Sāmoan spatial multi-disciplinary artist based in Wellington, Aotearoa
Postcards Unlocked #5
My art practice and inspiration behind “Stay Still”
My work operates at the intersections of public installations, digital design, photography and mixed-media. I have a love for understanding people and the environments they inhabit, especially our own Pasifika people. It sparked from my love of travelling around the world since the age of 18. If it wasn’t for my family pushing me to travel so young, I wouldn’t have the same curiosity and patience to try and understand my Samoan culture and identity today.
I’m now 25. A few years ago I asked myself, “How do I design for a community if I don’t really understand its people?” In a search for answers, most of my early 20’s has been about cultural and history research, networking, engagements with different Pasifika communities and exploring different mediums to express myself along the way.
I started with paint and sketches. Now I mainly use digital mediums as an output and use paint and sketches early on during the method. Overall this journey has been a roller coaster! It’s taken me from the most uncomfortable of spaces to the most rewarding and enriching life experiences yet. After graduation in 2018, Tautai gave me an opportunity to intern at Tauranga Art Gallery. Since then I’ve returned home to the Hutt Valley continuing to upskill in my art practice and mentoring as a designer for rangatahi at Taita Clubhouse. It’s a beautiful phase I’m in right now being back in my community – but now just a little bit wiser.
This new work, “Stay Still” is inspired by my family, my home, my bubble during the Covid-19 lockdown in the Hutt Valley. It’s acknowledging the roller coaster of emotions – uncertainty, weirdness and pain we’ve had to navigate in only a matter of days/weeks.
The pastel colours and jagged compositions all aim to depict a surreal time we feel we are in right now. But at the same time it’s acknowledging the power of peace we as a family are choosing to sit in everyday. What I find myself asking everyday now that I hope others can ask themselves too is, “what new rituals am I allowing to feed me mentally, physically and spiritually during this time of stillness and how can this prepare me/we when isolation is all over?”
Talanoa with Tautai’s Director and artist Etanah Fuimaono-Lalau
Courtney Sina Meredith:I heard about Etanah Lalau before I met her, she was described to me by someone I respected as ‘hard working and very talented’. Known for her efforts to ignite creative community engagement in her own backyard, I looked forward to our paths crossing. Serendipitously, and after working with Tautai in a range of capacities for a decade, I became the Creative New Zealand Pasifika Internships Project Manager for 2018, a programme I had long supported and admired – and who should be selected as an intern that year? Etanah Lalau.
was my joy and service to support the five Tautai interns for 2018 through what
proved to be a year of great metamorphosis for us all. Etanah moved to Tauranga
to work at the Tauranga Art Gallery. Her team quickly fell in love with her and
it didn’t take long until she had an army of friends and supporters singing her
praises. She made an impact, improved systems and processes, and developed
confidence in fundraising and event management.
It wasn’t all easy, there were a good deal of challenges that year and the sacred connection between Tuakana and Teina is a mutual exchange – I learned a lot from Etanah too during that period. Since then, she has stayed true to her creative path and found new ways to keep bringing light and alofa to everyone around her. Here we are full circle – connecting again, with Etanah sharing some lockdown musings.
CSM: Firstly, where are you in lockdown and who’s in your bubble? EL: I’m in Heretaunga (Upper Hutt) with my parents, sister, 3 brothers, niece and nephew.
CSM: How is the lockdown impacting your creative practice? EL: For the most part I enjoy this time being still, mentally, physically and spiritually. I can be an introvert sometimes, so this lockdown is really feeding that part in me.
lockdown I’ve struggled to prioritise my creative practice either because of
juggling work, business planning, wedding planning or other community
commitments. Now that I’m home every day, it felt like I was always on the go –
until now. With more time in my hands and less commuting, my inner creativity
has burst out and I’m loving every minute of it. ‘Stay Still’ is a work that
reflects me enjoying creating from home.
I’ve also been challenged too with lockdown limiting public physical interactions. For someone like me who loves to explore digital mediums in my art practice, I am one of the least people to share and post on social media. Now everyday all I want to do is connect with family and friends online. The lockdown has challenged me to break down my walls and share a little more online. I’m in the middle of curating a digital safe space for our rangatahi at Taita Clubhouse. I’m learning and growing at the same time. It’s hard work! My hat goes off to those who are savvy with social media all day, every day.
CSM: Going forward, what sort of change do you hope to see in the arts in Aotearoa? EL: I hope to see more embracement and curiosity for Pasifika art even in the most unusual of spaces. It can be uncomfortable spaces sometimes but who knows what doors will open or what bridges will give us access to more opportunities. In our homes, I hope to hear more Pasifika parents, grandparents and families supporting their children’s interest in the arts. They are either our first supporters or our first dream killers. It’s important to tap into our tupulaga and what they love to do early in life. The conversation starts at home. Also, I hope to see an increase of Pasifika artists and art practitioners in positions of leadership and influence.
CSM: What or who is inspiring you right now? EL: My family inspires me right now. Everyone’s trying something new at home whether it’s making art with me, baking, starting Zumba classes in the morning, dressing their Sunday best for church online in the sitting room – we find it difficult to do quirky/fun things on a daily norm so I applaud them for making a collective effort to keeping our bubble mentally and physically healthy.
the frontline, I’m inspired by our Prime Minister Jacinda and all of Aotearoa’s
essential workers. Feeling proud to have such leadership coming from her during
CSM: What do you miss most about life before lockdown? EL: I miss physically interacting with my community, from extended family members, friends, rangatahi at my workplace and local bakers. We definitely weren’t designed on earth to isolate that’s for sure! I miss nature as well, going on small hikes and walks. And not going to lie, I miss me a list of takeaways, but I won’t even start that convo ha!
CSM: Do you have any recommendations for good books, films, TV series, podcasts or quarantunes? EL: Lately, Jojo Rabbit by Taika has sat at the top for a while. Slew is my YouTube artist, or the Earth series are the go to’s for an easy watch.
CSM: Do you have any words of advice for other Pacific artists as to what’s sustained you during this period of global transformation? EL: Keep on making. Keep on sharing. Always speak from love, even amongst differences, pain and suffering.
Artists in general I believe are deep feelers of the world. They are bold because of the way they navigate life in the world through gut instincts and feelings. They know when the world is sick and when it’s healthy because of their gift in observing the world. Their works are always highlighted during and after major cultural shifts and no doubt societies will look to them right now for inspiration, healing and hope.
Our Tongan culture; such as our language, our dances,
our arts and song; is steeped in metaphor. The Black Tapa or Ngatu ‘uli
encapsulates this and is therefore the core of my art practice.
The art of the metaphor is abundant in my culture, as it is in most cultures in the Pacific. To illustrate this, the Tongan language is made up of three dialogues. The highest is metaphorical, then that used by the nobles and finally the commoners’ dialogue. The lyrics of our songs are usually not direct speech, as the analogies and metaphors used mask stories of our warfare, our love stories and even our genealogy. With our dances, our hand and body movements tell a plain story for outsiders, but to the composer/choreographer there is a hidden meaning.
It is this reason I have chosen the Black Tapa because of its abstract nature and form. It makes me feel safe to share my ideas because there is a plain message to satisfy outsiders, but a hidden and deeper meaning for myself and anyone willing to diligently search for it.
In present time my work has evolved in appearance but it still derives inspiration from the Ngatu ‘uli or Ngatu ta ‘uli. I’ve experimented with different mediums over the years such as smoke and more recently my latest project combines Black Tapa with spider webs. I’m excited to release this new body of work soon.
Sāmoan Producer / Artist (Theatre, Music, Events) based in Christchurch, Aotearoa
Postcards Unlocked #3
MEET ME AT THE DOG HOUSE by Pacific Underground
Named after a famous Christchurch take away joint – The
Dog House, this new show is an ultimate jam. A return to the 90s when Pacific
Underground (PU) jammed with Beats’n’Pieces led by Antsman, Scribe, Charmed
One, and The Traveller who freestyled with DJs Ali and Pause who jammed with
Mara TK or called up Sheelahroc and so on, and so on. The show also marked PU’s
25th year. What the..?
Pos emailed out and asked for his buddies to return
home for the one-night-only show. My job was to put it together remotely (ie no
one lives in Christchurch anymore).
The starting point was Steve Apirana and Joe Tamaira – legendary musicians, our role models back then. They said yes as did Dallas Tamaira (Fat Freddys Drop), Ladi Tamati and Brent Parks (Ladi 6), Malo Luafutu (Scribe), Mara TK, Malcolm Lakatani, Mark Vanilau, Richie Mills aka DJ Pause, Hiliako Iaheto (‘Koile), Sarah Tamaira (Sheelahroc), Dru Sione (D’sendantz), Iona Ulaula, Seta Timo (Judah Arts), Talia-Rae Mavaega, Josephine Mavaega, Lijah Mavaega, Mike Watt, Flo Lafai and Raniera Dallas. All have played with us in the past 25years and like back in the day Malo, Mark and Bella Kalolo joined us on the day. That’s just how we roll. A final surprise to us all was the old Dog House sign flown into the show. The sign and the show, symbols, not only of what we lost but, what we’ve survived.
I spent most of my life in Christchurch growing
projects from scratch, finding funding for them and PU. Branching out in
Auckland before the earthquakes, led to our eventual move and survival there.
Working with Pos, my sis Mish, Pip Laufiso, Hiliako Iaheto, Ole Maiava, Dolina
Wehipeihana, Tama Waipara and Taiaroa Royal enriches my arts experience. Also,
time at Auckland Theatre Company, The Court Theatre, Mangere Arts Centre and my
return home to work at the Christchurch Arts Festival with Artistic Director
George Parker. His invitation to present Meet Me at The Dog House allowed me
the time to be an artist in my place of origin- something I miss.
I’m proud as pineapple pie to be a part
of this amazing “Postcards Unlocked” project which is nothing short of
brilliant, especially during such a time of disquiet and change. I’m hoping
everyone outside of my bubble is keeping healthy in body and mind, wealthy in
happiness and together in whistling spirit.
I am a Mosaic Artist. I am of Samoan descent and was born in Grey Lynn in the mid-sixties. In my early twenties I had an opportunity to live in Samoa for three years. I was extremely excited to live on the land where my mother and her parents had come from before they settled in New Zealand. I got to walk on the paths they walked and dipped in the same Piula pool where my mother had once soaked as a child; culturally that entire experience was unforgettable as well as remarkable.
Since then life has gone by and I’m permanently settled in a quaint coastal town called Tairua in the Coromandel. This is where I create mainly Glass Mosaic Art with flavours of the Pacific Islands.
What thrills me most about the arts is
when people view my works up close and personal and I, in turn, observe them;
and that has been ecstatically explosive for me, on the inside. “Art is my
creative Hullabaloo” – that internal commotion is of sheer exhilaration. The
positive and encouraging responses received have been absolutely priceless!!!
Recently I was accepted as one of the artists on The Mercury Bay Art Escape which is a very popular art tour in this region. Artists open up their studios for public viewing and the experience of welcoming visitors from all over the country and abroad was a tremendous involvement.
The Opening Night for this event was awesome and I later referred to it as the “Art – Met Gala” of the Coromandel because that’s how I envision this art tour in the future. Fatu Feu’u was there – one of my “Art Idols” and in his presence I try to remain cool, calm and collected, when all I want to do is Siva Samoa and choo hoo like no other…LOL… because he reminds me of my beloved aiga from his motherland and his creativeness has always been so inspirational.
I will continue to grow and create my
visions and who knows, maybe one day I’ll get to Siva Samoa at my very own solo
Mosaic Art Exhibition.
Sāmoan (Malie) / Scottish (Mackenzie) multi-disciplinary Artist based in Auckland, Aotearoa
Postcards Unlocked #1
Katharine Losi Atafu-Mayo uses art as a tool to inform, spark change and use as a remedial activity. Katharine’s practice is developing into promoting healing using indigenous and creative methodologies. She attempts to question some systematic oppressions that have been injected into our Moana cultures, whilst using our ancient knowledge to create an alternative way of operating and living in our everyday. Her work can be moving image, installation, workshops and poetry. However, she is most commonly known for ceremonial rituals based on intuitive activation.
Throughout her practice, she implements indigenous Moana beliefs by honouring the relevance of how they have the power to influence and improve how we move in this world.
As a kaupapa led practice, every decision made has an important significance and reason. She does this whilst acknowledging her identity as a tauiwi settler in Aotearoa. The physical and spiritual parts of her activations are attempts at healing the pain of colonisation that our ancestors and we as a Moana community have inherited. Katharine, who is now a part of MAU Studio, plays two roles.
She is the lead Art Facilitator for Mau Academy 2020 where she helps create opportunities for high school students to use their creative skills and talents for social impact. To complement her role as a facilitator, she is also MAU Studio’s storyteller. This is where she explores the collision of conflict and harmony within our Moana community which will build the foundations of MAU Studio’s future.