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MEDIA RELEASE | New exhibition at Tautai Gallery presents artists’ perspective on COVID-19 through tapa art

Voyagers x PMN News
Tui Emma Gillies, Voyagers, 2020

Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust presents Voyagers: The Niu World, a new exhibition by New Zealand-based, Tongan artists Tui Emma Gillies and Sulieti Fieme’a Burrows, opening Saturday 20 March.

Sulieti and Tui are a mother/daughter duo who specialise in ngatu or tapa art. They explore contemporary issues through their practice of tapa painting, which is embedded in the roots of the medium and ancestors who practiced before them. For Voyagers: The Niu World, they present a collection of tapa created during and after the COVID-19 lockdown in Aotearoa New Zealand and reflect on the idea of navigating a changed world that is in the midst of a pandemic.

Tui Emma Gillies says, “During lockdown, my mum, Sulieti, came up from Auckland and stayed with me at my home in Kawakawa. We used the opportunity to reflect on lockdown – on the ‘Niu World’ we found ourselves in. We worked everyday making tapa in my studio, often accompanied by the sound of my son Pele playing on the piano. How did Pacific Islanders deal with isolation? The answer is simple: Fāmili.”

“That’s why we’ve asked my son Pele to play at the exhibition opening. He has only been playing for just over a year, but his practice was a constant and inspirational soundtrack while we worked on these pieces. He also represents a third generation of our family involved in this exhibition. Pele has composed a new work specially for the opening and we are transporting his baby grand piano from Kawakawa to Auckland so he can play it at Tautai,” says Tui.

Voyagers
Sulieti Fieme’a Burrows & Tui Emma Gillies, Fāmili 2020

Voyagers: The Niu World will include work depicting faces wearing tapa-patterned masks, families together in lockdown, three new 1.8-metre-wide paintings that present images of navigation and journey and two larger ngatu.

Sulieti Fieme’a Burrows says, “The waves have never been bigger or more threatening, the storms have never been so savage, the fires have never been so close and hot. And we are expressing this in the medium we were brought up in, tapa painting, which has been passed down from generation to generation by those people who made the original voyages and their ancestors before them. This exhibition is dedicated to all us Voyagers who are navigating the ‘Niu World.’”

Tautai Director, Courtney Sina Meredith says, “We are beginning 2021 at Tautai by looking back at the year that has been through the work and experiences of two amazing artists, Sulieti Fieme’a Burrows and Tui Emma Gillies. Sulieti and Tui create unique, collaborative works that embody the connection between generations, and with ancestors, through a medium with a rich history.”

Voyagers: The Niu World has been supported by Creative New Zealand.

Exhibition details:

Voyagers: The Niu World
Exhibition Preview: Friday 19 March at 6.00pm
Exhibition Runs: Saturday 20 March – Saturday 22 May 2021
Tautai Gallery, Level 1, 300 Karangahape Road, Auckland Central
Open 11am–4pm, Tuesday–Saturday

For further information, high-res image request and interviews, contact media@tautai.org

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