Moana Legacy curator and artist Cora-Allan Wickliffe shares her love for Niuean hiapo and the works she created with her sister Kelly Lafaiki in memory of their beloved late grandfather Vakaafi Lafaiki. The revival of Niuean hiapo is a tradition that will be passed onto her children and the next generations to come.
“It’s energy giving to me! Hiapo is a practise that fills me with energy, and I’m happy when I make it because my son enjoys watching me make my work. If I can have my little one sitting on my lap while I beat (hiapo), it’s a pretty good day!”
Moana Legacyartist Mereani Qalovakawasa connects with us from Melbourne during this time of uncertainty and disruption, which is the everyday reality for many people living with chronic illnesses or disabilities. She hopes people will have an awakening of what’s possible within our community and realise that there are so many stories to tell!
“I share videos that share a bit of insight into my life and what it’s like living with a chronic illness called Lupus… I hope that when people watch it they can understand and also have this feeling of empathy for our situations as well.”
On Friday July 3 we opened Tautai Gallery and made history together!
We welcomed the community into our gallery for the first time with inaugural opening exhibition Moana Legacy.
Check out the Opening Night photo gallery’s below!
Our new expanded space was officially opened by Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, The Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern alongside a host of speakers including Founding Patron Fatu Feu’u, Representatives from Ngati Whatua and Creative New Zealand and our Board. We also acknowledge the attendance of The Right Hon. Carmel Sepuloni, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage.
Curated by Cora-Allan Wickliffe, Moana Legacy marks a moment in the history of Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust opening its first gallery space.
After three decades in existence, Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust has launched its own gallery on Auckland’s Karangahape Road.
The first thing that hits you entering Tautai Gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Moana Legacy, is the range of works on show. On one huge wall is a mural of black humanoid crocodiles on a pink background by neo-pop artist Ahsin Ahsin (Atiu, Aitutaki), while the wall opposite has an illustrated hiapo (Niuean tapa cloth) made using traditional methods by Cora-Allan Wickliffe (Ngāpuhi, Tainui, Alofi and Liku) and her sister Kelly Lafaiki.
Elsewhere, a specially constructed frame holds ghostly photographs by Talia Smith (Cook Islands, Samoan and New Zealand European) and these sit across hangings of tiny, intricate kete made by Gina Ropiha (Ngāti Kahungunu/Ngāti Kere, Ngāti Raukawa/Ngāti Rakau) from her own hair, while around a corner a dark corridor is filled by an installation of neon blue tubes created by Israel Randell (Tainui, Ngāti Kahungunu).
Tautai founding patron Fatu Feu’u sees this gallery space as the eventual end point of work that he began over 30 years ago. In the 80s, he recalls Colin McCahon saying to him that the New Zealand art world was waiting for Pacific artists to make a serious contribution. The history of progress during the intervening years is evident all around you at Tautai.
Wickliffe’s work is an example of this. She speaks of the influence of legendary NZ Niuean artist John Pule and how their families both came from the same village in Niue. His work proved that the imagery of hiapo had a place in fine art and her work takes the logic one step further – his work was on canvas, while her hiapo are created using traditional materials and patterns. By bringing hiapo out of the museums and into a gallery space, Wickliffe pushes forward the argument for their place in the contemporary artistic conversation.
Wickliffe took this notion further in her introductory speech for the opening exhibition (which she curated). Pointing to one work, she told the audience it was an unfinished work dedicated to her grandfather who passed away last year. She then proceeded to “complete” the work by painting thick strokes of black paint over the face of the piece, erasing the illustrations and thereby evocatively expressing her loss, while the audience watched on in shocked silence.
Many of the artists on display in the opening exhibition also took part in Tautai’s groundbreaking show in Naarm/Melbourne last year, so the return to Auckland had a sense of homecoming. For Ahsin Ahsin, the trip was his first involvement with Tautai and he found it refreshing to connect with other artists from a Pacific background without any pressure to perform their culture in their art.
“I got to hang out with brown artists, which is quite rare for me. I’m based in Hamilton and there’s not many brown artists in the art community… It’s just about self-expression. I’m from the Pacific so that makes it Pacific art, but I do what I do.”
In the future, Ahsin hopes to collaborate with another artist who showed at both exhibitions, Rangituhia Hollis (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu), since they both also create digital work. Hollis’s advanced digital imagery had its own juxtapositions within the current exhibition: firstly with three charcoal/painted works he created to sit alongside them, but also in contrast with the videos created by Brisbane-born Fijian artist Mereani Qalovakawasa, which purposefully use the simplistic software of MS Paint to add a primacy to her work about life with a chronic illness (lupus).
Hollis was among four artists with Māori heritage in the show (making up half the participants), which reflects Tautai’s recognition of moana nui a kiwa – that all Pacific peoples derive from the same ocean. Hollis says he got a huge amount from being involved in the Tautai exhibition in Naarm/Melbourne, since it also involved trips to local galleries hosted by indigenous curators and opportunities to examine the Pasifika collection at the museums. He is equally impressed by the open, expansive layout of the new gallery:
“I think the utilisation of the space is amazing. I’ve seen it in other forms when it was Artspace and the Film Archive. Artspace had a lot of storage space but this seems to be space for people, not storage for archived items.”
Naawie Tutugoro (Kanak and Anglo-Argentinian/European) is one emerging artist involved in Moana Legacy who understands how far Tautai has come to get to this stage. Her father, Luke Tutugoro, was involved with Tautai from its inception and when she was a child he enlisted her to paint the garage of their Grey Lynn villa with nuclear-free messages as part of a Tautai-led campaign. She therefore appreciates the gravity of having her work on display on the opening night.
“It feels like tonight we are planting a tree that is going to be very sacred for the generations to come. I feel very lucky to be opening this space and have work that instigates that.”
A wise man once said, “great art feeds a family for generations”. That man is Fatu Feu’u ONZM, the founder of Tautai, New Zealand’s leading pacific arts organisation. The Tautai Pacific Arts Trust has now reopened in the city as a space where people can not only see art but can do art.
Tāmaki-born Cook Island artist Ahsin Ahsin (Aitu, Aitutaki) distills his imagination into fantastic creatures, sigils, graffiti-marking and gestures suspended in hyperspace. Influenced by sci-fi films, street art and pop culture of the 80s & 90s, Ahsin communicates the notions of neo-pop in his mural sized designs and multi-disciplinary practice.
Working between Kirikiriroa (Hamilton, Aotearoa) and Naarm (Melbourne, Australia), Ahsin has exhibited extensively throughout Aotearoa in international shows. Most recently, participating in the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Centre Project – Te Whāinga: A Culture Lab on Civility at Silo Park as well as his exhibition ‘Neon Utopia’ at the Tauranga Art Gallery as part of the international show ‘Mega World’.
“My contribution to Moana Legacy is a mural of my crocodile characters, that I have been creating for a while now. They stemmed from an interest in ancient Greek/Roman vase paintings.”
Living and working on Gadigal & Darug land (Sydney, Australia), Talia Smith is a Taranaki-born artist, writer and curator who explores themes central to her Moana heritage through photographic and moving image mediums. As a second-generation Aotearoa-born indigenous woman, much of her practice explores the investigation of intangible space that those of similar backgrounds can exist and occupy.
Talia has been recognised for her curatorial practice by multiple Australian arts institutions including Firstdraft’s emerging curator for 2017 and Artbank’s emerging curator for 2018. As an artist she has exhibited widely in Australia and Aotearoa. In 2020, she is ‘the churchie’ curator for the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane and has completed the AIR_Frankfurt Program,as curator-in-residence with Basis in Frankfurt, Germany.
Her contribution to Moana Legacy ‘Surfacing’ is a photographic installation based her Masters of Fine Arts research that explores the tenuous link between past, present and future. A stripped back frame adorned with dreamy images from her multiple homelands – her ancestral homeland of the Cook Islands, her current home in Sydney and her birth home Aotearoa.
“Exploring my lived experience of being Cook Island, Sāmoan and New Zealand European, this work looks to explore how the vā can be used as a space for those of a Moana heritage to create their identities outside of Western structures, a place where time is not linear and we are informed by ours and our ancestors experiences.”
Israel Randell is a multi-disciplinary
artist of Cook Island (Rarotonga) and Māori (Tainui, Ngāti Kahungunu) descent,
who explores the notions of innovation as tradition through installations,
performances and spatial activations.
Israel’s work often activates dormant
spaces within urban landscapes as a way to expose communities to new ways of
thinking. Her practice is underpinned by cosmological theories of space and the
parallels found in her Pasifika and Māori culture.
Born in the Waikato region, Israel attended Hungry Creek Art School in Tāmaki Makaurau before moving to Toi Moana (Bay of Plenty) with her young family. Most recently, she was the Supreme Award winner at the 2020 Tauranga Art Gallery, Miles Art Awards.
“Randell works with light and its adversary – dark. Her sculptural light forms create a space where one can experience Matauranga Māori (knowledge)”
Gina Ropiha (Ngāti Kahungunu/Ngāti Kere, Ngāti
Raukawa/Ngāti Rakau) is a practising artist who hails from Heretaunga
(Hastings) and is based in Naarm (Melbourne, Australia). Working primarily with
found and repurposed objects, Ropiha’s art reflects her experience addressing
the harsh realities and tests of living as an indigenous woman within colonised
lands, while trying to maintain a sense of Māoritanga (Māori culture) and
Rophia has exhibited internationally and was an Artist in Residence at the Australian Tapestry Workshop 2017. She is active member of Motu Taim (formerly Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle) and has been a teacher and tutor in arts education for 19 years.
Featuring works with her actual hair in the exhibition, Gina has gently woven kete as a tribute to Wurundjeri artist Georgia MacGuire. The use of hair was a means of expressing the regret, sorrow and grief felt when witnessing Georgia’s story.
Born to a Kanak father and Anglo-Argentinian/European mother, Naawie Tutugoro is a Tāmaki Makaurau-born multi-disciplinary artist. Her practice comprises of site-specific works that illuminate negotiations of place and space specific to the urban Pasifika experience.
Tutugoro is currently living on Waiheke island, and has exhibited throughout Tāmaki Makaurau. Most recently, she collaborated with her friend and sculptor Jenny Takahasi Palmer on the exhibition ‘*subtleRESPECT’ at Window Gallery and is currently completing her Master of Fine Arts at ELAM.
“Hair discrimination and invisibility has been something I have become aware of growing up with afro hair.”
– Naawie Tutugoro, 2020
Growing up, especially as women, we are bombarded with contradicting desires and messages regarding beauty standards and self-acceptance. The idea of taming one’s hair is assimilation in practice, altering oneself to fit into the mould of what is considered acceptable.
“Bendy Rollers”, are a product used to alter the texture/style or hair speaking to ideas of cultural appropriation and fetishisation of black and brown bodies. By re-purposing the curlers as connections of a lei, Naawie dismantles the meanings attached to the material and in a decolonising act, the lei of hair curlers is transformed into an imagined umbilical cord to the spirit world.
“…Maybe in a few million years I’ll still be here to hear that star answer back. Somewhere still standing with you, still there above and roaring, well above, at the apex of all things, seeing our flaming sun dim above a dying world…”
– Excerpt from Across the Face of the Moon (2019)
Rangituhia Hollis (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu) is an artist, writer and educator. His practice employs a range of collaborative strategies, often resulting in large-scale digital animation video works or interactive social engagement projects that explore Aotearoa’s postcolonial context. He often develops work using emerging or unconventional technologies. He has exhibited throughout Aotearoa in leading public museums and galleries.
Brisbane-born Fijian artist Mereani Qalovakawasa uses her multidisciplinary practice to shed light on living with a chronic illness. Sharing her personal experiences living with the autoimmune disease – lupus, she aims to reduce the fear and shame of being sick, particularly in Pasifika communities.
In 2018, Qalovakawasa participated in her first exhibition with New Wayfinders called ‘Ocean Stories From Home’ at Connection Art Space, this will be her first time exhibiting in Aotearoa.
Mereani’s illness and the experiences it brings to her life spark her use of online and computer-based media works. Filming on an old Big W camera, drawing using MS Paint and editing on MovieMaker, she depicts her own legacy through sharing the timeline of her health. These small clips give an intimate part of her journey through chemo and the battles she faces daily.
“Pacific people are often depicted as the image of vibrant health and beauty, physically strong and joyful, glowing brown skin, thick hair, skilled athletes and graceful dancers, laughing in the hot sun. My life isn’t bad, it’s just different from most people. I try to make life with a chronic illness as pleasant as I can. I find joy in making films to share a glimpse of my life.”
Originally from Waitakere, Cora-Allan Wickliffe (Ngāpuhi, Tainui, Alofi and Liku) is a multi-disciplinary artist and curator, who likes to examine and explore representations of Indigenous people through her work. Her sister Kelly Lafaiki, based in Naarm (Melbourne, Australia) is a student of hiapo and has helped to collaborate on the exhibition piece.
Exploring themes of ceremony and memory we are re-tracing using silhouetted objects filled with the language of hiapo to share stories of Niue that were passed down at the food table from our grandparents.
Stories of Niue, dances, mena kai and songs were shared throughout our childhood in comfortable and often uncomfortable moments of learning dances and how to cook traditional dishes.
“Our grandparents guided us with stern voices when we were young but grew softer as we all aged. Time spent together over meals and over beers became an environment of admiration and learning.”
Cora-Allan Wickliffe, 2019
These moments would tie them to becoming hiapo makers and this current work explores the moments of mourning they experienced with the passing of their Grandfather Vakaafi Lafaiki in April 2019.
As a contemporary practitioner of hiapo (Niuean barkcloth), Wickliffe has revived a sleeping artform. Her work is very important to her community and has been exhibited in Australia, Aotearoa, England and Niue. Currently, Wickliffe is the curator and exhibitions manager at Corbans Estate Arts Centre.
Moana Legacy is Tautai’s first exhibition in its new gallery space, the show has been developed from an existing partnership with Blak Dot Gallery, Naarm (Melbourne) featuring moana artists working in both Aotearoa and Australia. Continuing the conversation in Tautai’s new expanded space in the heart of Auckland, this show offers up assorted approaches to the idea of legacy.
As artists of the moana, one often looks back to move forward, contemplating the connections to ancestors and finding a place within a narrative that is as deep as the ocean itself. Our ancestors left behind stories of legend with impressive characters, some continue to shape our contemporary stories of today.
A legacy is the story of someone’s life, it is something that a person leaves behind to be remembered. Legacies are pathways that guide people with their own decision-making – inspiring them to build a legacy of their own.
With this in mind, the artists in this exhibition investigate notions of legacy and their link to the moana. Featuring photography, installation, video, sculpture, hiapo and painting, Moana Legacy is a celebration of our own legacies and what it means to be an artist of the Pacific