Not all leaders are created equal. Tautai’s Courtney Sina Meredith is ensuring she leads by example. – The Big Idea

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Job Vacancies


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We hope that everyone is staying safe, our alofa goes out to the creative community in Tāmaki.

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Watch Naawie Tutugoro speak about her work in Moana Legacy and how she carries her ancestors with her in her everyday life – 531pi

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Tautai Director Courtney Sina Meredith and other UoA Graduates tell us how they couldn’t have got their skills and careers with any other degree. – Re: News

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Israel Randell Denizen

The Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust has opened its first gallery space in central Auckland, dedicated to showcasing the works of contemporary Pacific creatives. – Denizen

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Re-opening its doors to the public since the Alert Level 4 lockdown, Tautai Pacific Arts Trust showcased their brand new gallery space last week. – Tagata Pasifika

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From kete and hiapo to MS Paint and neo-pop crocodiles, Tautai Gallery celebrates Pacific art in all its forms. – The Spinoff

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Watch Ahsin reflect on the realities of the arts sector and shares some wise words for budding artists – PMN Cook Islands

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Gallery Tour with John Campbell

Tautai Pacific Arts Trust has reopened as a space where people can not only see art but can do art.
Breakfast got a sneak peek at how it’s looking.

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Tautai Gallery is a niu space with a rich legacy right in the heart of Tāmaki Makaurau. It’s opening was truly a night to remember!

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Pacific and Oceanic peoples make up 16% of Auckland’s population – and that’s growing, rapidly. Our framework for thinking about what art is, and how it is made and shared is slowly starting to shift with that. – The Big Idea

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Courtney Sina Meredith Viva 2020

Courtney Sina Meredith and Janet Lilo at home with VIVA

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Tautai Opening

Tautai Opening a ‘Dream’ for Pacific Art Community – Ocula

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Natasha Matila-Smith selected as inaugural curator for CNZ Pacific Curator Residency in Australia 2020

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Notice of TAUTAI Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust Annual General Meeting

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The Big Idea Story

Sacrifice is the Greatest Art Form

Not all leaders are created equal. Tautai’s Courtney Sina Meredith is ensuring she leads by example

By Dina Jezdic for The Big Idea, 14 October 2020

Courtney Sina Meredith performing at LIP(S).

Courtney Sina Meredith performing at LIP(S). Photo: Sait Akkirman.

Our society is changing and so are the types of leaders we seek to entrust with power. 

The imperative to empower the most disenfranchised and marginalized among us has revealed a large gap in the arts and culture leadership, while exposing limited knowledge on how to tackle the ongoing problems of systemic racism and structural injustices in our society and the communities we identify with. 

For Courtney Sina Meredith, author, performer and the Director of Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust – Aotearoa’s leading contemporary Pacific arts organisation – this is the space she feels most comfortable in. It’s a space she understands well through lived experience, as a respected figure in the arts and as an accomplished multidisciplinary artist in her own right. The artist and the administrator entwined, a chimera of the dreamer and the doer. 

“Where I am now in my life is where I’ve been for a very long time – inside the wave. As a writer and performer, I’ve had the great blessing of documenting the sea salt, struggles, genetic memory and amazing ambition from within. I believe in the future my grandparents and great-grandparents left Samoa and Rarotonga to pursue. 

“Family is everything to me, it is the foundation of who I am as a creative, as a leader in the arts, as a new parent and someone more interested in doing the right thing behind closed doors than highlighting the performance of expected leadership in the public realm.”

Willing to serve
Courtney Sina Meredith. Photo: Janet Lilo.
Courtney Sina Meredith. Photo: Janet Lilo.

As we are faced with a time of unknowns, we are also in the greatest time for learning and doing things differently. Leading the way in this time of great change may be easier for some than for others but this leader never dilutes that the struggle is indeed very real, if you are willing to truly serve your community. 

“Leadership isn’t glamorous at all – it’s a lot of planning and pukumahi. I’ve retained my spirit by understanding that sacrifice is the greatest art form. Look at what’s created through the hope for something more. 

Courtney Sina Meredith - How about being a Woman
Courtney Sina Meredith – How about being a Woman, 2019. Photo: Sait Akkirman.

“I’ve always believed that a true artist creates artistic opportunities for others. I turned down many opportunities to be my own artist because the fork in the road ahead meant a win for myself or a win for somebody else. That doesn’t make me a martyr – I think it makes me, by my own personal code, the sort of artist I’ve always wanted to become.

“When I see Moana creatives come into Tautai and they light up because they feel so seen and so comfortable – and every piece of art, every space, every book reflects and affirms their very being – those are the moments I breathe out and let myself feel a tiny piece of the enormity of it all.”

Meredith and Tautai's founding patron Fatu Feu'u.
Meredith and Tautai’s founding patron Fatu Feu’u. Photo: Courtney Sina Meredith.

“I’ve never dug so deep as I have for the love of this community. I was confident I could bring the Trust back to good health, in the way you nurse a loved one. That was a metaphor I returned to often. Yes,  I had a 12-month, 6-month, 90-day and 30-day business plan – crossing those things off with my team was actually so emotional – but I also just treated the Trust like an elder who needed my time.

“Slowly, gently, it was like this entity in the crook of my arm that couldn’t be left alone, regained colour in its cheeks with daily nourishment. People returned, the memory returned of who Tautai was and why.

“I am powered by my belief in the power of my people. Whether or not Moana artists want to engage with Tautai is their choice but I‘d rather exist in a time where it is a choice and not a consistent inequity that is glaringly obvious.” 

Blu-tack & Chicken scrawl

This is clearly the case of not being afraid to talk about the hard work and sacrifice it took to get the Trust and the team to where they are now. It’s about the visibility of difficult conversations and the hard work of the days and months that followed. Here is a leader that knows she is not alone and that her sacrifice is most certainly not unnoticed.  

“I’ve poured every drop of love into Tautai that I possibly could. Love-led leadership looked like practically living at the office in the first 6-12 months, with family dropping off food in the weekends and sitting with me in the office with print outs and sheets of papers covered in my chicken scrawl blu-tacked to the walls, backs of doors, in piles around the meeting room.

“It completely overtook me – this instinct to secure the Trust. I put myself into a very vulnerable space but I was determined to succeed. I understood it would take time and so I just settled in for the long haul. Some days were a lot harder than others but the good days were especially great and I held onto that.”

Purpose-built, built with purpose

Building the future on broken foundations is a difficult and potentially dangerous path. It can only be achieved by rebuilding upon new, healthy foundations. For Tautai Trust, they appear to be brightly lit, glistening like a newly shed skin. The new space with the expanded footprint is a vessel for artists to exhibit and gather but also a home dwelling centered on the Pacific community and their role in the contemporary arts practice. It is no wonder they are celebrating this visible and transformational success. 

Meredith with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Tautai's official opening
Meredith with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Tautai’s official opening. Photo: Cass Marrett.

“In two years we have expanded our space triple-fold, establishing Tautai Gallery which was officially opened this year by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, held our first indigenous collaborative show across the Tasman at Blak Dot Gallery, increased our funding by 94%, had two clear financial audits, brought on Pacific accountants, Pacific auditors, Pacific caterers, a range of Pacific suppliers and built partnerships with many thought leaders here and around the globe.

“This realm has always been my church, my spaceship, my happy place but it’s not easy to make a life in the arts and this is something I’m passionate about changing.

“Now that the horizon has come to us and we are piercing the walls of many heavens together, I feel that I can finally take a step back and learn to live in the fale we were able to build thanks to our incredible funders at Creative New Zealand, Foundation North, our Fetu Ta’i patrons and the endless alofa of many Pacific creatives who came home to Tautai with open arms and open hearts – ready to take on the world.”

Tautai is a repository of knowledge and understanding for the communities it serves while consistently reaching beyond their core audience. 

Although it is now a physical space, it refuses the colonial impulse to collect and obscure its mission by caring for objects. Its foundations are strong and enabled by inclusion and centering of non-western bodies and spaces. 

It does not shy away from real politics, it invites it. 

If most public institutions have a legacy that is tainted by long genealogies of violence and institutional injustice, public spaces like Tautai are here to spread their new fresh approach by injecting the personal into our art lives. If anyone could be 2020-ready to rethink the entire model of what cultural institutions do and are, it is Courtney Sina Meredith leading Tautai with clear focus and new constellations to steer their vaka towards. 

Written by Dina Jezdic for The Big Idea (source)
Published online 14 October, 2020

SALTWATER / Interconnectivity is on at Tautai Gallery until January 30, 2021
Gallery Hours: Mon – Fri, 11am – 4pm

For further information please email us
Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe

Job Vacancies

Programmes Manager Tautai

Do you have a real and personal passion for contemporary Pacific arts?

Extensive administrative and project management skills?

We are looking for a << Programmes Manager >> to take the lead on specific programming and event delivery within our Tautai annual programme of events and activities.

Strategic Comms Advisor Tautai

Media savvy with great networks?

Do you have a desire to work within and for Pacific communities?

We are seeking a << Strategic Communications Advisor >> responsible for establishing a comprehensive media network, developing and posting content across various platforms and promoting to a diverse audience.

If these sound like you, or someone you know please apply by sending a cover letter and updated CV to: tiare@manarecruitment.co.nz or call (09) 632 1108.



Covid-19 Update

Covid-19 update from Tautai HQ

Tautai HQ will re-open from Tuesday 1st September 2020
Office hours: Monday – Friday 9am-5:30pm 

Tautai HQ Covid-19

Afio mai, Aere mai, Malo e me’a mai, Fakatalofa atu, Veikidavaki, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Ulu toni mai, Welkam, Haere mai! 

We hope that everyone is staying safe, our alofa goes out to the creative community in Tāmaki.  

Now that Auckland is moving into Alert Level 2.5 we will be adhering to government guidelines around Covid-19. 

The safety of the community and our staff is our top priority, therefore we will be taking the following precautions to help keep our fale safe: 

  • If you are unwell, stay home. 
  • You must scan the QR code upon entry or fill out the sign-in sheet. We suggest downloading the Covid Tracer app if you haven’t already. 
  • The use of masks and hand sanitiser is essential when visiting Tautai, we will provide both at the door if needed. 
  • Our doors will remain closed during the alert 2.5 period, please ring the doorbell when you arrive so that we can buzz you upstairs. 
  • Please be safe when visiting our gallery, practice social distancing with other visitors not in your bubble and with our staff. 
  • If you would like to arrange a meeting at Tautai HQ please email tautai@tautai.org. We will not allow drop-ins during this time
  • Lastly, gatherings are restricted to 10 people and we will be strictly enforcing this in our gallery and offices. This is for the safety of the community and ourselves! 

Our exhibition Moana Legacy is still on till the 18 September and we will ensure 
that our visitors can access the exhibition safely in it’s final weeks. Our gallery is open Monday – Friday, 11am – 4pm. For those who cannot come into the space you can still experience the exhibition online

We have been working hard to stay connected during lockdown, check out our weekly Fale-ship residencies that have been shared during lockdown and will carry on until the end of the year. Find them here

Stay up to date on our annoucements by following us on our social channels and joining our mailing list.  

Thank you for your ongoing support during this tough time and stay safe aiga!  

Meitaki ma’ata, 
Team Tautai 

Tautai Gallery and HQLevel 1, 300 Karangahape Road
Tautai onlineFacebook | Instagram | Website | Twitter | Youtube | LinkedIn 

For general enquiries please email us
Visit our contact page for further information
Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe

Tautai HQ Covid-19

Naawie Tutugoro 531pi

<< Watch Naawie talanoa with 531pi >>

Naawie shares the message behind her work in Moana Legacy and how she carries her ancestors with her in her everyday life.

How to Share With Just Friends

How to share with just friends.

Posted by Facebook on Friday, December 5, 2014

“…the messages always come back to identity and how I move through the world as a brown woman…”

– Naawie Tutugoro

See Naawie and her father Luc Tutugoro in conversation at Tautai First Fridays

Video by 531pi
Published online on 29 July 2020 (source)

For further information please email us
Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe

I did a BA…and turned out fine

Video by Cass Marrett for Re:News

“There’s something about the work you’re creating that cannot be replicated in any other sector.”

– Courtney Sina Meredith, Tautai Director

Bachelor of Arts degrees, like all degrees, have an important part to play in our economy and society.

University of Auckland Arts graduates Courtney Sina Meredith (Tautai Art Gallery Director/Writer/Poet), Joshua Ling (Digital Marketing Executive, Paramount Pictures) and Lydia Hollister-Jones (Marketing Content Specialist, World Vision) tell us how they couldn’t have got their skills and careers with any other degree.

Find out more about where you can go with a BA here

Video by Cass Marrett for Re: News
Published online on 22 July 2020 (source)

For further information please email us
Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe

A new Karangahape Rd art gallery is championing Pacific artists

Words by Rosie Herman for Denizen. 22 July 2020

The Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust has opened its first gallery space in central Auckland, dedicated to showcasing the works of contemporary Pacific creatives.

Founded in the 1980s by acclaimed Samoan-New Zealand artist Fatu Feu’u ONZM and a few of his peers, Tautai was born from a shared aspiration to support and promote Pacific visual artists. Since then, it’s had an important hand in promoting and nurturing the growing Pacific arts community in New Zealand, now further cemented with a dedicated space to showcase the important work being made.

Cora-Allan Wickliffe Denizen
Hiapo (Niuean Barkcloth) by Cora-Allan Wickliffe and Kelly Lafaiki

With director Courtney Sina Meredith at the helm, Tautai has taken over the first-floor space previously occupied by Artspace on Karangahape Rd.

An award-winning poet, playwright and fiction writer herself, Sina Meredith described the new hub as a “beacon of aspiration for those who are coming into the arts,” with the name Tautai drawing on the Samoan word for navigator — an apt descriptor for a guiding presence in the art community.

The gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Moana Legacy, showcases several varying examples of Pacific art, from photography installations to hiapo, heritage works, charcoal drawings, digital pieces, a mural and even woven hair baskets.

An installation by Naawie Tutugoro

Curated by multi-disciplinary artist Cora-Allan Wickliffe, the exhibition was developed in partnership with Melbourne gallery Blak Dot Gallery and features artists working in both New Zealand and Australia.

“Moana legacy is an opportunity to engage with, not only contemporary art practices now, but what artists of different ages — different levels whether emerging, senior or experienced — what they’re feeling now, especially in this time we’re in,” said Wickliffe.

“We want our communities to respond; to feel like they can see themselves there on the walls.”

Words by Rosie Herman for Denizen (source)

Published online on Wednesday July 22, 2020

Moana Legacy has now ended.
Gallery Hours: Monday to Friday, 11am – 4pm

For further information please email us
Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe

Pacific Arts Trust launches new gallery

Re-opening its doors to the public since the Alert Level 4 lockdown, Tautai Pacific Arts Trust showcased their brand new gallery space last week.

Curated by Niuean/Māori artist Cora-Allan Wickliffe, the gallery opened with its inaugural arts exhibition, Moana Legacy. The exhibition features the works of Māori and Pasifika artists from Aotearoa and Australia.

Video by Alice Lolohea for Tagata Pasifika (source)
Published online on Tuesday July 7, 2020

Moana Legacy has now ended.

For further information please email us
Tautai.org  #tautai4lyfe

From the moana to K Road

From the moana to K Road: A new Auckland home for artists of the Pacific

From kete and hiapo to MS Paint and neo-pop crocodiles, Tautai Gallery celebrates Pacific art in all its forms.

Written by Gareth Shute for The Spinoff. 7 July 2020

Neo-Pop Artist Ahsin Ahsin in front of his work at Moana Legacy, the opening exhibition of Tautai Gallery (PHOTO: GARETH SHUTE)

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).

Jacinda Ardern sepaking at the Opening of Tautai Gallery (PHOTO: GARETH SHUTE)

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. 

Cora-Allan Wickliffe “Completed” this work at the opening of the exhibition by painting thick strokes of black paint over it (PHOTO: GARETH SHUTE)

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.”

Ahsin Ahsin

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 next to her work, which used bent hair curlers to create a lei (PHOTO: GARETH SHUTE)

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.”

– Naawie Tutugoro

Written by Gareth Shute for The Spinoff (source)
Published online on Tuesday July 7, 2020

For further information please email us
Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe

Ahsin Ahsin x PMN Cook Islands

<< Watch Ahsin talanoa with PMN Cook Islands >>

Ahsin reflects on the realities of the arts sector and shares some wise words for budding artists

How to Share With Just Friends

How to share with just friends.

Posted by Facebook on Friday, December 5, 2014

“…it’s harder for us to enter those realms but some of us can get in there and its good when we’re in there, we can inspire others, ‘Come this way, i’ll show you’…”

– Ahsin Ahsin

Video by PMN Cook Islands
Published online on 7 July 2020 (source)

Moana Legacy has now ended.

For further information please email us
Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe

Gallery Tour with John Campbell

Tautai Pacific Arts Trust has reopened on K Road

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.

Breakfast got a sneak peek at how it’s looking.

More information:
Moana Legacy, 6 July – 18 September at Tautai Gallery

Meet the Artists of Moana Legacy: Ahsin Ahsin, Cora-Allan Wickliffe and Kelly Lafaiki, Rangituhia Hollis, Gina Ropiha, Israel Randell, Mereani Qalovakawasa, Naawie Tutugoro

For further information please Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe

Tautai Gallery Opening

Tautai Gallery is a niu space with a rich legacy.

Over 30 years ago Tautai’s founding patron Fatu Feu’u and his peers gathered with a vision to create belonging and community for Pacific artists.

Fast forward to 2020 and Tautai Gallery is the fulfilment of this enduring ambition.

Contemporary Pacific art now has a dedicated platform right in the heart of Tāmaki Makaurau.

Truly a night to remember!

Video by No Six

For further information please email us
Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe

Significant Shifts & Calls to Action

Placing Moana at the Centre

Written by Mark Amery for The Big Idea. 2 July 2020

Pacific and Oceanic peoples make up 16% of Auckland’s population – and that’s growing, rapidly. Our framework for thinking about what art is, and how it is made and shared is slowly starting to shift with that. 

Welcome then is Te Taumata Toi-A-Iwi’s (Formerly Arts Regional Trust) release this week of an overview of research in communities on the arts of Moana Oceania in Tāmaki Makaurau, recognising that the arts are defined and practiced in different ways. Part of the aim is to help build a more cross-cultural approach.

 ”This is our call to action!” write authors Toluma‘anave Barbara Makuati-Afitu and Kolokesa U. Māhina-Tuai. “We hope this research creates the needed shift of the axis through a collective movement of disrupting the status quo… to ensure Indigenous voices are heard and perspectives are embedded in the hearts, minds and policies of our cultural, creative and arts sector.”

One space working hard to do this already is Tautai Contemporary Pacific Art Trust. As Director Courtney Sina Meredith introduces on YouTube here, in a significant new move Tautai is opening its first dedicated gallery space on Friday, a move that was due to happen the first day of lockdown in March. 

Talia Smith Tautai
‘Surfacing’ 2020 Talia Smith, from Moana Legacy at Tautai.

This is an important move in a city that deserves to have the Pacific arts more visibly at its centre. It is saying, states Meredith “we don’t want to be just a satellite anymore, we don’t just want to be the partner working with big fish, we want to actually centre our narrative.”  Meredith introduced Tautai’s history to RNZ’s Lynn Freeman, and told her that she is also developing the space as a community hub, so that the whole place “is a hot desk” where people can work and meet, not just see art. 

The first exhibition, Moana Legacy developed from an existing partnership with Blak Dot Gallery in Naarm (Melbourne), featuring artists working in both Aotearoa and Australia. The new Tautai website is a dynamic first landing place. 

Mereani Qalaovakawasa Tautai 2019
Artist Mereani Qalovakawasa, part of Tautai’s Moana Legacy.

Written by Mark Amery for The Big Idea.
Published online 2 July 2020 as part of arts news bulletin (source)

For further information please email us
Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe

Courtney Sina Meredith Viva 2020

Power Art Couple Janet Lilo & Courtney Sina Meredith At Home In Avondale

Award-winning artists Courtney Sina Meredith and Janet Lilo find love in everything they do

Written by Andrew Glenn for Viva. March 25th 2020

A painting by Courtney’s cousin Danielle Meredith of them as children hangs in the lounge. Photo / Babiche Martens.

Sitting down with artists Courtney Sina Meredith and Janet Lilo in their Avondale home and listening to their story is compelling and uplifting. It’s a story filled with mana; tales about love, family, community and giving back.

It would be easy to just label them a “power” art couple; Courtney is an award-winning poet and the director of Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust; Janet is an influential visual artist with permanent works in Te Papa and the Auckland Art Gallery.

Yet it’s soon evident that family and community are their most important works to date; each of them excelling in their respective roles as mothers, lovers, civic leaders and artistic pioneers.

Lately, Courtney’s focus has been on Tautai. Previously inhabited by Artspace (which has moved downstairs), the gallery is expanding to take over the whole of the first floor to include a new space, which is a first in Tautai’s 34-year history.

Tautai Contact
Tautai HQ, Level 1, 300 Karangahape Road

The new gallery, when it opens, will be a platform for artists making room for more exciting Pasifika-curated exhibitions. “Artspace has been an emblem for contemporary New Zealand art. So now to occupy that space and make it all about contemporary Pacific art, well there’s something really beautiful in that and something really now,” says Courtney.

“When we talk about the rise of Pacific art,” she continues, “I genuinely believe there’s a new consciousness, or an awareness, that [Pasifika artists] have always been here. That these aren’t new voices, it’s an awareness of those voices, and an infrastructure for those voices, and I’ll say it — new funding for the amplification of those voices — where we’re seeing change. More and more we’re having people in leadership positions who are saying ‘This is important to us; these are our key values’; it’s not just dressing.”

Ralph Brown Viva
Photograph by Ralph Brown of Coven. Photo / Babiche Martens.

She and Janet have known each other for years, since they were both high school students at Western Springs College, but fell in love and moved in together just a year ago. They share their home with Janet’s boys — Harry 12, Milo, 9, and Manaia, 3 — and Courtney’s “baby” Sadie Rose, a dachshund/shih tzu puppy.

Courtney has lived in the home for nearly two years; it’s been in a family trust for some time and several years ago she helped her father renovate it. With vast open views to the Waitakere ranges, the house has an enormous, slightly sloping backyard that the boys turn into a giant waterslide in summer.

Their love affair represents the merger of two incredibly talented Pacific artists. In addition to her role at Tautai, Courtney is an award-winning poet, playwright, fiction writer and musician.

She’s earned critical acclaim for her published works, including Tail of The Taniwha, a book of short stories, and The Adventures of Tupaia, the story of a Tahitian priest navigator who sailed on board the Endeavour with Captain Cook on his first voyage to Aotearoa.

Janet, an artist, lecturer and social commentator, uses digital photography, video, and multimedia installations to explore issues of popular culture, and is prestigiously represented in permanent collections at the Auckland Art Gallery and Wellington’s Te Papa.

“I went to all of her shows, I fan-girled her!” says Courtney, who is four years younger than Janet. After high school their paths would criss-cross over the years.

Tautai Viva 2020
(From left) Courtney’s published books and poems; Chewed milk bottle collaboration with Janet and her dog. Photos / Babiche Martens.

When Courtney was 24, and working at Auckland Council, she curated an art project and recruited Janet to be involved. Subsequently through their mutual involvement with Tautai — Janet was previously on the board — a seed of friendship was born that later blossomed into love.

“Part of why we fell in love and why I’m so in love with Janet and so obsessed with her — I’m infatuated, I really am,” says Courtney, “[is that] there’s a natural ease in our relationship.

“I’ve never admired someone as much; I’ve never had a partner who I look across to and feel so inspired by, or in awe of, constantly. I find magic in all that she is, in all that she does.”

Courtney Sina Meredith

Their mutual love is palpable. Displayed on a living room sideboard table are a collection of works by Courtney, including the Poetry New Zealand 2020 Yearbook which features a love poem written from Courtney to Janet.

Will they plan on having children of their own? “It’s a work in progress,” says Janet, adding with a laugh. “We already have a fourth child, Sadie.”

Although Janet only recently moved in with Courtney, she is no stranger to Avondale, having grown up in the suburb with most of her family close by.

She’s also no stranger to giving back to her community; as a trustee of Whau the People Charitable Trust, an Avondale-based arts collective, she co-runs the All Goods Gallery, a non-profit space for arts, established a year ago.

Janet Lilo Viva
Artwork from Janet’s ‘Laptop series 2019 (black & silver edition)’ (2019). Photo / Babiche Martens.

Her next big project is organising The Whau Arts Festival, set to be this June. “I have always worked with community in the context of arts. There’s a balance: to do the little things, you do the big things,” she explains.

After the Christchurch attacks a little over a year ago, Janet decided to show her solidarity with the Avondale Islamic Centre by anonymously leaving an artwork on the fence inscribed ‘ISLOVE’, along with the hundreds of other tributes from other strangers.

Twelve months on her sign is the only message the centre has not taken down. “The community is our home,” says Janet. “It’s probably my most favourite work of 2019 in terms of what it means to me.”

Their house is a “work in progress” from a decorative point of view, mainly due to the fact they’ve only recently moved in together. “We haven’t been together for so long to ‘grow up’ a house. These things take time,” says Janet, showing me one of her favourite pieces — a milk bottle punctured by thousands of tiny holes, which she explains is the result of the dog’s teething period. “That’s quintessentially New Zealand.”

The walls are filled with pieces of deep sentimental value. Courtney’s pieces include a photograph taken by Ralph Brown of Coven, a collective of queer artists activating an arts space. Below that is a painting by Courtney’s step-grandmother Patricia Melhuish, of a beach scene in Napier.

Patricia Melhuish Viva
Painting by Courtney’s step-grandmother Patricia Melhuish. Photo / Babiche Martens.

Janet’s recurring use of bananas as iconography — think of her 6m-high light poles on the Karangahape Rd overbridge in 2017 — began with her original work, Banana (2012), which now sits on the living room wall behind the sofa.

She explains her use of bananas was originally inspired by her late Samoan grandmother, who used to hand out bananas to her and her cousins when they were children.

For the Viva shoot to accompany this story Janet has set up a temporary installation of corflute laptops — emblazoned with MAKE WRONG RIGHT NOW — in the backyard. It’s an edit from her work Man in the Mirror that was part of the 2019 Honolulu Biennial, where she represented New Zealand. “I quite like using things that have a local or global context,” she says.

Above the mantle in the living room is a painting by Courtney’s cousin Danielle Meredith — appropriated from an early childhood photo, which her grandfather still carries in his wallet — that holds a special place in Courtney’s heart.

“It’s a little portal to a moment in time when you were young and everything was perfect and you hadn’t experienced anything horrible yet.”

Courtney Sina Meredith

As a child growing up in Glen Innes, Courtney Sina Meredith developed a deep love for her grandmother who she fondly remembers as an incredibly kind and empathetic soul; she remembers her working tirelessly in a denim factory for much of her life, having immigrated from Samoa at the age of 17.

Danielle Meredith Viva
A painting by Courtney’s cousin Danielle Meredith of them as children hangs in the lounge. Photo / Babiche Martens.

Despite her grandmother’s death just a couple of years after the photo was taken, the legacy of her hard work and passion is what inspires Courtney every day. “She encouraged me from a young age to speak my mind and have a voice,” she says.

“From her challenges and her journey, to having a grandchild who’s now opening this beautiful big space [Tautai]; the journey for me to be able to do these things began a couple of generations back.”

Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust was set to reopen on March 26, with Moana Legacy, an exhibition curated by Cora-Allan Wickliffe. It has now been postponed due to Covid-19. Check Tautai.org for updates.

Written by Andrew Glenn for VIVA (source)
Published in print on Wednesday March 25, 2020

For further information please email us
Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe

Tautai Opening Ocula

Tautai Opening a ‘Dream’ for Pacific Art Community

The new art space on Auckland’s Karangahape Road is the culmination of a decades-long effort to support artists of Pacific heritage.

By Sam Gaskin Auckland for Ocula, 23 March 2020

Talia Smith, Surfacing (2020). Detail. Courtesy the artist and Tautai.

Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown announced today, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was scheduled to launch Pacific Arts organisation Tautai’s new space in Auckland on Thursday 26 March.

That won’t happen, but the space is nevertheless a major step forward for the Pasifika arts community according to its director, Courtney Sina Meredith.

‘The establishment of a gallery specifically for contemporary Pacific artists was a dream of founding patron Fatu Feu’u and his peers when Tautai initially formed [in the 1980s]. He’s been in to see the space recently and the smile on his face said it all,’ she said.

‘This is a historic moment that marks the beginning of a new chapter for our artists and our community, but it’s also about coming full circle and honouring our founders,’ Meredith said.

She said the new Tautai would be primarily a place to share ideas and practices, but wouldn’t preclude Pasifika artists selling their work.

‘All events and activities will be free, and any purchases of work will take place directly between artists and interested buyers — Tautai will not take a commission,’ she said.

The name Tautai draws on the Samoan word for navigator, and the organisation has successfully found a way to secure six years of funding from government arts agency Creative New Zealand for their 500 square metre space on Auckland’s Karangahape Road. The building features a sculpture reminiscent of a spiky conch shell by Kiwi artist Guy Ngan, who identified as Pacific Chinese.

“Due to COVID-19 some of the activities we had planned for 2020 may need to be reimagined. Whether or not we activate more digitally this year than planned, we will be focusing solely on the art of Oceanic creatives, regardless,”

Courtney Sina Meredith

Curated by Cora-Allan Wickliffe, the space’s inaugural exhibition is entitled Moana Legacy and features works by Ahsin Ahsin, Gina Ropiha, Israel Randell, Mereani Qalovakawasa, Naawie Tutugoro, Rangituhia Hollis, Talia Smith, and a piece made collaboratively by Wickliffe and Kelly Lafaiki.

The exhibition continues until 5 June, though it is unlikely to receive many visitors in its first month. New Zealanders have been asked to stay at home for the next four weeks. – OCULA 23.03.2020

Moana Legacy Tautai
Moana Legacy, Tautai’s postponed inaugural exhibition in its new expanded space.

Written by Sam Gaskin Auckland for Ocula (source)
Published March 23, 2020

For further information please email us
Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe

Natasha Matila-Smith

Natasha Matila- Smith

APT 10 Pacific Curator in Residence 

We look forward to seeing her talents flourish across the ocean! 

Natasha Matila-Smith Tautai
Natasha Matila-Smith 2020 QAGOMA Artist in Residence

In partnership with QAGOMA and Creative New Zealand, Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust is pleased to announce that Natasha Matila-Smith has been selected as the inaugural curator for the Creative New Zealand Pacific Curator Residency in Australia.  

Natasha will work with QAGOMA’s Asian and Pacific Art team towards ‘The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT10), developing an artistic project of Pacific Art in Aotearoa New Zealand that will be presented as part of APT10. 

“I’m beyond excited and grateful for this opportunity. This is a pretty career defining moment for me and I will do my best to be part of delivering a thoughtful and compelling exhibition with sensitivity.

Going forward, I am hopeful that in collaborating with QAGOMA, Tautai and Creative New Zealand can create more opportunities like this for Pacific (Moana), Indigenous and First Nations creatives”


Over the past five years Matila-Smith has worked consistently across curatorial projects, writing and her creative practice to expand understandings of the complexity of contemporary Pacific life in Aotearoa.  She has developed a reputation as one of Aoeteroa New Zealand’s most unique critical voices. Throughout her practice she has challenged stereotypes and confronted expectations, presenting exhibitions that acknowledge the broader contexts for Pacific artists and art. 

Curator Natasha Matila-Smith 2019
The Market Place of Feeling’ curated by Natasha Matila-Smith at Corbans Estate Art Centre, 2019. (Artwork by Talia Smith)

Tautai’s Director, Courtney Sina Meredith said: ‘This is a ground-breaking moment for arts in Moana Oceania, we’re thrilled to be appointing Natasha Matila-Smith as the first Pacific curator to take up this opportunity. She has an important voice within our community and is someone who has worked with Tautai through the years, contributing to the shape of contemporary Pacific arts in Aotearoa and our global positioning. We look forward to working alongside our partners QAGOMA and Creative New Zealand towards APT10.’ 

QAGOMA Director, Chris Saines CMZ agreed, saying,: ‘This exciting new residency opportunity enhances the Gallery’s ongoing commitment to providing platforms for New Zealand based Pacific artists, writers and curators through the APT exhibition series. 

Natasha’s contributions to conversations about what constitutes contemporary Pacific culture could not be more relevant to the APT. She will have much to contribute as we celebrate the series 10th iteration and enter the exhibitions third decade.’  

Natasha Matila-Smith Tautai
Installation by Natasha Matila-Smith courtesy of Te Uru 2019

Source: QAGOMA Blog 
Natasha Online: Website | Instagram 

For further information please email us
Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe 

AGM 2020

TAUTAI Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust Annual General Meeting 2020

Level 1, 300 Karangahape Road

Tautai AGM 2020

Tautai AGM 2020 is on Monday 2nd March, 6pm in our new Tautai Gallery space.

You are warmly invited to our Annual General Meeting on Monday 2nd March at 6pm. The meeting will be held in our new Tautai Gallery space – Level 1, 300 Karangahape Road, Auckland. All welcome!

Tautai AGM 2020 related content for download:
AGM Notice of Meeting 2020
Minutes AGM_8Sep18
– Tautai Subscription Form 2020
– Tautai Trustee Nomination Form

For further information please email us.
Tautai.org #tautai4lyfe

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