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.
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.