We have launched the highly anticipated Tautai Fale-ship Home Residency digital series!
TAUTAI FALE-SHIP Home Residencies will feature 20 Moana artists each week over five months through our website and social media platforms between July – December 2020
FEATURING: Natasha Ratuva | Tui Emma Gillies & Sulieti Fieme’a Burrows | Iata Peautolu | Elisabeth Kumaran | Lyncia Muller | Sani Muliaumaseali’i | Keva Rands | Jaimie Waititi | Chris Van Doren | Jasmine Tuia | Tuafale Tanoai | Melissa Gilbert | Salvador Brown | Christopher Ulutupu | Fa’amele Etuale | Rawiri Brown | Tyla Vaeau | Michael Mulipola | Ashleigh Taupaki | John Ioane
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.
“Now is the time, more than ever, to celebrate and support artists in our own back yard.”
– Courtney Sina Meredith, Tautai Director
Artists will undertake a 1-week deep dive into exploring the creative processes behind their work and share an insight into 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.
This initiative aims to encourage meaningful connections through the digital Moana as we slowly navigate a new sense of normality due to the global pandemic of COVID-19.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.