A new contemporary Pacific art gallery opens in South Auckland on Queen’s Birthday Weekend

Media release: 21 May 2019

A new art gallery in Ōtāhuhu has contemporary Pacific art and audiences at its core. Vunilagi Vou, opening on Queen’s Birthday weekend, will show a new exhibition each month, sell art works and objects and provide a communal space for creatives to come together.

Gallery Director Ema Tavola (Fiji, Pākehā) says that a dedicated space for contemporary Pacific art, that recognises the importance of historical context and community connections, is much needed.

“Our exhibitions programme will highlight important social commentary on issues that affect our lives as Pacific people; expanding the idea and potential of what contemporary Pacific art is and can be.”

Ema says there is a particular focus for the gallery on local artists from the wider Ōtāhuhu and Māngere area and women artists. “We’ll be supporting emerging artists into their exhibition experiences as well as showing work by senior artists who exhibit in central Auckland and internationally.”

Making buying and collecting art more accessible is another important aim of the gallery. “We know there are plenty of people, particularly young professionals, who are interested in original art and supporting artists, and we want to empower and enable that.”

Vunilagi Vou’s opening exhibition, WWJD:2 is a vibrant snapshot of the breadth and depth of contemporary Pacific art, from a South Auckland perspective generally, and specifically Ema’s perspective. “This is my first local exhibition in a long time that speaks directly to my art ecology; the networks and energies that sustain me.”

WWJD:2 featured artists draw heritage from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Sāmoa and Tonga as well as New Zealand (Māori and Pākeha) and Australia.  They range from emerging to established, nodding to the intergenerational connections within Aotearoa’s contemporary Pacific art history. Works take diverse forms including textiles, photography, painting, film and paper.

The exhibition, which is supported by Creative NZ’s Creative Communities programme, is the second in the ‘What Would Jim Do’ series paying homage to the renowned late Cook Islands curator, Jim Vivieaere, who passed away on June 3, 2011.

ENDS

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Ema Tavola // hello@vunilagivou.com // 0275 779 369


Notes to editors

Vunilagi Vou

  • South Auckland’s new gallery centralising contemporary Pacific Art and audiences.
  • Where: 4/256 Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu (down arcade)
  • Opening hours: Opens to public Saturday 1 June, then open Tuesday – Thursday from 10am – 5pm, Friday 10am – 6pm, Saturday 11am – 4pm
  • Contact: Ema Tavola, email:  hello@vunilagivou.com, mobile: 027 5779369
  • Vunilagi in Fijian language commonly refers to the horizon, but can be broken down as vu- meaning trunk, as in the trunk of a tree, and -lagi the abbreviated version of lomalagi, heaven. Ni serves to connect the two, so vunilagi is that which holds up the heavens. Vou means new.
  • Vunilagi Vou is also an umbrella for Tavola’s consultancy work, producing events and community engagement initiatives in the South Auckland area
  • Vunilagi Vou retail: As well as the works in most exhibitions, Vunilagi Vou will sell a small range of art objects by local creatives, including:
    • Tyla Vaeau Ta’ufo’ou – Prints
    • Lissy Cole Design – Textile works
    • Kingdom Design – Homeware and accessories
    • Aolele Adornment – Jewellery
    • Molly Pihigia – Jewellery

WWJD:2 Exhibiting Artists

  • Margaret Aull (Tuwharetoa / Te Rarawa, Fiji)
  • Melissa Cole (Ngati Hine, Ngati Kahu)
  • Tanu Gago (Sāmoa, NZ)
  • Julia Mage’au Gray (Papua New Guinea, Australia)
  • Leilani Kake (Ngapuhi / Tainui, Cook Islands)
  • Andy Leleisi’uao (Sāmoa, NZ)
  • Niutuiatua Lemalu (Sāmoa, NZ)
  • Sinia Malua (Tonga, NZ)
  • Vea Mafile’o (Tonga, NZ)
  • Molly Pihigia (Niue, NZ)
  • ‘Ahota’e’iloa Toetu’u (Tonga, NZ)
  • Vaimaila Urale (Sāmoa, NZ)
  • Daniel Weetman (Fiji, NZ)

About the Gallery Director

Gallery Director Ema Tavola, born in Suva, Fiji, and based in Papatoetoe, has spent almost 20 years working within the South Auckland creative sector as a curator, producer, researcher, teacher and artist.

Her curatorial practice is a mechanism for social inclusion, centralising Pacific ways of seeing, decolonisation and exhibition making as a form of activism. She was the founding curator of Fresh Gallery Ōtara and has produced close to 80 exhibitions foregrounding work by Pacific artists to be shown both locally and internationally, most recently including 2018’s ‘A Maternal Lens’, shown at the 4th International Biennial of Casablanca in Morocco.

Image credits

  • SAVAGE IN THE GARDEN series (2018) by Tanu Gago
  • Portrait of Vunilagi Vou Director, Ema Tavola / Photo by Pati Solomona Tyrell
  • Mate Ma’a Tonga flag by Czarina Wilson for Kingdom Design

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