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30 Days of Lockdown

The Auckland region has been in Alert Level 4 lockdown for now over 30 days. An outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19 has the potential to cause disproportionate havoc in South Auckland, where there are high concentrations of systemically disadvantaged communities, deprivation and overcrowded households. With daily reported numbers of positive cases now going down (ish) and vaccination numbers reportedly going up, there is some light at the end of this new tunnel that we all now live in.

As Aotearoa moved into snap lockdown in mid-August, Vunilagi Vou was on the verge of rolling out a Creative New Zealand-funded event series at The Alexander Cafe. The project itself was a pivoted concept developed to salvage a 2019 funded project that became pandemic unviable. The VVxAlexander Talanoa Series was intended to be four monthly talanoa events dedicated to unpacking some of the sector’s most urgent, problematic and pressing conditions, with a collective of incredibly inspiring Moana Oceania arts managers, thinkers and change-makers. With two of the proposed events in the series absorbed into and thus cancelled by Level 4 lockdown, and the proposed dates for the third and fourth events potentially impacted by heavy restrictions on gathering numbers and general and perceived risk of community transmission, it’s fair to say that the VVxAlexander Talanoa Series, in its current form, is a yet another pandemic casualty.

Resilience is a condition that can grow from this culture of producing. Events are more vulnerable than ever to being impacted by postponement, cancellations and often conceptual pivots; producing in the unpredictability of the pandemic climate requires a deep commitment, strong support systems and lot of gumption.

Vunilagi Vou was built with full reserves of those things back in 2019, but as a largely one-woman-led independent operation that exists in balance with the demands of solo parenting, the culture and climate of producing in 2021, has drained the tanks. Learning of the New Zealand Government’s investment in the creative and cultural sectors through the Ministry for Culture & Heritage Arts and Culture COVID Recovery Programme was at first encouraging, but seeing such vast quantities of that investment funnelled into already well-funded organisations, has been incredibly dispiriting.

There have been ways that some of those well-funded organisations have engaged independent practitioners and producers, like Vunilagi Vou, to effectively share resource and perform resilience collectively, but within the complexity of this power dynamic, there is unfortunately always room for exploitation.

The third event in the VVxAlexander Talanoa Series was entitled, The State of Art: Culture Shifts & the Pandemic and was scheduled to include celebrated curator Nigel Borell, and myself, alongside South Auckland-based analyst and commentator Shane Ta’ala. I was personally really looking forward to an evening of hot takes and real talk about the ways the pandemic climate has allowed our sector to breathe in conversations about race and inequality, sit with that discomfort, and try to breathe out old, tired norms. But like change itself, this conversation, complicated and difficult, will take a longer-term vision to manifest in real time.

Being in lockdown in the site of Vunilagi Vou 2.0 – the master pivot – it has become increasingly evident how taxing this climate of producing creative and cultural content and events has been over the past 18 months. Vunilagi Vou 2.0 was built in 2020 as a safe haven from the unknowns of the world outside of our homes. The dream of this space was born out of lockdown, when life outside was on pause. It was a way to create stability when nothing else seemed secure. But when the neighbouring land was sold earlier this year (along with two other single house lots recently sold), development of six two-storey townhouses began next door and the literal stability of this pandemic oasis was disrupted; a third Vunilagi Vou shapeshift was put in motion.

Vunilagi Vou’s partnership with Celebrate Aotearoa and The Alexander Cafe has been joyful and challenging, empowering and rewarding. This third shapeshift from a commercial shop in Ōtāhuhu to a converted garage in Papatoetoe, to a mezzanine floor in an Ōtara cafe, has been in so many ways, the best version of Vunilagi Vou.

As this small organisation grows and evolves, its business plan shifts and adjusts to the time and space it finds itself in. This constant flux is an exercise of detachment and strategy, survival and renewal. This mode is largely exhilarating, but requires a level of focus and commitment that is entirely dependent, in my experience, on childcare! As a solo parent, lockdown, unfortunately, has not presented the time and space to perform resilience and resourcefulness as an independent creative entity.

Whilst most projects and commitments have been extended, pushed out and evolved, some have been necessarily axed. One of the more disappointing outcomes of this has been the cancellation of our scheduled exhibition, The Spatial Expression of Economic Inequality for Artweek Auckland and the full withdrawal from the regional programme.

The future is still so frustratingly unknown; in the short-term, it’s whether Auckland will be able to go down in alert levels to ease at least some of the region’s economic, social, spiritual, cultural and culinary frustration. In the mid-term, whether start-up businesses like The Alexander Cafe, Celebrate Aotearoa and Vunilagi Vou are able to bounce back (again) from such an economic hiding. And in the long-term, it’s whether Vunilagi Vou, an audacious idea born in a pre-pandemic time and space, is sustainable or even viable, within both South Auckland’s rapidly shifting cultural landscape, and a pandemic.

During the past 30 days however, some things have been spirit lifting

Hidden in Plain Sight curated by Julia Albrecht and Stephanie Endter closed at Frankfurt’s Weltkulturen Museum on 5 September featuring a body of work made in response to Vunilagi Vou’s 2019 exhibition, Lain Blo Yu Mi – Our People Our Lines and featuring a painting made for FATFEB (2021) which will soon be part of the museum’s permanent collection.

Sales have been trickling through from the VV Online Shop even though deliveries won’t be made until Auckland moves to Alert Level 3. Deep gratitude for these small gestures of support and investment. Vinaka vakalevu.

Work is currently in development for a deeply inspiring curatorial project led by Dr Torika Bolatagici entitled, Volume: Bodies of Knowledge. This research-based curatorial project emerges from a feminist phenomenological framework centering the lived experience of Indigenous, bla(c)k, brown, women-of-colour artists whose experiential knowledge through the body, informs their creative practice. To produce work for such a relevant and meaningful kaupapa, and to work within the realm of understanding of motherhood, is game-changing.

The lockdown re-alignment has offered an opportunity to reflect on the time and space that Vunilagi Vou’s first publication, VV:Dua was first conceived in 2020. The publication documenting Vunilagi Vou’s first year of operation was funded with support from Creative New Zealand’s Arts Continuity Grants programme and launched on Vunilagi Vou’s second anniversary in June of this year at The Alexander Cafe. The project presented steep learning curves but produced an important document about independent arts management and South Auckland. Although producing this book was a massive challenge, writing about Vunilagi Vou’s next chapter – shapeshifting and creative survival in chronic crisis – seems essential. Watch this space.

#VVxAlexander Talanoa Series – fresh takes, hot tea & industry real talk in Ōtara, #SouthAuckland

This month we launch a new series of talanoa events at Vunilagi Vou’s shared premises at The Alexander Cafe in Ōtara, South Auckland.

The series centralises the exchange of ideas, and the time and space for talking story, brokering collective understanding and building networks amongst the creative community. Four thematic approaches have been developed to draw out conversation on issues that are shaping the landscape for artists, cultural producers and arts workers currently engaged in the creative and cultural sector in Auckland and throughout Aotearoa.

The VVxAlexander Talanoa Series builds on the successful 2019 Southside Talanoa Series delivered in Ōtāhuhu in partnership with Auckland Council’s Pacific arts programme. This year’s series has been supported by Creative New Zealand’s Pacific arts programme and is proudly Moana (Pacific)-led, delivered in partnership with Moana (Pacific) and indigenous-owned and operated businesses.

The Alexander Cafe is located at 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara, South Auckland – free parking is available outside the venue and on Alexander Crescent. The venue is wheelchair accessible and light refreshments will be available.

Whilst these talanoa events will not be recorded or live streamed, a programme of in-depth conversations with select speakers from the four events will be developed as online content – more details to come.

First up…

The first of four monthly talanoa events invites three local creative producers to unpack the drivers for creating films, events and activations that benefit, make visible and serve communities they are part of.

Jep Savali (Manatua Promotions & Consultancy), Vea Mafile’o (Malosi Pictures Ltd) and Tanu Gago (FAFSWAG) will share insights and stories in conversation with Ema Tavola (Vunilagi Vou) drawing on a broad spectrum of professional experience in the fields of event production and programming, film and television, visual arts and storytelling.

The VVxAlexander Talanoa Series foregrounds arts management and leadership as an area of critical importance for the development of the Moana (Pacific) arts sector. These talanoa events are an opportunity for arts managers to share their experiences, the challenges they have overcome and offer ideas for the future for audiences of locals, artists, stakeholders and change makers. All welcome!

WHEN: Doors open 6pm, Friday 27 August
WHERE: The Alexander Cafe, 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara, South Auckland
COST: Free

Painting and portraiture in the Southside #VVxAlexander

Vunilagi Vou is proud to present a new exhibition developed site-specifically for The Alexander Cafe in Ōtara, South Auckland.

Picture Me Rollin – Portraiture in the Southside is a collection of painted portraits that have been either made in South Auckland or ended up here, as in the case of this striking oil painting of former New Zealand Prime Minister Norman Kirk painted in 1975 by Dutch painter, Johanna Van Massop. It was this large-scale portrait, bought to Vunilagi Vou in 2020 by its owner, that re-ignited an interest in both portraiture and the discipline of painting.

Johanna Van Massop (1932-2015) was a self-taught painter whose last documented exhibition was in 2009 at Nathan Homestead in Manurewa. Her later years were spent at Edmund Hillary Retirement Village in Remuera where she grew a close bond with her caregiver, Annie Young. Van Massop left a number of her replica and original oil paintings to Ms Young with the intention that the funds raised from selling them could help her to have the quality of care Van Massop received in her final years. In November 2020, Ms Young found her way to Vunilagi Vou 2.0, shared her story and started a conversation about opportunities to show and sell the works.

Whilst historical portraiture, and the work of Pākehā artists, doesn’t fall clearly in line with Vunilagi Vou’s position in the creative sector, the portrait of Norman Kirk has demanded attention and inspired deeper awareness of Kirk’s role in Aotearoa history and politics. The 46-year-old oil painting was completed the year following Kirk’s death whilst in office, and the year after Manukau City Council named their new public pools in Ōtara, the Norman Kirk Memorial Pools.

Picture Me Rollin – Portraiture in the Southside features work by eight Moana Oceania / Pacific artists alongside Van Massop’s Norman Kirk, inviting reflection on the meaning and craft of portraiture as markers in time, people as culture, painting as archive.

The artists featured represent a mix of self-taught and art school trained practitioners, with practices that have ebbed and flowed less with exhibitions and art world pursuits, and more with the grassroots economy of commissions, birthday banners, murals and apparel. Many of these practices have grown in garages and live on in homes and local collections, creating archives of Pacific peoples made by Pacific painters.

Picture Me Rollin is the name of a song by Tupac Shakur (1971-1996) released in 1996; an iconic, g-funk era classic reflecting curator Ema Tavola’s own time marker and drawing connections across generations, lived realities, geographies and creative expression.

Picture Me Rollin – Portraiture in the Southside

Featuring Apelu John Crouch, Marcus Hipa, Niutuiatua Lemalu, Genevieve Leitu Pini, Ema Tavola, Jade White, Czarina Wilson & Finer, and Johanna Van Massop.

26 July – 4 September 2021

The Alexander Cafe, 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara, South Auckland

Public programme to be announced soon!

Winter Update: VV x Ōtara

Our first month of Vunilagi Vou operations being located at The Alexander Cafe in Ōtara and it has been a busy, rewarding and uplifting time!

The new exhibitions that launched VVxAlexander have felt so perfectly placed as a quiet intervention into public Southside space.

Jeremiah Tauamiti’s Creative New Zealand-funded exhibition project, Put Some Respect on My Name has made a strong start to utilising the main wall of the cafe. The exhibition expands on a video project initially started during lockdown in 2020, interviewing Pacific Islanders about the meaning and mana of their surnames, and the experiences they have encountered with mispronunciation and mockery. The video component of the exhibition holds the stories of nine individuals with care, and humour, interspersing clever customised animation by India Taberner.

On Saturday 10 July, we co-hosted an Artist Talk about Jeremiah Tauamiti work with the Pacific Islands Screen Artists network, our first artist talanoa event here at The Alexander Cafe. Thank you everyone who came out on a wintery night, to our wonderful barista Claudia Chan, and Czarina Wilson who opened up her beautiful retail space, Celebrate Aotearoa for the event. The public programming that creates space to talanoa and understand art and artists is so special when the stars align and the space is right.

The second of three bodies of work that has launched Vunilagi Vou’s new presence at The Alexander Cafe is Killer of a Time by Emily Mafile’o. Whilst it was envisaged that 10 large-scale Lambda c-type mounted prints from this series could be shown, the install team settled on five. Working with the cafe space presents some challenges, but these five insights into Emily’s 2012-13 series, sit beautifully, and centrally, on the cafe’s main and highest wall, glowing gold in the afternoon sun.

Two of Emily’s images from this show feature in a write-up on South Auckland arts and culture in the current issue of Verve magazine, thanks to Ōtāhuhu-based arts writer and advocate, Aimee Ralfini. Check out the July issue of Verve here.

The third body of work currently on show is a series of new and recent illustrative paintings by Melbourne-based interdisciplinary artist, Peatree, who visited Aotearoa earlier this year to re-connect after 14 years away. Peatree, aka Tirelle Peter, was born in South Africa, raised in East Auckland, went on to study at Manukau School of Visual Arts, graduating in 2005 with a Bachelor of Visual Arts majoring in Sculpture. This beautiful little body of work reflects the influences on Peatree’s practice absorbed from global adventures, and their evolving positionality in relation to gender, ethnicity and sexuality.

Whilst we encountered some tedious technical issues, we did an Instagram Live artist talk with Peatree on Friday 2 July, which offers some beautiful insights to the works on display and the emotional and spiritual significance of the symbolism within Peatree’s visual vocabulary.

This first suite of exhibitions runs until Saturday 24 July at The Alexander Cafe. The cafe is open six days a week from 7am – 2/3pm (closed Sunday), and is located at 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara, South Auckland.

Vunilagi Vou is thrilled to be partnering again with South Auckland-based entrepreneur Czarina Wilson, who helped develop the retail arm of Vunilagi Vou in Ōtāhuhu. Czarina’s boutique retail space, Celebrate Aotearoa, is now located on the mezzanine floor of The Alexander Cafe and stocks a beautiful range of Māori, Pasifika and New Zealand-made gifts, homeware and accessories. The space is open Monday – Saturday from 9am – 2pm.

Celebrate Aotearoa and Moana Fresh are also the exclusive stockists of VV:Dua – Vunilagi Vou’s first publication produced with support from Creative New Zealand.

A new exhibition – Picture Me Rollin’ – Portraiture in the Southside opens to the public on Monday 26 July – more details coming soon!

Youth Talanoa x The Alexander Cafe, #Ōtara, #SouthAuckland

Next Thursday, Vunilagi Vou is excited to be hosting a talanoa for Māori and Pacific youth in South Auckland to share insights about the issues, challenges and joys of living here, and hear about what some of the issues, challenges and joys are being a young person in the Pacific Region.

Our guest is Mereia Carling, who recently relocated from Suva, Fiji to work at the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade where she is the Senior Advisor Inclusive Development – Child and Youth Wellbeing.

Mereia will also share some pathways to a career in Foreign Affairs and how she is intrinsically connected to Vunilagi Vou as Ema’s big sister and forever advisor and supporter ✨🌺✨

WHEN: 6pm, Thursday 1 July 2021
WHERE: The Alexander Café, 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara, South Auckland

⚡️ No registration necessary
⚡️ Light refreshments provided

Questions about the event? Send Ema an email: hello@vunilagivou.com

VV x Alexander: Shapeshifting, new exhibitions and Ōtara

In June 2021, Vunilagi Vou will celebrate our second anniversary and shapeshift once again to operate from The Alexander Café, a new locally-owned eatery and cultural enterprise located on Alexander Crescent in Ōtara, South Auckland.

Having operated Vunilagi Vou 2.0 from the residential context of suburban Papatoetoe since October 2020, the opportunity arose to partner with The Alexander Café and create space for another local enterprise, Celebrate Aotearoa – a retail operation driven by local Tongan creative entrepreneur, Czarina Wilson.

Located in a refurbished semi-industrial warehouse, The Alexander Café has built a strong community and customer base from around the Auckland region; it is a hub of Māori and Pacific professionals, locals, gym goers and creatives, always abuzz with talanoa. For Vunilagi Vou, the café offers an opportunity to integrate excellent art into the South Auckland space, quietly informing our lives and discussions and enabling artwork to create interventions in the public consciousness, rather than asking the public to engage with arts environments.

Local Tongan creative entrepreneur, Czarina Wilson, has been part of the Vunilagi Vou mission since the beginning, offering retail guidance for our first premises in Ōtāhuhu, and partnering on a pop-up shop at the Ōtara Kai Village in September to raise funds for Vunilagi Vou’s post-Covid re-launch. Czarina has been operating her enterprise, Celebrate Aotearoa out of the Ōtara Kai Village Boutique since October 2020 and is excited to relocate just a stones throw away to The Alexander Café to partner with Vunilagi Vou once more!

From Saturday 12 June 2021, The Alexander Café’s mezzanine floor will house both Celebrate Aotearoa and the Vunilagi Vou office, and a suite of three new exhibitions will be on show throughout the building.

Video still from Put Some Respect On My Name interview with Samson Vaotu’ua; animation still by India Taberner

Put Some Respect on My Name is an exhibition project by Papatoetoe-based Sāmoan filmmaker Jeremiah Tauamiti (Malosi Pictures) produced with support from Creative New Zealand. At the centre of the work are nine individual stories exploring the meaning and mana of Pacific Island surnames, and the importance of correct pronunciation as an act of respect. The project incorporates interviews with Elizabeth Koroivulaono, Tanya Muagututi’a, Vela Manusaute, Te Amohaere Ngata-aerengamate, Raymond Sagapolutele, Benjamin Tamanikaiyaroi, Ema Tavola, Essendon Tu’itupou and Samson Vaotu’ua. The project also incorporates animation work by India Taberner and graphic design by Antonio Filipo.

Becoming is a body of recent work by Peatree, a mixed media artist currently based in Melbourne, Australia where they work predominantly across the mediums of illustration and sculpture. Completing undergraduate studies at Manukau School of Visual Arts in Ōtara in 2005, Peatree’s practice has absorbed influences from around the world informing their own evolving positionality in relation to gender, ethnicity and sexuality. Becoming is an exhibition of small paintings exploring the artist’s constantly evolving sense of self and commitment to “the inherent existential search”.

Killer of a Time is a body of work by Manurewa-based Tongan photographer Emily Mafile’o made in 2013/14. This body of work is part of the artist’s two decade-long documentary practice exploring the diversity of Tongan lives and experience in Aotearoa and Tonga. This vérité style sepia-toned series focuses on ‘Killer’, whose life at the time was deeply embedded in gang culture; it is an intimate observation of the freedoms, ties and violence that framed his life, woven together with glimpses of anga fakatonga (Tongan way). This work presents a challenging perspective of Tongan experience but actively broadens awareness of the ways Tongan identities evolve and adapt in response their environments.

All three exhibitions are open from Saturday 12 June and run until the end of July.

VV x Alexander is the beginning of a new chapter. A return to Ōtara, a cultural hotspot for Moana Oceania creative innovation, where Vunilagi Vou Curator-Director, Ema Tavola established her practice at Manukau School of Visual Arts and later as founding manager of Fresh Gallery Ōtara. As the third ‘re-birth’ of Vunilagi Vou, it is an evolved business model, shapeshifting from a commercial premise in Ōtāhuhu, to a residential setting in Papatoetoe, to a shared entrepreneurial hub in Ōtara. Third time lucky?!

Help us celebrate the launch of VV x Alexander

Come along and celebrate The Alexander Cafe’s newest tenants, Vunilagi Vou and Celebrate Aotearoa, and the opening of three exciting exhibitions, Put Some Respect On My Name, Becoming and Killer of a Time on Friday 11 June from 6pm.

We’re also launching Vunilagi Vou’s first publication, VV:Dua The Story of Vunilagi Vou’s First Year, produced with support from Creative New Zealand. Copies will be available on the night and later stocked at Celebrate Aotearoa!

The Alexander Café is located at 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara, South Auckland; it is 5 minute drive from the Highbrook Drive or East Tamaki Road exits on State Highway 1 or a short walk from the Ōtara Bus Interchange (notably featuring design work by Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi).

The Alexander Café ground floor is wheelchair accessible with disability carparks directly outside the main entrance, the venue also has a wheelchair accessible toilet. Assistance dogs are also allowed onsite.

After the VV x Alexander launch, opening hours are as follows:

Monday – Friday: 7am – 3pm
Saturday: 8am – 2pm

Appointments can still be made to view and discuss the artwork on show, get in touch via the Appointments page here.


Follow Vunilagi Vou on Instagram for the latest updates!

Friday Night Talanoa: MahMah Timoteo

This Friday 7 May, we are excited to be hosting a kickback Friday night talanoa with Ōtautahi-based educator, activist and social media maven, MahMah Timoteo.

Honouring the current exhibition, big islands deep oceans – a solo exhibition of maps of the Pacific ocean floor by David Garcia, MahMah Timoteo will be discussing her current doctoral research that centres indigenous voices in climate change narratives.

Both David Garcia and MahMah Timoteo will be travelling from Ōtautahi / Christchurch for the event, where they are both PhD candidates at the University of Canterbury.

big islands deep oceans is a body of work that invites us to reconsider the role maps play in our understanding of the Pacific ocean, “… the seas of islands of the Pacific do not end at the shoreline and reefs. They continue as massive submarine structures and habitats that evolve with the water and atmosphere over time. The land/sea binary, while convenient for many, is a false notion, yet many maps operate on such binary, among other binaries.” ~ David Garcia

MahMah Timoteo first visited Vunilagi Vou in February where she participated in a the FATFEB Talanoa discussing the role of social media in creating a community of fat liberation in Aotearoa. Alongside Siobhan Tumai and Meagan Kerr, MahMah brought a strong dose of real talk and wicked humour!

Back in the hood in a different capacity, MahMah will discuss her doctoral research, entitled ‘Akarongo, ‘Āpi‘i, Arataki – Listen, Learn, Lead – Our ancestors guide us. Amplifying Indigenous Voices in Climate Change Narratives.Decolonising Climate Change Spaces.

Centring indigenous voices is crucial to the prosperity and well-being of not only marginalised populations but also the survival of our entire planet. By undertaking this research, we are able to dismantle and disrupt the very values and beliefs that limit our understandings of indigenous environmental knowledge. Nations of people that have contributed the least to this current climate crisis are now being impacted the most by its consequences. These are the communities that should have their voices heard, acknowledged and centred.  

My study aims to demonstrate the importance of Pacific indigenous lived experiences throughout climate change narratives and activism. By critically analysing current global climate change narratives and discussions, this research identifies how different power dynamics exist within storytelling, shaping the way people understand climate change and bringing fourth decolonised methods of addressing our world’s climate crisis.” ~ MahMah Timoteo

This is set to be an inspiring and disruptive talanoa!

Entry is free, but snacks and drinks to share, and donations are welcome.

Parking is limited, so ride sharing is recommended.

Doors open at 6pm – seating is on the ground, but some chairs will be available for those who need them. Vunilagi Vou 2.0 is wheelchair accessible but does not have a disability friendly bathroom.

Vunilagi Vou is located at 26 Laureston Avenue, Papatoetoe, South Auckland.

Event enquiries? Send us a message here:

Talanoa & Hustle

During the 2021 Auckland Art Fair, I participated in a panel discussion that was part of the ‘A Base of People’ series curated by Remco de Blaaij (Director of Artspace Aotearoa) entitled, Parallel Worlds, a new imagination on internationality. I had the privilege of speaking alongside Auckland gallerist, Tim Melville, Melbourne-based curator and writer, Kimberley Moulton and Porirua-based curator, Ioana Gordon-Smith; check it out here:

Vunilagi Vou’s Autumn 2021 season, two water shows runs until 12 May at The Alexander Cafe in Otara and Vunilagi Vou 2.0 in Papatoetoe.

  • Make an appointment to view David Garcia‘s solo exhibition, big islands deep oceans at Vunilagi Vou here.
  • Check out Antonio Filipo‘s solo exhibition, Ngāti Ōtara at The Alexander Cafe during business hours: Monday – Friday, 7am-3pm and Saturday, 8am – 2pm. The Alexander Cafe is located at 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Otara, South Auckland.

On Saturday 10 April, we hosted a floor talk with David Garcia on Instagram; David offered generous insights to the thinking and making of the nine beautiful map works in the exhibition, check it out here:

The Vunilagi Vou online shop was established after Auckland’s fourth Covid-19 lockdown in a year and it has been quietly humming away. Unfortunately, due to lengthy and unpredictable international shipping timeframes, we are currently only shipping within Aotearoa New Zealand. Grateful to everyone who has purchased Vunilagi Vou stock, largely remaining from our Ōtāhuhu premises (Vunilagi Vou 1) where our retail arm was a fairly significant part of the business.

The top sellers since the shop opened last month are:

The Struggle (2019) by Ema Tavola / Nicole Lim, poster print, 420x594mm, NZ49

NB Not Today Coloniser badge, produced to support the work of Tū Tonu, NZD10

100% Pure Fijian Waka – 250g bags of kava from Kadavu and Saqani, NZD30/35

We’re also proud to be stocking a small range of Vunilagi Vou goods at Avondale-based creative enterprise, Moana Fresh, who have a pop-up coming up at the end of the month:

Next month, we are excited to be hosting Ōtautahi-based educator and social media maven, MahMah Timoteo for the second time this year! MahMah blew the audience away during the FATFEB Talanoa here in February with her oratory excellence – she is an incredibly engaging speaker, deeply passionate and wickedly funny!

Photo credit: charlierosecreative

In honour of David Garcia’s solo exhibition, big islands deep oceans at Vunilagi Vou, which pays deep homage to the Pacific ocean, MahMah will join us for a talanoa to discuss her current research that centres indigenous Pacific Islander voices in climate change narratives.

My study aims to demonstrate the importance of Pacific indigenous lived experiences throughout climate change narratives and activism. By critically analysing current global climate change narratives and discussions, this research identifies how different power dynamics exist within storytelling, shaping the way people understand climate change and bringing fourth decolonised methods of addressing our world’s climate crisis.

~ MahMah Timoteo

Along with special guests to be announced, this talanoa will take place at Vunilagi Vou 2.0 from 6pm on Friday 7 May.

Space is limited, entry is free but donations are welcome! Located in a residential cul-de-sac, Vunilagi Vou 2.0 does not offer extensive car parking options so ride sharing is recommended. Find a map and venue address here.

Yoga & Meditation classes at Vunilagi Vou have been drawing together a broad cross-section of our local community. If you know anyone who would benefit from these classes, they are designed to make the benefits of yoga and meditation accessible to South Auckland communities and all levels of ability are welcome. Drop instructor Gamo Farani Tomlin a text on 021 1001448 or send a DM on Instagram to book a spot – classes have an 8 person capacity and run on Mondays at 5.30pm and Wednesdays at 10.30am at Vunilagi Vou.

Finallly, a new exhibition curated by Julia Albrecht and Stephanie Endter is opening at the end of this month at Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, entitled Hidden in Plain Sight. Invited to participate as an artist, I made an extension of the 2019 Vunilagi Vou exhibition, Lain Blo Yu Mi – Our People Our Lines focusing on the work of Melanesian mark maker, Julia Mage’au Gray. The work is an autoethnographic photo essay on the transformative nature and process of Julia’s work in relation to my veiqia, Fijian female tattoo.

Photo by Ella Carling

My work sits alongside artwork and ideas by FrauHerr Meko (Darmstadt, Germany), Kitso Lynn Lelliott (Johannesburg, South Africa), Joana Tischkau (Frankfurt/Berlin, Germany) and Shan Goshorn (Tulsa, USA).

If you’re in Frankfurt, check it out!

vinaka vakalevu

Good shows, good reads, yoga and meditation in #SouthAuckland

We opened two water shows last week in South Auckland, celebrating the opening of both exhibitions at Vunilagi Vou. Both exhibitors, David Garcia and Antonio Filipo, shared insights to their practices, and both exhibitions are now open until 12 May 2021.

Two talanoa events are in the pipeline for two water shows, reflecting the kaupapa and contexts of each exhibition. More information coming soon!

Good reads

Last weekend, I had the privilege of featuring on e-Tangata – Aotearoa’s excellent Māori and Pacific Sunday digital magazine. Read the full story here for some background and context of Vunilagi Vou. Vinaka vakalevu to the whole team for this work, especially photographer Cornell Tukiri.

Some excellent writing has been published as part of the Creative New Zealand Pacific Arts Legacy Project on Pantograph Punch. FAFSWAG co-founder, Tanu Gago’s recent essay was particularly excellent – check it out here.

Another good read was this article by Leonie Hayden for The SpinOff detailing Auckland Art Gallery’s current challenges in creating a culturally safe space for employees. This article follows news of former Curator Māori, Nigel Borell leaving the role citing systemic racism and differing views on power-sharing.

The VV Stock Room collection that was up at Ōtara’s The Alexander Cafe from February to March 2021 was featured in Pantograph Punch’s Unmissables offering a fresh perspective on FAFSWAG artist, Moe Laga’s 2014 series, Feau o Fafine. This work, Smoko Break was shot in what is now Vunilagi Vou, pre makeover! Check out writer, Tulia Thompson’s review here.

Yoga & Meditation at Vunilagi Vou

Last week we started offering two weekly yoga and meditation classes with South Auckland-based instructor, Gamo Farani Tomlin. The classes are limited to eight participants and aim to make yoga and meditation accessible to local South Auckland communities. David Garcia’s solo exhibition, big islands deep oceans is an ideal creative setting for these classes!

Booking is essential; send Gamo a message via Instagram or text message: 021 1001448. Classes are at 5.30pm on Mondays and 10.30am on Wednesdays. All abilities welcome!

Writing VV:Dua

A Creative New Zealand funded project that started in 2020, mid-pandemic, was the development of a publication about Vunilagi Vou’s first year of operation – VV:Duadua being ‘one’ in Fijian. The work started, and then stopped, the project was granted an extension, and then stalled again. Keeping Vunilagi Vou alive became the priority that took energy away from writing, but finally, the end is in sight.

Crit Club, December 2019, Vunilagi Vou Studio, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland | Photo by Andre Kake-Joseph

This small publication will be launched on June 10, marking Vunilagi Vou’s second anniversary. It includes summaries of the frankly outrageous amount of work, projects, workshops and events that Vunilagi Vou delivered in its first nine months, and the impact the global pandemic had in shapeshifting not only the location, but the whole ethos of the business.

Grateful for the understanding of Pacific Arts funding advisors; this past year has had incredible highs and lows, but the investment from Creative New Zealand’s Arts Continuity Grant programme helped provide some much needed stability.

Watch this space!