We have received some lovely donations to help our Two Solos crowdfunding effort on Boosted, so we’re doing a quick raffle from 1-11 November!
Tickets are $20 and put you in the draw to win one of four prize packs including lovely reusable produce and shopping bags, soy + coconut candles and soaps from Store Eco Friendly, publications including a signed copy of Nigel Borell’s iconic Toi Tū Toi Ora pukapuka, goodies from Koleta Pacific Boutique, a poster print of Vunilagi Vou’s tragic bestseller, “The Struggle” and a very special original painting on board by Genevieve Pini originally shown at Hoea! earlier this year!
Our project team, Niu Lemalu, Genevieve Pini and Vunilagi Vou will be selling tickets from Tuesday 1 November until Friday 11 November – winners will be drawn at 11am on 11/11/22 ✨🔮✨
There is something very satisfying about being at the halfway mark of our four week crowdfunding campaign and sitting on 50% of our target of $10k…
Satisfying, and filled with gratitude, but slightly daunted about the prospect of raising the remaining $5k in 14 days. Can we do it? Can we do it with your help??
As has been shared throughout this campaign, this project is not filled with ‘knowns’. The outcome of Genevieve Pini and Niu Lemalu’s solo exhibitions is yet to be developed; this fund will enable them the time and space, support and materials to get to that point.
Genevieve and Niu are both relatively unknown in the wider awareness of Moana Pacific artists; in both cases, most of the creative work has happened in South Auckland, within grassroots settings, or within exhibitions that I’ve curated. Genevieve is a multiple award-winner from what was our annual design competition, Villa Maria Cult Couture and was profiled on Fresh TV here, and I featured three of Niu’s paintings in a pop-up exhibition series I made in 2015 called the PIMPI Winter Series; his interview was the most popular page on the website offering excellent insights to the mind of this painter, check it out here. In fact, both Genevieve and Niu made work for the PIMPI Winter Series in 2015, which I discussed on Radio New Zealand here.
I’ve had faith and been excited by both Genevieve and Niu’s art practices for almost 20 years. Niu made his first solo show at Fresh Gallery Ōtara when he was only 21 years old; Genevieve and I first met at Manukau School of Visual Arts in 2002 aged 19. It is this depth of familiarity, of knowing, that gives me total faith that this investment will enable them both to bring exciting, post-pandemic, deeply marinated ideas to the table… and I can’t wait to see what is produced!
I’ve asked some peers to help endorse this project’s kaupapa, and Ōtara-based artist and educator Leilani Kake offered a moving message about the importance of making solo shows here, and celebrated curator Nigel Borell MNZM, offered an insight about my curatorial practice and the act of making shows in South Auckland here. This week across social media, I published another testimonial by another award-winning peer, Tanu Gago MNZM – check it out below. I’m so grateful to this community of practice that surrounds Vunilagi Vou, and every project we produce and artist we work with.
Tanu mentions one thing at the beginning of this video that is sometimes not easy to really articulate. The act of curating Tanu Gago’s first solo shows wasn’t just because I had total faith in him, his visual language and what he had to say (as I do with Niu and Genevieve), but that curating his work was an act of fortifying a time and space for him in the art world, and in the case of Tanu, a time and space that became a launchpad for a tremendous trajectory.
The intention when curating Moana Pacific artists into exhibitions, whether group or solo endeavours, is never about the pursuit of fame, sales or fortune, but always about enabling artists to see themselves in a wider art world that mostly doesn’t look or sound like us. As a curator, my role has always been to enable artists to feel their voices are valid and important. To be affirmed, and know that someone is listening and hyping you, to know that you don’t stand alone, and that imposter syndrome can always be countered when we move together.
In essence, this crowdfunding effort is about more than two solo exhibitions. The donations and support from our communities so far has already shown these two artists the belief people have in what they do and what they will do. It is that investment that I know will have the most powerful impact on them, today and into the future. That shift in feeling supported, valid and worthy of investment is what will create some really powerful work in 2023.
Hitting our $10k target will enable all this good stuff to happen with a bit more ease. In the case of both artists, applying for CNZ arts grant investment has never really felt like an option. The process itself is a barrier, the competition for funds is aggressive, and as Nigel Borell states in his video, making art is so often a 3rd, 4th even 5th priority for working folx.
As a curator who is interested in the power and potential of sometimes the quietest voices, and a curator who has seen artists grow and flourish in abundant, art history shifting ways, I hope the next two weeks can show us how much faith our communities can generate for not only these two excellent artists, but also Moana Pacific curating as a mode of service and of decolonisation.
Vunilagi Vou has the privilege of participating in the 2022 BoostedxMoana initiative delivered in partnership between Boosted – Aotearoa’s dedicated arts project crowdfunding platform backed by The Arts Foundation – and Creative New Zealand.
In 2020, 118 donors helped us raise over $12k to support exhibition delivery at Vunilagi Vou 2.0 and The Alexander Cafe. With the massive disruptions that the pandemic caused in 2021, that investment was a life-line and kept the cogs turning in and out of lockdown lulls. Those funds supported exhibitions by Vea and Emily Mafile’o, Antonio Filipo, David Garcia, Peatree and Jeremiah Tauamiti.
This year, working now from a beautiful new premises in East Tāmaki, South Auckland, and after a short hiatus in between spaces, it’s all go for 2023!
Our BoostedxMoana project is simply called Two Solos. It is a project to support, nurture and hold space for the development of two solo exhibitions by two South Auckland-based artists – Genevieve Pini and Niu Lemalu.
Whilst Genevieve has been practicing for almost two decades, and Niu for one, neither artist has ever applied for Creative New Zealand funding; their practices have been entirely self-funded. Both have mainly shown in South Auckland, and both work full-time in non-creative sector jobs.
Making a solo exhibition takes commitment, resource, encouragement and confidence. It takes people, perhaps a curator or gallerist, to see untapped potential in an artist, and in an ideal situation, support them to manifest an idea, refining it, shaping it and presenting it to an audience.
This crowdfunding effort centres the process of supported artistic development, and the nuanced space that is held between Moana Pacific artists, and a Moana Pacific curator, in a Moana Pacific gallery. Both Genevieve and Niu will develop their ideas with support, talanoa and guidance with the community of practice that surrounds Vunilagi Vou.
The time and space this Two Solos project funding will enable will allow both artists to see their work within a wider creative ecology. Their solo shows will be significant markers in their broader creative practices, that have the potential to move in new and exciting directions when supported in ways that are culturally, politically and socially informed.
We are looking to raise NZ$10,000 to support the development, material costs, gallery overheads and artist fees to produce these two solo exhibitions in 2023 and Creative New Zealand is committed to match funding up to $3,000.
Without operational funding in 2023, Vunilagi Vou’s curatorial programme will be made up of individually funded projects like this Two Solos project. There is a certain freedom to this in that the gallery can shapeshift to meet different needs. If funds are secured to support Niu and Genevieve’s solo shows, Vunilagi Vou could transform short-term into a working studio to meet the needs of much-needed space required to make and experiment, plan and think.
I’ve shared with Genevieve and Niu that this Two Solos project will be the fourth crowdfunding campaign I’ve led and the feeling of being backed by your community is like nothing else. Crowdfunding is hard work, and can be challenging for many reasons; you have to believe that your work is worth investment, and that’s why I’m here, holding space for these two artists, who have never seen applying for arts funding as an option. They are 100% worth the investment and I’ve seen that time and time again in the work they have produced for shows I’ve made over the years.
I am so excited to see them both keen and committed to making solo exhibitions in 2023. Your investment will have a powerful and transformative impact on two excellent artists with untapped potential – please do consider donating!
Our Two Solos crowdfunding campaign runs until Thursday 17 November 2022 – please help us spread the word, amplify the quiet excellence of these two artists and help Vunilagi Vou hold space for two awesome new shows in 2023!
On the first Friday of September, we gently launched a new event series called VV First Fridays, a very relaxed approach to bringing together folx interested in Moana Pacific art and ideas here in South Auckland.
Vunilagi Vou’s new site in East Tāmaki is situated a stone’s throw from Ōtara and Dr Sione Faletau is one of three Ōtara-based artists currently showing in our VVxET launch exhibition. Having completed his postgraduate studies at Elam School of Fine Arts, Sione’s work has carved an impressive pathway into the Auckland art world. In 2021, he was commissioned to produce a new work for The Lightship, a new contemporary art site launched by the Ports of Auckland consisting of a 110m-long, 13m-high light wall that wraps around the western façade of the port’s car handling building. His work was entitled, Kupesi Sisi Huelo ‘oe Taulanga Waitematā moe Funga Tāmaki Makaurau – The Garland of patterned Lights of the Watematā Harbour and Auckland City.
This VV First Fridays event sat within what is widely celebrated as Tongan Language Week in part to acknowledge Sione’s work as a Tongan creative practitioner who consistently uses Lea faka-Tonga / Tongan language in the naming of his work. Reflecting on interviews and media coverage about his practice, it is significant to see Tongan language and concepts being discussed in places and spaces where it is rarely seen.
From Sione’s research into Tongan masculinity, his upbringing and experiences going to Tangaroa College and Ōtāhuhu College, the pathways and pillars of knowledge within academic and cultural spaces, Vunilagi Vou’s first ‘First Fridays’ talanoa delved into the murky waters of colonial body politics, where domestic violence sits within the traditional measures of masculinity and the time, space and ephemerality of making video art.
Vunilagi Vou sits in a creative ecology here in South Auckland that weaves countless lives, arts practice and experience together. At this first VV First Fridays talanoa, we realised that fellow Ōtara-based artist, Leilani Kake, was working at Ōtāhuhu College when Sione was there and coordinated a pretty spectacular school trip that he went on in 2008 to the Festival of Pacific Arts in Pago Pago, American Sāmoa. Clinton Hewett was a student at Manukau Institute of Technology in 2013 when I was teaching a paper called Pacific Art Histories: An Eccentric View (and was an awesome student!) and went on to be the Gallery Coordinator of Fresh Gallery Ōtara. Benjamin Work had his first exhibition proper at Fresh Gallery Ōtara in 2012 in my outgoing show there, WWJD: What Would Jim Do? and ten years on, has just opened a significant solo show at Bergman Gallery in central Auckland entitled, To’a Motu, the title of his first work shown at Fresh Gallery Ōtara.
Vinaka vakalevu to our neighbouring business, Koleta Pacific Boutique, whose owner-operator, Davina, kindly came by to share some tips on mixing kava and with a lot of laughter, helped christen Vunilagi Vou East Tāmaki with our first bowl!
Our VV First Fridays programme is an evolving currently unfunded kaupapa; there are some exciting ideas in the pipeline including film screenings, skill-sharing exchanges and talks inspired by the environmental context of the Ōtara waterways and wetlands. In this new time-space of East Tāmaki, it’s great to feel grounded again in the energy of the greater Ōtara area, and the creative ecology, community and networks, that Vunilagi Vou was born from and continues to serve.
This month Vunilagi Vou kicks off a new event programme at the new East Tāmaki site called VV First Fridays!
On the first Friday of every month, Vunilagi Vou will host an artist talk, thematic talanoa, film screening or workshop centring Moana Pacific art and ideas. Friday nights on Bishop Lenihan Place are abuzz with eateries and bubble tea rooms – a perfect chaser after what promises to be inspiring, sometimes challenging and always thought-provoking talanoa!
This Friday 9 September is the first of the event series acknowledging Tongan Language Week (4-10 September) with local Ōtara-based interdisciplinary artist and researcher, Dr Sione Faletau.
Come and learn about how Sione’s research in Tongan values and the semiotics of sound and design shapes and informs his impressive interdisciplinary practice.
🌺 Doors open at 6pm, Friday 9 September 2022 🌺 #VVFirstFridays is proudly an alcohol-free kaupapa – kava, tea and coffee available 🌺 Koha is welcome! #VVFirstFridays is currently unfunded 🌺 Parking is available outside the main gate of 15 Bishop Lenihan Place 🌺 Vunilagi Vou is located at Suite 14, 15 Bishop Lenihan Place, East Tāmaki, South Auckland
Artwork credit: “Ongo Ongo” (still), 2022, digital video by Dr Sione Faletau
On Saturday 27 August2022, Vunilagi Vou’s newest site – VVxET – opens in East Tāmaki, South Auckland!
Instead of a traditional night time opening, VVxET will launch with an Open Day inviting the public to check out the new site, including the gorgeous stockroom and retail area, exhibition space and north-facing verandah!
Tucked away at the back of the Botany South Business Estate at 15 Bishop Lenihan Place, East Tāmaki, the new Vunilagi Vou premises has a pretty fascinating whakapapa of art dealing and appreciation. Built in 2004, the owner of the building established the ground floor as a small art dealership called I Like Gallery. Run on an appointment-only basis, gallerist Richard Jeffery ONZM, designed a perfectly formed exhibition space with high spec lighting and clean sight lines. It was immediately obvious how good parties would have been in this space!
Of all the commercial leases in all of Manukau / South Auckland, it seems somewhat divinely guided that Vunilagi Vou has ended up here, in a ready-made gallery, on the edge of the Ōtara Stream just 3 kilometres away from Fresh Gallery Ōtara, where it all began 16 years ago!
To launch the new exhibition space and ease back into exhibition-making after a 12 month hiatus, a collection of work has been assembled to represent Vunilagi Vou’s Moana Pacific arts community and two decades of professional practice and loving investment into Manukau / South Auckland art history.
The exhibition features recent and archival works by Nigel Borell, Ercan Cairns, Chris van Doren, Dr Sione Faletau, Antonio Filipo, Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake and Niutuiatua Lemalu.
The Vunilagi Vou stockroom is also full with works by Cypris Afakasi, David Garcia, Julia Mage’au Gray, Marcus Hipa, Rebecca Ann Hobbs & Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho, Sara Moana, Siliga David Setoga, Pati Solomona Tyrell, Manuha’apai Vaeatangitau and more!
The children’s book, The Legend of Tanovo and Tautaumolauby Kaliopate Tavola and Ema Tavola, in both English and Fijian, is now back in stock, alongside an eclectic collection of accessories, publications, patches and posters!
After this weekend’s Open Day, VVxET will be open Thursday to Saturday from 10am – 2pm, and by appointment.
VVxET Open Day is open to the public this Saturday 27 August from 10am until 6pm – all welcome!
Vunilagi Vou’s beautiful fourth site was almost ready to open to the public on Wednesday 17 August 2022 from 10am until 6pm but then I caught Covid!
Having opened three sites since 2019 with boozy evening events, this new site calls in a new era, so appropriately, Saturday 27 August offers the lunar energies of a New Moon!
The open day now taking place on Saturday 27 August 2022 is an open invite to the public to check out VVxET between 10am – 6pm. For anyone still around at 6pm, Bishop Lenihan Place in East Tāmaki is abuzz on Saturday nights; multiple Korean barbecue spots, Bubble tea houses (Hulucat and Wucha), Love Asia, 100 Spicy, Mui Japanese Restaurant all offer excellent options for cheap eats on a weekend in the Southside!
More details to come on an opening exhibition that eases Vunilagi Vou back into exhibition-making mode after a year out of the game, and more details on finding this unassuming little secret spot in semi-industrial East Tāmaki, South Auckland heartland!
What: Open Day for VVxET – Vunilagi Vou’s new East Tāmaki site
Where: Unit 14, Botany South Business Estate, 15 Bishop Lenihan Place, East Tāmaki, South Auckland
On 17 August 2021, Vunilagi Vou in partnership with Celebrate Aotearoa (led by Tongan designer, Czarina Wilson) were operating in partnership out of The Alexander Cafe in Ōtara, South Auckland. Having built on several opportunities to collaborate, the partnership was pretty dreamy: Vunilagi Vou was making shows in the cafe space, Celebrate Aotearoa had built an awe-inspiring maximalist retail environment on the cafe’s mezzanine floor, and the Māori-Pacific owned cafe was an exciting hub for locals and professionals working in the area.
Recently, the outgoing Covid-19 minister, Chris Hipkins, noted that Auckland’s last lockdown in 2021, “may have gone on too long” – a sentiment that hit hard. That lockdown, which started on 17 August 2021, was a dealbreaker. Aucklanders were already fatigued, the pandemic was wearing resilience levels down; so many were suffering in different ways, and parents home-schooling and managing parental demands and expected to work with office-level productivity, were put under tremendous strain.
For Vunilagi Vou, the lockdown meant cancelling events with no known timeframe for re-scheduling, returning grant money and watching the delicate momentum of our third site weaken every day. Whilst government subsidies allowed many small businesses to keep afloat during lockdown, it was the mental and spiritual hit that was perhaps the most debilitating for Vunilagi Vou.
In late 2021, the decision was made to pack down operations at The Alexander Cafe and work with the ebbs and flows of the Covid climate by withdrawing entirely from producing exhibitions and events. Focus was put instead on consultancy work, writing projects and pop-ups, whilst reflecting heavily on what was even possible for small scale creative enterprises in the age of Covid.
Celebrate Aotearoa continued to operate at The Alexander Cafe, but was strategising next steps to keep building on the strong customer base and longer term agenda to find space for not only retail but for making and producing.
Whilst much of Vunilagi Vou’s gallery-based assets had been stored, redistributed and sold, a TradeMe search reminder for commercial leases in the Manukau City and Ōtāhuhu areas kept the idea of a new space quietly alive.
Earlier this year, working in partnership with long-time friend and colleague, Kiri Nathan, Czarina Wilson started to plant seeds to shift Celebrate Aotearoa operations from South Auckland back to the Eastside – Glen Innes, where both Kiri and Czarina grew up and have deep roots.
After operating from a converted shipping container at The Ōtara Kai Village (2020) and the mezzanine floor in a refurbished factory at The Alexander Cafe (2021-2022), this month Celebrate Aotearoa is re-opening in an amazing new retail space smack bang in the middle of Glen Innes at 3/260 Apirana Avenue, across the road from the Glen Innes train station!
After securing Creative New Zealand investment from the Pacific Creative Enterprise initiative, a new pathway emerged for Vunilagi Vou. A property became available that could not have been more perfect: built in 2004, the ground floor commercial space had only ever functioned as a small dealer gallery, fitted out with high spec lighting and a hanging system. Amazingly, the north-facing property is located in East Tāmaki, a stone’s throw from Ōtara, and positioned on the edge of environmentally protected wetlands surrounding the Ōtara Stream.
VVxET, Vunilagi Vou’s fourth iteration, is going to re-open symbolically, alongside Celebrate Aotearoa on Wednesday 17 August, marking one year since the start of Auckland’s longest lockdown in 2021. This important milestone also represents the strength of conviction, mental, spiritual and physical labour that both these operations have honed being led by independent, Moana Pacific creatives striving to hold space and create economic growth for the communities we are part of.
It has taken a year of heavy energies, soul searching, a few breaking points, some big sacrifices and a few attempted exit strategies (Wellington, Waiheke, the Far North…), and amazingly not catching Covid, but Celebrate Aotearoa and Vunilagi Vou are on the rebound.
We are both re-opening for business on Wednesday 17 August in our new respective locations:
2021 has been perhaps the most challenging year of my professional career, but pandemic pivots, shapeshifting and cold hard lockdown reality checks sat alongside some pretty amazing and uplifting moments. In the spirit of the season, here are some of 2021’s most wonderful highlights:
This year, FATFEB was produced under the creative leadership of South Auckland designer, Amy Lautogo, who developed an ambitious programme that added to and honoured the inaugural programme developed in 2020 in partnership with Ōtāhuhu-based artist and designer, Lissy Cole.
>>> Check out last year’s Fat Babe Pool Party here.
The 2021 programme activated the Vunilagi Vou 2.0 space beautifully, fully utilising the fale for the Talanoa and life-drawing events, and what would have been a site-specific performance work by Ria Hiroki and Elyssia Wilson-Heti, were it not for a Covid-19 community outbreak situation and snap lockdown in Auckland in mid-February.
It was a privilege to produce the second manifestation of the FATFEB kaupapa; the 2021 programme attracted significant funding from Creative New Zealand’s Pacific Arts funding programme and engaged audiences and raised awareness all over Aotearoa. Whilst Vunilagi Vou won’t be producing a 2022 programme, it has always felt like a platform to amplify and make visible conversations about BBIPOC fat liberation and build community without a sense of ownership; since FATFEB 2020, it has been lovely to see fat babe pool parties happening in Pōneke and Ōtautahi. It’s also always a pleasure to see events like FATFEB play a small part in the exciting careers of young artists like Sara Moana and social media creator slash cultural commentator MahMah Timoteo.
two water shows
two water shows was Ngati Ōtara by Antonio Filipo and big islands deep oceans by David Garcia, twin solo exhibitions that ran concurrently at two sites in Ōtara and Papatoetoe from 29 March until 12 May 2021.
The concept of two water shows was a public/private approach to exhibition making in South Auckland, locating one exhibition in a community space, and one at Vunilagi Vou 2.0 in residential Papatoetoe. Thematically connected, each independent exhibition was made site specifically for their unique settings.
At The Alexander Café, Ngati Ōtara was the first solo exhibition by Ōtara-based artist, Antonio Filipo; his eight recent aerial photographs offered a birds eye view on Ngāti Ōtara Park, its waterways and surroundings, and a necessary shift in perspective of Ōtara and its natural beauty.
At Vunilagi Vou, big islands deep oceans was a suite of new works by Ōtautahi-based mapmaker, David Garcia, depicting the majestic Pacific ocean floor made up of submarine structures and habitats that evolve with the water and atmosphere over time.
two water shows was part of Vunilagi Vou’s 2021 exhibitions programme produced with support from our 2020 BoostedxMoana crowdfunding campaign and the generosity of 118 wonderful donors.
>>> Read a short interview with Antonio Filipo here >>> For artworks still available from these exhibitions, get in touch.
The Alexander Cafe, Ōtara
The Alexander Cafe was a great space to flex some new ideas in 2021. Finally a spot in Ōtara to get decent coffee and to present site-specific exhibitions in good light with local audiences. Whilst we moved out formally from the mezzanine floor space in November, fellow creative entrepreneur Czarina Wilson has stayed on with her beautiful boutique retail operation, Celebrate Aotearoa.
Portraiture in South Auckland
The last exhibition produced in 2021, and perhaps for the foreseeable future was Picture Me Rollin’ – Portraiture in the Southside at The Alexander Cafe. The new work by Genevieve Leitu Pini, Marcus Hipa and Niutuiatua Lemalu was so good and whilst the exhibition was cut short by another lockdown, I’m excited to see where these artists will show and go in the future.
Yoga & Meditation at Vunilagi Vou 2.0
One of the most rewarding parts of 2021 was the season of Yoga & Meditation classes at Vunilagi Vou 2.0 led by Gamo Farani Tomlin. Bringing together small and eclectic groups of locals, Gamo’s classes made a big impact for everyone who attended. For me, these classes were critical in managing the cyclonic energies of 2021 – so much gratitude for Gamo!
Whilst from the back-end of being an event and exhibition producer, the amount of Covid cancellations, rescheduling and pivoting 2021 required was exhausting and often disheartening, this year was also a great year to start selling online, grow a new community on Twitter, make artwork again during lockdowns, and publish Vunilagi Vou’s first title, VV:Dua.
In 2022, Vunilagi Vou won’t be producing an events and exhibitions programme for the first time, but some exciting projects currently underway will be coming to life, including:
>>> Producing new work for Volume: Bodies of Knowledge curated by Torika Bolatagici for Metro Arts, Brisbane and Bus Projects, Melbourne.
>>>VV: Southside Swan Song – A second publication about Vunilagi Vou’s growth, output and philosophy, produced with support from Creative New Zealand Pacific Arts programme.
>>> Supporting a small group of Moana Pacific artists on inspiring independent research and exhibition projects – good things take time and talanoa, love it!
And a relocation from South Auckland to Wellington! So open to what will come from this major cultural shake-up and recalibration of time and space!
To everyone who has bought artwork and merch and supported a year of stop and start programming, across two locations, online and offline – thank you, sincerely, vinaka vakalevu.
All the best for a restful and safe festive season!