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!
Down Renton Road in Māngere, on Ihumātao whenua, pōhutakawa trees cling to the edges of the land that meets the sea. Half way between up and down, these weathered beings endure, roots exposed, horizontally resilient. Their gnarly reaching branches grow low to the ground, as if to confuse and cradle passers-by. Or me, at least.
The rugged beach down Renton Road has been a place of escape, solitude and reflection for almost 20 years. I’ve marvelled at these rule-breaking trees, sat in them and listened to kōtare, walked face-first into branches and become disoriented by their upside-down-sideways perspective-bending finesse.
During Auckland’s longest lockdown that started in mid-August 2021, I made regular trips down to Renton Road, daughter and dog in tow. These visits, our only outings, were and continue to be opportunities to recharge, and for the three of us in our bubble, time to look outwards and not at each other for a change.
I often take a heavy heart down Renton Road. The impetus to drive there, a 30 kilometre round trip, often comes from a point of mental messiness, reduced clarity. Whatever is happening with the tide, the wind, the other activities that often happen down Renton Road, or the state of the beach or carpark, just being there soothes the wairua. I used to watch planes taking off and landing at Auckland Airport from Renton Road beach and think the peace of this space for me was maybe the feeling of being close to the exit at all times.
On my last trip down Renton Road, I was trying to work out how to articulate where Vunilagi Vou is at. How to share more decisions made out of necessity and principles, stretching further, digging deeper to survive in a climate of chronic crisis. How would I be able to articulate resilience, and offer confidence, whilst watching a pre-pandemic business model crack and creak, bend and breach…
I sat in a pōhutakawa tree and listened to the kōtare. I was reminded that Vunilagi Vou was born on the walls of my parents’ downstairs room in 2018 when I initially left South Auckland to reverse migrate to my hometown of Suva, Fiji. I was on a high that year, producing talks, exhibitions and projects in Casablanca, London, Berlin and Melbourne. I ended up reverse reverse migrating back to South Auckland in 2019 determined that Southside was where Vunilagi Vou needed to be.
I do a lot of #ThrowbackThursday across social media channels to this period and Vunilagi Vou’s first nine months of operation, which included more inspiring opportunities in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kinshasa and Adelaide. It wasn’t until the middle of 2020 that the prospect of having no international travel within the scope of Vunilagi Vou, hit home, and in reality, I’ve been mourning this loss deeply ever since.
The pōhutakawa trees down Renton Road feel like a pretty good visual for where Vunilagi Vou is at right now. The roots have always been strong, even as the ground that initially facilitated her growth has been eroded. Vunilagi Vou has now been in operation for longer during the pandemic than before it. The pandemic projects and pivots, collaborations and commissions, the shapeshifting… everything has added to Vunilagi Vou’s growth, but it’s just growing… a bit weird now.
Apparently it takes 90 days to break a habit. By this time, its daily control over our lives has diminished or disappeared, or become manageable. We adapt and recalibrate with new habits whilst our relationship with the old habit is repeatedly analysed and deconstructed, opening up the potential for quiet existential dread, on a daily basis. I quit smoking and drinking alcohol 97 days ago.
Next week it’ll be 90 days since Vunilagi Vou operated full-time onsite at The Alexander Cafe in Ōtara. Like last year’s long lockdown, this period has been time for transformation and re-shaping born from frustration, endless domestic labour and deep reflection on the precarious sustainability, ethics and financial insecurity inherent within Aotearoa’s creative and cultural sector.
It feels like no two days of Vunilagi Vou’s existence since late 2018 have been the same. Massive upheavals, tremendous highs and lows, and the constant, non-stop hustle required to craft an independent creative work plan fuelled on mad ideas and confidence, calculated hype, and the trade and exchange of pictures and stories.
It has taken 90 days, most of this time with no childcare and no family support, to think about where Vunilagi Vou is today, and to come face-to-face with a niggling disappointment, a sadness, and commit again to re-thinking and re-strategising where things can go from here.
In the interest of survival:
Vunilagi Vou will no longer be in the business of producing events.
Vunilagi Vou is moving out of the custom-designed mezzanine office space at The Alexander Cafe as of this month. Celebrate Aotearoa will remain in the space and is super excited to open up to customers as soon as The Alexander Cafe is able to open for in-house service.
Vunilagi Vou 2.0 no longer has the capacity to offer Yoga & Meditation class due to heavy construction and disruption on the housing development site next door.
Commissioned writing, consultancy and the VV Online Shop will be the key focus areas until further notice.
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:Duawas 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.
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.
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
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 Southsideis 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
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!
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: email@example.com