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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!

“Flying a drone is like being a bird” ~ Antonio Filipo on his first solo // #twowatershows

Ōtara-based artist, Antonio Filipo is currently showing as part of two water shows, Vunilagi Vou’s 2021 Autumn season. His first solo exhibition, Ngāti Ōtara is currently showing at The Alexander Cafe, a new start-up enterprise in a converted warehouse in Ōtara, South Auckland. The exhibition is a love letter to Ōtara, where the artist was born and raised, a place he is proud to call home. I asked Antonio some questions about his work…

What do you enjoy about these photographs?

These photographs are images of home and my surroundings. I have lived in Ōtara, South Auckland all my life and Ngāti Ōtara park is a beautiful place. It’s a place where I like to walk and run, and to be out in nature. There are times when I’m out in the park, and I wonder what the landscape must have looked like 30, 60 or even 100 years ago. These photographs show a sense of connection to the land and water that surrounds me and I enjoy and respect that connection.

What is your relationship to the land and waterways depicted in this body of work?

Behind my family home, we have a small channel of water. My siblings, who are much older than I am, played in this waterway with the other kids who lived on our street during the 70s. I played in that waterway as well, feeding the eels bread, climbing trees and just doing what little boys do.

These are just a few memories I have growing up about the land my family house is built on, and the waterway in our backyard. This waterway is one of many channels that run behind houses in Ōtara; they all connect to a larger body of water, and run into the Ōtara Lake. The lake sits next to the Ōtāhuhu power station, and flows into the Tāmaki River or Tāmaki Estuary. So, I like to think that I’m part of, and connected to the waters and the land that have been part of my life all these years.

The photographs show how a small waterway behind my house connects to me, and all of us in Ōtara, through the water, land and sky. I want to portray how beautiful Ōtara really is and share that perspective with our community.

What do you enjoy about the perspective of drone photography?

In 2017, a good mate of mine purchased a drone and would go on and on about how much fun he was having shooting aerial shots and clips from above. Eventually, I caved and purchased a drone too. My mate wasn’t wrong. This became a new hobby and almost everyday I would be out at the park or taking it on my travels shooting aerial shots and just trying to be a better pilot.

Flying a drone is like being a bird. It’s the bird’s eye perspective from the sky that I enjoy the most. The view of the waters and landscape is amazing and I’ve grown such a strong appreciation of what surrounds me, and for living in Ōtara. There are times I really don’t believe Ōtara looks like this when I’m flying across our skies. Especially during sunset – it is really beautiful.

The Waterway (2020)
About Antonio Filipo…

Of Tokelau and Portuguese descent, New Zealand-born artist Antonio Filipo (b.1980) resides today where he was born and raised, in Ōtara, South Auckland. Taught by renowned Moana Oceania educators Mr Palalagitoa Manetoa and the late Mr Ian George in his senior years at Hillary College, Antonio was encouraged to further his arts education and went on to study Graphic Design at Manukau School of Visual Arts, graduating in 2003.

Antonio started making drone photography in 2017 and quickly grew a deep appreciation for the Ōtara landscape from the sky. Whilst Ngāti Ōtara Park was familiar terrain on foot, the park’s waterways, bridges and surrounding industry and neighbourhoods uncover how nature and humans quietly co-exist in the hood.

Instagram @ubucanfly

Ngāti Ōtara is on until 12 May 2021 at The Alexander Cafe, 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara, South Auckland. Opening hours: Monday – Friday, 7am-3pm, Saturday, 8am-2pm.

two water shows is part of Vunilagi Vou’s 2021 exhibitions programme produced with support from our 2020 BoostedxMoana crowdfunding campaign and the generosity of 118 wonderful donors – vinaka vakalevu!

Photo credit (above): Instagram user, @kaiwith_mata


Sales & Exhibition Enquiries

All work in Ngāti Ōtara is for sale; send us a message to enquire.

Water + focus

Two new exhibitions are opening next week – one at Vunilagi Vou, and one at The Alexander Cafe in Otara. Located less than three kilometres apart, the two sites are hosting twin solo exhibitions by local artist Antonio Filipo and Christchurch-based mapmaker, David Garcia.

Coined as two water shows, the joint solos both depict personal relationships with water. David Garcia’s stunning maps show us the world below the Pacific Ocean, a landscape of mountains and ravines, gullies and deep trenches. Their consciously decolonising approach to mapmaking represents a challenge to the power inherent in creating man-made boundaries and territories, and the role of mapping within the forces of imperialism.

Ōtara-based artist Antonio Filipo is a graduate of Manukau School of Visual Arts and has remained connected to its site where his family home backs on to Ngāti Ōtara Park, the largest public park in Ōtara. Antonio started making aerial photography in and around Ngāti Ōtara Park in 2017 and grew a fast appreciation for the beauty of the landscape from a bird eye view, tracking the waterways from the creek behind his home to the Ōtara Lake and on to the Tāmaki Estuary.

From David Garcia’s work in big islands deep oceans and Antonio Filipo’s exhibition, Ngāti Ōtara, we are offered an opportunity to adjust our perspectives from the seafloor to the skies above and consider our lives as what lies between them, wholly dependent and surrounded by water.

Both exhibitions run from 29 March – 12 May 2021 and have been produced with support from Vunilagi Vou’s 2020 BoostedxMoana crowdfunding campaign – much gratitude to our 118 wonderful donors who have made these exhibitions possible.

Viewing big islands deep oceans by David Garcia at Vunilagi Vou is via appointment only, and Ngāti Ōtara by Antonio Filipo is viewable during The Alexander Cafe’s business hours: Monday – Friday, 7am-3pm and Saturdays, 8am-2pm. The cafe is located at 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara.

Both exhibitions will open with a Private View / Opening Reception at Vunilagi Vou on Monday 29 March at 6pm.

Next week, we also launch a new programme of Yoga & Meditation classes with South Auckland-based Sāmoan yoga and meditation teacher, Gamo Farani Tomlin. Classes have been programmed to encourage participation from local Māori and Pacific communities, particularly mums, stressed out artists and freelancers, and anyone who wants to take small steps towards being better, sharper, more flexible and connected.

This new programme starts on Wednesday 31 March with classes delivered on a weekly basis at:

  • 5.30pm on Mondays
  • 10.30am on Wednesdays

With a limited class size, booking is essential via texting Gamo on 021 1001448. Participants need to bring their own yoga or exercise mat, towel and water bottle and each class costs just $5.

The first three months of 2021 have been a great quarter for art sales – grateful to our buyers whose purchases have actively invested into the practices of Māori and Pacific artists. So much of the work sold at Vunilagi Vou goes into South Auckland-based collections and Māori and Pacific homes, which means the value of this work keeps circulating and benefiting our lives and communities.

Our VV Online Shop has been busy too – more products are added all the time and it’s great to see new appreciation for products we held and loved selling at our Ōtāhuhu site.

As always, Instagram and Twitter are the bulletin board for Vunilagi Vou activity – check out the ebbs and flows of Vunilagi Vou through artists, connections and archives of Moana Oceania art history in Manukau City / South Auckland.

vinaka vakalevu