“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.

support artists / support Vunilagi Vou

As Vunilagi Vou transitions to a new shape and form, every dollar that supports the costs of shifting the location of the Gallery from Ōtāhuhu to Papatoetoe in order to re-open in October, is highly appreciated! Whilst we will be downsizing the retail offerings in the new site, we still have artwork in the storeroom available for purchase.

Our December 2019 exhibition, Finding Emory: A Poster Show, invited eight local artists to develop a new work inspired by the iconic aesthetic of Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party. From the controversial trial of armed Police response units in South Auckland to the ongoing indoctrination of imposed body / faith politics, these seven artworks speak directly to shifts and changes that affected the lives of indigenous people in the South Pacific / Moana Oceania in 2019.

The artworks by Cypris Afakasi, Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake, Sean Kerrigan, Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho & Rebecca Ann Hobbs, Siliga David Setoga and Tokerau Wilson were produced as editions of 10, measuring 42×59.4cm (A2 size) and printed on DuraPrint, a robust plastic-coated paper. Posters are signed, unframed and priced at NZ$200 each + $15 postage and handling within New Zealand. 

“MY ANCESTORS BURNT CHURCHES – A STORY OF OPPRESSION & REBELLION” (2019) by Tokerau Wilson 

“Woman of Colour” (2019) by Leilani Kake

“Ministry of Culture?” (2019) by Sean Kerrigan

“All ears” (2019) by Huriana Kopeke Te Aho & Rebecca Ann Hobbs

“Mother Vaka” (2019) by Siliga David Setoga

“EYED-ENTITY” (2019) by Cypris Afakasi

“DEAD IN THE STREETS” (2019) by Tanu Gago


For more information on artworks and artists, please send us an enquiry here: