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!
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:
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.
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.
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!
Aroha mai – updates have been sluggish this past month because our programme has been wild!
Vunilagi Vou hosted a beautiful mini survey show of Auckland-based collective, FAFSWAG in October. The exhibition featured a series of video works alongside artist proofs and limited edition digital prints made by members past and present. With many of FAFSWAG’s artists connected to and resident in the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu area, it was great to reflect on the important contribution FAFSWAG has made to the New Zealand art world (and beyond) and celebrate their South Auckland roots.
FAFSWAG 6 opened on October 1, in the middle of the collective’s production, Reclamationwhich went on to deliver an impressive 13-show season at Auckland’s Basement Theatre.
FAFSWAG 6 was produced with support from Māngere Ōtāhuhu Arts, an initiative to manage investment in the creative ecology of the area by Māngere Ōtāhuhu Local Board of Auckland Council.
Māngere Ōtāhuhu Arts funding has also enabled the creation of the Vunilagi Vou Studio, a workshop and gathering space located in the adjacent shop from the Gallery. Vunilagi Vou Studio is programmed to host workshops from October 2019 to March 2020. The first official gathering in the space was delivered in mid-October: Te Reo Toi Toko is a monthly opportunity for te reo Māori speakers and learners to use exhibitions to start conversations and broaden vocabulary. The workshop series was initiated by local artist, Leilani Kake, who has been studying te reo Māori full-time this year and discovered a need for language learners to practice and build supportive relationships with other language speakers and learners in the local community.
October also saw a new event series launched: Vunilagi Vou Arcade Talks. Our first event was held on October 7 with visiting London-based, Fijian-New Zealand visual artist, Luke Willis Thompson.
The event was an opportunity to hear Luke Willis Thompson discuss some of the issues that have surrounded his art practice recently, particular in light of his work nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize (2018). For those in attendance, Luke offered a rare first-hand account of his contexts and drivers, his connections and challenges.
For the night of the first Vunilagi Vou Arcade Talk, we screened Luke’s work in the window of our neighbouring business, Pasifika Barbers, a Fiji-owned business that has been in Ōtāhuhu for 25 years. The promotional graphics for this event were created by artist, Nicole Lim.
Vunilagi Vou Director-Curator, Ema Tavola delivered two international talks in October; first at the 2019 Para Site International Conference in Hong Kong, and second as part of the Tarnanthi Festival in Adelaide, South Australia, hosted by ACE Open and Guildhouse. The talks took place on two consecutive weekends, on two continents, and involved seven flights in 14 days! Read a great overview of the Para Site Conference here.
Ema was also invited to speak on a panel discussion at Auckland Art Gallery for Art After Hours inspired by the exhibition, “Guerilla Girls Re-inventing the ‘F’ Word – Feminism!” and later had the opportunity to introduce visiting Guerilla Girl, ‘Frida Kahlo’ to Vunilagi Vou, Ōtāhuhu and FAFSWAG. Plans and ideas for future collaborations were excitedly spoken to life!
On the last weekend of October, we hosted the final Southside Talanoa Series event at Ōtāhuhu’s iconic Star Hotel. The Southside Quiz Night centralised South Auckland and Pacific knowledge systems and flipped the script on traditional New Zealand quiz nights! The Southside Talanoa Series was supported by Auckland Council as part of the Pacific Arts programme.
Podcasts of the Southside Talanoa Series events were produced by Matthew Salapu (Anonymouz) and can be found here.
To close the FAFSWAG 6 exhibition, we hosted our first official Crit Club in the Vunilagi Vou Studio. Crit Club was developed to create space for local artists to engage in critical feedback about their work, to hone their practices and speak about their thinking.
In October’s Crit Club, Leilani Kake presented her latest work, Toka Te Reo, opening the floor for discussion. Whilst the intention was to move over to the Gallery to discuss the FAFSWAG 6 exhibition, the MMT (Mate Ma’a Tonga, the national rugby league team of Tonga) celebrations were so joyous and LOUD, we were drowned out! Crit Club is such a brave space; many thanks to those who came out to participate.
November is another month full of workshops at Vunilagi Vou – the best way to keep in up to date on exhibitions, events and talks is via Facebook and Instagram, but for those who live that Social Media Free life, we promise we’ll get our e-mail newsletter started soon!
We also adjusted our Gallery opening hours in October and are now open:
We’re grateful for all the support that has helped us get through a mega month of programming; to family, friends, gallery-goers, social media networks and funders – vinaka vakalevu – thank you so much!
Vunilagi Vou event photography is by Andre Kake-Joseph.
We held the first of the Southside Talanoa Series events last month in Ōtāhuhu, a series of events Vunilagi Vou is producing with support from Auckland Council as part of the Pacific Arts Programme.
The panellists were facilitated by Yolande Ah Chong in a discussion around the complexities of working in the ‘diversity space’, sharing insights from both within and outside of the arts and cultural industries.
Kolokesa Uafā Māhina-Tuai
The open forum enabled audiences to pose questions, make commentary and further dissect the idea of diversity from functional, philosophical and realistic angles. The full talanoa has been recorded by noted South Auckland-based sound artist and producer, Faiumu Matthew Salapu aka Anonymouz; the podcast will be available in the coming weeks.
The panel sat on mats and ngatu kindly lent from local artists Leilani Kake, Vea Mafile’o and Czarina Wilson, beneath a crocheted artwork produced for the Crochet You Stay project by Lissy Cole in collaboration with Leilani Kake with funding from the Creative New Zealand Suffrage 125 fund.
The event was a success and we are hugely grateful to this excellent panel. We were particularly excited to have Guled Mire in this space; he added tremendous value and helped us broker new territory for Pacific arts discourse in Aotearoa. Vinaka vakalevu!
The Southside Talanoa Series rolls out another event this month, For My Father’s Kingdom: For The Community, a free public screening of the new documentary film, For My Father’s Kingdom directed by Papatoetoe-based filmmakers, Vea Mafile’o and Jeremiah Tauamiti, followed by a panel discussion with Siniva Vaitohi (SAY Money Transfer) and Sarah McRobie (counselling specialist) in conversation with Vea Mafile’o.
This event is family friendly and open to the public; doors open at 3.30pm on Saturday 21 September at the Ōtāhuhu Leopards Rugby League Clubrooms in Bert Henham Park, 645 Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu.
For more information about the Southside Talanoa Series, get in touch here:
We’re excited to be to launching a new event programme, the Southside Talanoa Series, produced with support from Auckland Council as part of the Pacific Arts programme.
The events have been designed to engage local communities, whilst bringing in wider creative and cultural industries audiences to South Auckland spaces to broaden understanding of key issues that affect Pacific visual culture.
The series consists of three events:
Dissecting Diversity – a panel discussion featuring five perspectives on working in and around the diversity space, featuring Nigel Borell, Kolokesa Uafā Māhina-Tuai and Barbara Makuati-Afitu (Lagimaama Consultancy), Guled Mire and Seuta’afili Dr Patrick Thomsen, 4-6pm, Saturday 24 August at Ōtāhuhu Youth Space, 12-16 High Street, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland
For My Father’s Kingdom: For The Community– a film screening of For My Father’s Kingdom (Dir. Vea Mafile’o and Jeremiah Tauamiti, Malosi Pictures) and panel discussion with Vea Mafile’o, Sarah McRobie and Siniva Vaitohi (SAY Money Transfer), 4-8pm, Saturday 21 September at Ōtāhuhu Rovers Rugby League Clubrooms, 645 Mount Wellington Highway, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland
Southside Quiz Night – a quiz night centralising Pacific and South Auckland urban knowledge sets with Quiz Master Yolande Ah Chong, 4-7pm, Saturday 26 October at Star Hotel, 392 Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland
The Southside Talanoa Series events are free and open to the public. The first two events are family friendly and have ample free car parking. The third event venue is R18 and car parking is available across the road on the corner of Atkinson Avenue and High Street.
The series is a partnership with South Auckland-based sound artist and producer, Faiumu Matthew Salapu aka Anonymouz, who is producing a podcast / sound record of each event, which will be available here. Event speakers are also sharing a list of further reading and inspiring content, which will be available on the Southside Talanoa Series website.
Our event branding has been carefully hand-drawn by Auckland-based illustrator / graphic designer, Nicole Lim.
After six weeks of business, we have opened our second exhibition, Putiputiand celebrated the successes of our inaugural exhibition, WWJD:2. Congratulations to Julia Mage’au Gray, Vea Mafile’o, Sinia Malua and Daniel Weetman, whose work was purchased and has gone to South Auckland-based private and public collections!
We are grateful for the coverage that Vunilagi Vou has attracted in the mainstream and Pacific media networks, check out some reviews, stories and interviews out here:
In our first six weeks, Ema hosted a number of floor talks for secondary and tertiary students, discussing the works in the exhibition and the wider kaupapa of the space. Students from Ambury Park Centre in Māngere were transfixed listening to local artist, Melissa Cole discussing her collaborative work, Mind That Māori made with her husband, Rudi Robinson.
Students from Ambury Park Centre, South Auckland, June 2019
Our Vunilagi Vou patches have been out and about! Pacific artists on the road have shared photos from Hollywood to Guangzhou – thank you Vea Mafile’o and Jeremiah Tauamiti (Malosi Pictures), Czarina Wilson and Team FAFSWAG for taking a little piece of Vunilagi Vou on tour with you! New patches are now on sale along with small prints of Ema Tavola’s Legends series, the first work of which is dedicated to Sāmoan artist, Tanu Gago.
The gallery has been attracting a steady stream of visitors from all walks of life; we are grateful for the patronage and the support, and thankful for the excellent donations of functional things like plinths, and offers of installation skills – much appreciated! Koha and financial donations are also wonderful; we are not a publicly funded gallery so donations help us to deliver excellent exhibitions, exhibiting opportunities and creative inspiration across our broad and diverse audience base.
Photo by Raymond Sagapolutele
Thank you to the excellent team who have supported Ema in keeping the doors open as much as possible – to Melissa, Czarina and Leilani – your support is so very much appreciated. In June, Ema spoke at the Singapore Art Book Fair upon invitation from NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore on a panel on critical writing alongside H.G Masters (Deputy Editor and Deputy Publisher, ArtAsiaPacific) and Carlos Quijon Jr (Writer, Curator), expertly facilitated by Qinyi Lim, Curator, National Gallery Singapore. It was a privilege to speak a Pacific perspective into this space, and represent Vunilagi Vou internationally for the first time. The Singapore Art Book Fair itself was also hugely inspiring and watch this space for some exciting publishing projects in the pipeline!
The Vunilagi Vou Engine Room has been a busy too, hosting meetings and planning sessions, securing shows, sponsors and support, strategically building a robust programme of exhibitions, events and activations that almost entirely fill our first year of programming. This month, we trialled Vunilagi Vou Crit Club, a monthly gathering for creatives to generate critique of their work and projects in a culturally safe and supportive environment – Crit Club will become a regular feature of Vunilagi Vou’s programme from next month onwards!
Our next exhibition Fofonga ‘oe kau fakafoki – The faces of those who have returned is the first solo show of Auckland-based photographer, Todd Henry. This beautiful show opens on Tuesday 6 August from 6-8pm – all welcome!