Muscle Memory, an art history of South Auckland

Muscle Memory – the last exhibition in Vunilagi Vou’s season of solos – opened last week with a beautiful gathering of friends, family and supporters of Genevieve Pini’s practice.

Muscle Memory features new work alongside archival pieces dating back to 2002. In an installation combining two eras of her practice, Pini presents her 2002 textile works made from cloth used to wipe the blood and ink from her father’s tatau with a 29 meter long red ribbon lei (garland) that she started making at the beginning of 2023. The installation configures the works on three mannequins – one male, one female and one clear form in between them. The opportunity to combine older and newer work reflects Pini’s ongoing enquiry into the experience and responsibilities of wearing her customary marks (tattoo) and the bonds across genealogy that never fade.

In a newer suite of works, Pini has brought a fascination in superhero capes to life. Interested in the idea of being from South Auckland as a super power, her three concept capes reference the exuberant displays of island origins and flag pride, school as a source of connection, belonging and community, and a darkness that is perhaps an inextricable part of South Auckland’s super power.

Starting in 2001, Manukau City Council (amalgamated into Auckland Council in 2010) produced a much loved design competition and runway show called Cult Couture. The homegrown annual event generated a community and culture amongst local artists where concepts like Pini’s capes were frequently presented, building a picture over the years of quintessential South Auckland / Manukau style and aesthetic. Pini herself entered numerous times, placed and won in 2007; she later styled some of her entries into an editorial for SOUTH magazine in 2012.

Muscle Memory is Pini’s first solo exhibition, and considers a practice that has quietly spanned two decades, from an era that included four years at Manukau School of Visual Arts and the experience of being tattooed with her customary marks, to the Cult Couture era, and her more recent practice of figurative self portraiture. Throughout her work, Pini’s interest in print and meditative processes endures.

Learn more about the artist and her South Auckland super powers this Friday for an Artist Talanoa – doors open at 6pm, all welcome!

Muscle Memory is Vunilagi Vou’s last programmed exhibition. Vunilagi Vou – the gallery – has seen 19 exhibitions produced and presented since June 2019. It has been fun! And challenging! And it’s time for a rest.

From 2024, Vunilagi Vou – the gallery – will operate as a studio for creative projects and occasional gatherings. The stockroom and retail space will remain open as a unique repository of small and large works, limited edition prints and a bespoke retail range, and Vunilagi Vou’s consultancy work, writing and publishing will absorb new energy and focus.

Muscle Memory is open until Saturday 10 December, outside of opening hours, appointments can be made any time by getting in touch via email, or here.

vinaka vakalevu

VV First Fridays: On courage

In a gentle start to the year, Vunilagi Vou’s first VV First Fridays event is on Friday 3 February and tackles the topic of courage.

The VV First Fridays event series was supported in 2022 by Creative New Zealand as a means to build community amongst Moana Pacific artists and the wider creative ecology here in South Auckland. The series of 10 events take place on the first Friday of the month from February to November, a low-key creative social club to get inspired, motivated and thoughtful at the start of each month.

In February, Vunilagi Vou invites anyone interested to come and listen to two inspiring Fijian creative thinkers talking story about their experiences of courage; when it’s needed, how to harness it and where it comes from.

Mereia Carling and Gina Cole have both had careers that have moved between creative pursuits and high-level professional roles in the fields of regional development and law. Courage is something they’ve both discussed, encouraged and inspired in those they’ve worked with and served, but like everyone, it has also been something they’ve had to understand and harness in their personal lives.

This conversation about courage is less a TED-talk and more a story sharing space; how does a Fijian lawyer become a Taekwondo practising sci-fi writer dreaming of worlds of Pasifikafuturism? How does a graduate of a fashion and textiles design training in Bristol, England end up working in child rights across the Pacific, and painting portraits of ancestors in Wellington?

Sometimes, being around a conversation about courage is enough to shape, inspire and mobilise courageous acts.

Vunilagi Vou is proud to welcome guests for the first time in 2023 to meet two inspiring and courageous women, break bread, kick back and enjoy a hazy summer evening at VVxET in East Tāmaki on Friday 3 February – doors open at 6pm, all welcome!

  • Vunilagi Vou is located at Suite 14, 15 Bishop Lenihan Place, East Tāmaki, South Auckland – more details here.
  • Public parking is available outside the main gate; entrance to the compound is via pedestrian gates.
  • Refreshments provided.
  • The venue is wheelchair accessible, please get in touch to make special arrangements.

Mereia Carling

Mereia Carling is a Fijian with i-Taukei and Pākeha ancestry. Born in Aotearoa New Zealand, she has only lived in this country for three years, moving just before the pandemic – a journey of courage that took her to the sheer edge of sanity. Not the first one however, moving countries and changing careers – finding and following her destined path – has been and continues to be a journey of self-discovery, finding faith and the ancestors, and depths of courage she did not know she had. While she works a paid job that advances human rights for children and youth across Aotearoa New Zealand’s international development cooperation, she is an artist at heart. Qualified as a designer of fashion and textiles, she previously worked as an artist and designer before venturing into the development world. She has been writing her ‘story’ for the last 14 years to document her journey of courage, and has recently found enough life/work balance to start painting again.

Gina Cole

Gina Cole (Fijian, Pakeha) MNZM, writer, lives in Tāmaki Makaurau. She won Best First Book Award at the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards for her collection Black Ice Matter. Her work has been widely anthologized and has appeared in numerous publications. She has appeared at many writing festivals, conferences and residencies including Auckland Writers Festival, Same Same but Different LGBTQIA+ Writers Festival, CoNZealand World Science Fiction Online Conference, Brisbane Writers Festival, Michael King Writers Centre Established Pasifika Writer’s Residency, Iowa International Writers Residency, Sitka Island Institute Alaska Residency and Varuna Writers House Residency, Katoomba, Blue Mountains, Australia.  She is a qualified barrister & solicitor and practised law for many years. She holds a Masters of Creative writing and PhD in Creative Writing and is an Honorary Fellow in Writing at the University of Iowa. Gina has written two short film scripts for PISA Screen Fit. She also works as a background extra and has appeared in multiple film and television productions including The Rings of Power, One of Us is Lying, Sweet Tooth, The Wilds, Whina, Our Flag Means Death, Shortland Street, Brokenwood Mysteries and many others. Her science fiction fantasy novel Na Viro (Huia) is a work of Pasifikafuturism.