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!

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

Sales, patches, talks and koha

After six weeks of business, we have opened our second exhibition, Putiputi and 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.

Customised floor talks can be booked for any of our exhibitions during normal business hours and school visits require a minimum of two weeks notice. Get in touch with Ema to discuss opportunities.

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.

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!

Keep up to date with Vunilagi Vou updates on Instagram and Facebook