Our second exhibition at Vunilagi Vou 2.0 will open on Monday 30 November, the first of a new exhibition programming approach aligning with the lunar calendar.
The exhibition features predominantly work from Vunilagi Vou’s programme since opening in May 2019, with some additional works contributed by local artists. There are 40 works on show in the mediums of painting, photography, print, illustration and readymades.
Artists include: Cypris Afakasi, Tanu Gago, Julia Mage’au Gray, Jessicoco Hansell, Todd Henry, Leilani Kake, Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho & Rebecca Ann Hobbs, Moe Laga, Amy Lautogo, Niutuiatua Lemalu, Nicole Lim, Johanna Van Massop, Qiane Matata-Sipu, Genevieve Pini, Ema Tavola, ‘Ahota’e’iloa Toetu’u, Pati Solomona Tyrell, Faleata Ualesi, Manuha’apai Vaeatangitau and Tokerau Wilson.
The exhibition opening is invitation only, get in touch if you’d like to come along. Eftpos and AfterPay will be available on the night. Alternatively, book an appointment for a viewing from 1-21 December 2020.
We’ve had a busy first month operating Vunilagi Vou 2.0 in its new setting. Appointments have been fairly regular, allowing visitors to spend time absorbing the ideas behind the exhibition and learning about the space. The current show, Fofola Koloa – Unfolding my Koloa ends on 21 November and Vunilagi Vou’s 11th exhibition, a stock room sale, will open on a new schedule, in time with the full moon.
The past month has been a busy time for press with much interest being generated through our primary platform, Instagram and the documentation of Vunilagi Vou 2.0’s journey from idea to manifestation through the hashtag, #VunilagiVou2_0.
This article was originally written for Auckland arts organisation, Te Taumata Toi-a-Iwi and later published on The Big Idea on 8 October 2020, about Vunilagi Vou’s Covid pivot:
This interview with Eteuati Ete for Radio 531pi aired on 12 October 2020:
This long-form discussion for the Thought Plantation Podcast, aired on 19 October 2020, and covers a broad enquiry about the journey towards opening Vunilagi Vou. Giovanni Lolohea is a psychiatric nurse by day, and a passionate podcaster by night!
This commissioned text was written for the Pacific Arts Legacy Project, an initiative of Creative New Zealand, and published on Pantograph Punch on 6 November 2020. Whilst it is not directly about Vunilagi Vou, it is about the cultural context that inspired this gallery, and the environment that birthed Fresh Gallery Ōtara.
This article by Fijian journalist Torika Tokalau was written for Stuff and published on 9 November 2020 featuring a short video shot by David White. Whilst this story revolved around Vunilagi Vou as an individual effort, the core role of artist and builder Sean Kerrigan regrettably was not mentioned here, and should have been; he played an incredibly important role in bringing Vunilagi Vou 2.0 to life.
Although published well before we opened Vunilagi Vou 2.0, this commissioned text published by Enjoy Contemporary Art Space in Wellington documents the process of shapeshifting Vunilagi Vou’s site and ethos as a result of the global pandemic. As this space grows and evolves, the moment in time captured in this essay feels like an increasingly significant part of our art history.
More coming soon about a new approach to writing exhibition texts, the upcoming Stock Room Sale and plans for 2021 after a successful crowdfunding campaign effort!
We launched our new site, Vunilagi Vou 2.0, on 10.10.2020 with a small cohort of supporters, opening our 10th exhibition, Fofola Koloa – Unfolding my Koloa – a collaborative show by Emily and Vea Mafile’o.
The final week before opening was an epic effort; utmost gratitude for the hard work and support of Jep Savali & Tanya Kaihe, Leilani Kake, the Carling family, Czarina Wilson, and especially Leiana Contractors.
Our opening formalities included karakia by Leilani Kake, an acknowledgment of family and whakapapa by Mereia Carling, with messages from both Helen and Kaliopate Tavola, and a beautiful waiata by Emma Parangi.
On Friday 30 October, we welcomed guests for our first Artist Talk in the new site discussing the exhibition, Fofola Koloa – Unfolding my Koloa with both Emily and Vea Mafile’o.
Whilst it was a night of manic traffic around South Auckland, this talanoa was perfectly paced for a balmy Friday night. The discussion touched on the strengths and challenges of art school and an era of Manukau School of Visual Arts (2002-2005) which exposed both the artists and facilitator, Ema Tavola, to the key foundational influences that shaped their career trajectories. An important outcome of this discussion was the ability to confront tensions and actions that had played significantly into the ways each artist had developed their practices.
Somehow, the setting of Vunilagi Vou 2.0 and the historical frames of reference running through the exhibition enabled this talanoa to hit the sweet spot of harmonious criticality (Professor Hūfanga Dr. ‘Okusitino Māhina); a deeply healing, and much needed conversation about making Pacific art, holding space for critique, and the art historical landscape of South Auckland.
Vunilagi Vou 2.0 is now open on an appointment-only basis. The current exhibition, Fofola Koloa – Unfolding my Kolola runs until 21 November 2020; to book an appointment for viewing and talanoa, click here.
Photo credits from Vunilagi Vou 2.0 launch event: Raymond Sagapolutele.
With the opening of the new site firmly on the vunilagi (horizon), we’ve partnered with Boosted, the home of creative crowdfunding in Aotearoa, to raise funds to support an Exhibitions Fund for Vunilagi Vou 2.0.
From 8 October – 5 November2020, we’re aiming to raise NZ$10,000 to support a new programme, site specifically developed for Vunilagi Vou’s new context.
If you are able to, and keen to contribute to the development of a new and refined curatorial vision that has contemporary Pacific art and audiences at its core, please donate here!
Here, some of our Vunilagi Vou community offer a firm tautoko for our cause:
Vinaka vakalevu for video contributions by Nigel Borell, Tanu Gago, Andy Leleisi’uao, Vea Mafile’o, Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai, Raymond Sagapolutele and Vaimaila Urale.
Thank you also to Creative New Zealand who are offering a match fund of NZ$3,000 towards 15 Pasifika arts projects crowdfunding via Boosted in October – November.
We re-open Vunilagi Vou as an exhibitions gallery this weekend and appointments for viewings will be available as of next week. Watch this space!
Also, check out the developments of the new space on Instagram with the hashtag, #VunilagiVou2_0
This article about Vunilagi Vou’s February 2020 programme, #FATFEB, was originally published in ARTalk (Issue 17), Fiji’s independent online art magazine edited by Peter Sipeli.
In February, Vunilagi Vou embarked on a month-long programme about radical fat positivity. What began as a dreamy idea to host a fat babe pool party, an idea pitched by local South Auckland-based artist and activist, Lissy Cole, the month of February turned into #FATFEB.
It became abundantly clear that the word ‘fat’ quickly filled a conversation with fear, loathing, conditioning, tragedy and morality. The word – three lowercase letters – the word, was intoxicatingly powerful. An underlying agenda of our programme was the unpack the word, rethink it as a descriptor and confront our own socialised attachments to what fat actually means to us.
Unintentionally, the #FATFEB programme became a mini-festival; we hosted an exhibition in our gallery, held workshops and discussion events, and at the heart, a pool party that centralised the fat body, as powerful, beautiful, valid… present.
Curating an exhibition about fat positivity felt like being exposed. The concept too personal, too embodied; for me, curating doesn’t usually feel like this. From the earliest communication with the artists, the topic and journey of fat acceptance revealed a depth of experience so rarely vocalised, and so sincerely personal. The artists made and showed work in photography and fashion, digital composition, installation, video and illustration. The exhibition spilled out of the gallery and into the arcade, shared by three other Pacific Island owned businesses, filling our environment, momentarily with fat conviction, fantasy and unapologetic fat body presence.
Fat bodies have been cast into the shadows of Eurocentric capitalist messaging and globalised conditioning, forced to hide in baggy clothes. But those in our exhibition were bodies of resistance, not ‘brave’ in the sense that fat is defined by its proximity to thinness, but courageous in their liberation.
The exhibition was confronting and mesmerising. South Auckland-based couturier Amy Lautogo of Infamy Apparel created a mini-collection catwalk show for the opening, which generated some of the most exuberant photography to come out of Vunilagi Vou, thanks to models Ria Hiroki, Tangaroa Paul, Lavina Williams and Bron Laufiso, captured by local photographers Raymond Sagapolutele and Pati Solomona Tyrell. The exhibition framed the #FATFEB programme, providing a point of discussion and focus for the workshops delivered in the adjacent VV Studio space.
The Fat Babe Pool Party, was a radiating beacon of an event. A purely non-discriminatory space, which felt visually and emotionally like an oasis. The event was always going to be deliciously chill, and our local Mount Richmond Hotel offered the perfect poolside setting for what was quite an experimental event. Lissy Cole dressed the space with a jaw-dropping technicolour feast of textiles, bunting, lanterns, sculptures and embellishments. It felt literally magical. A panel discussion with fashion blogger and artist, Meagan Kerr, fat studies scholar Dr Cat Pausé and rapper/writer/creative alchemist, Jessicoco Hansell inspired reflection and respect. They spoke truth to their experiences, their own fat politics and their rationales for speaking up / for / about fat bodies. Sitting poolside, facilitating this discussion in my size 24 leopard print bikini, I looked out at the audience, listening intensely to this conversation, and it occurred to me that we were all witnessing something pretty phenomenal.
The #FATFEB programme got more mainstream media (MSM) interest in New Zealand than most exhibitions at Vunilagi Vou. Whilst explicitly Pacific content in the arts sometimes get culturally specific media interest (mostly radio), and Pacific arts production presented in traditionally white fields like theatre often piques the interest of white audiences and thus MSM, the topic of fat brokered new ground for an arts driven event featuring exclusively Māori and Pacific creative perspectives.
Interestingly, even with broad audience awareness through MSM and significant traction through social media networks, the exhibition’s visitor numbers were notably low. This felt like a very clear indication how confronting the idea of fat is. The terrain of a gallerist is to discuss and unpack the artwork and ideas of an artist, so discussions within the exhibition would often become conversations about fat phobia, discrimination and the murky space of ‘concern culture’. These interactions can and did expose deep layers of fat phobic conditioning, the very layers that are defused by the concept of fat positivity. These were not easy conversations to hold!
Visitor numbers aside, the audience who were impacted the most throughout #FATFEB was our fat community, particularly women. There was a profound sense of validation in foregrounding the representation of the fat body and its unapologetic politics. It was a month of being seen, being heard and being respected. But it became clearer and clearer throughout February, how rare this is on a day-to-day basis.
February left me on a high. To make exhibitions that can affect the change I want to see in society, is the highest reward. The exhibition was unique, a point in time snapshot produced collectively be nine excellent creatives. Creating space to have hard conversations is not an easy road, but I commend everyone who ventured into this territory.
If Vunilagi Vou survives 2020, #FATFEB is most definitely on the cards for February 2021!
I didn’t know when I locked up the gallery on Thursday 19th March that it would be the last day of business at our Ōtāhuhu premises. Things change quickly in a global pandemic and the gallery was and remains to be shut under New Zealand’s lockdown restrictions.
I took the opportunity to negotiate the end of the commercial leases on the three shops at 256 Great South Road that we have occupied since opening in May 2019. As of last week, we began the process of packing up and moving on from this premises.
Our last exhibition, Safe as Houses, featured stunning new work by Marcus Hipa, Craig Horne and Metiria Turei. Although we had a wonderful exhibition opening in early March, it was and is so sad to have had to close this exhibition prematurely.
Utility headdress (2020) by Marcus Hipa
The Pegler Project (2019/2020) by Craig Horne
Detail, Whare Tangata (2020) by Metiria Turei in collaboration with Miriam Leslie Me
Detail, Compounded (2019) by Marcus Hipa
The Pegler Project (2019/2020) by Craig Horne
Whare Tangata (2020) by Metiria Turei in collaboration with Miriam Leslie
This was a particularly rewarding show to co-curate with Leilani Kake for Auckland Arts Festival. Early support from the Festival enabled us to refine a concept befitting of the exposure it afforded us, and work with a group of creatives who produced poignant new work.
We will re-open an exhibitions space in October 2020, but as the end of Vunilagi Vou’s first chapter, and first iteration in the South Auckland suburb of Ōtāhuhu, it’s a bittersweet farewell.
The dynamic of Vunilagi Vou has been shapeshifting over the past weeks. Consultancy work and writing are becoming a higher priority, and an online store is in development. The new site for the gallery is a conscious move in a more sustainable direction.
The next iteration of Vunilagi Vou will take 4-5 months to realise and another journey has begun with Ōtara-based artist and builder, Sean Kerrigan. We’re aiming to open Vunilagi Vou 2.0 on October 10th, Fiji Day.
Trading in the commercial context for a suburban setting changes the dynamics of this venture. Our social gathering protocols will shift and change in the coming months, so being close to where the home fire burns is ideal. Vunilagi Vou 2.0 will operate on an appointment-only basis, streaming events and gatherings, activations and exhibition tours online.
The 10th exhibition at Vunilagi Vou’s Ōtāhuhu premises was to be my third solo exhibition; a meditation on the work of an arts manager. It was scheduled to coincide with the launch of our Creative New Zealand-funded Pacific Arts Management Residency programme, and open on April 7th to welcome the first Arts Manager in Residence, Fiji-based Peter Sipeli, coming to us direct from Hong Kong where he was Artist-in-Residence at Para Site from February to April.
The available works on paper made for this show will go into our online store in the coming months. The work surrounding the residency with Peter had already begun when the global pandemic happened. He had to return to Suva, Fiji and talks have been underway throughout lockdown to produce a series of online collaborations to map a virtual realisation of what the residency promised to deliver. With an extension granted on this funded project, there is still potential to bring Peter to South Auckland, so here’s hoping for 2021.
In the meantime, we are moving online for the winter months, and re-emerging in the Spring with a new physical site. Keep up to date with developments on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Twitch and sign up for website updates because the email database, has finally moved up the priority list!
As we approach the end of 2019, our team has been reflecting, strategising and planning for an even bigger and superbly ambitious 2020!
Having opened in May 2019, we are proud to have:
Produced 7 independent exhibitions featuring new and recent work by over 30 artists
Sold an average of one third of every exhibition
Delivered 3 awesome dialogue events in the form of the Southside Talanoa Series at 3 different Ōtāhuhu locations
Spoken about Vunilagi Vou at conferences, festivals and symposia in Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong
Secured funding for programming from Creative New Zealand, The Arts Foundation, Auckland Council’s Pacific Arts programme, Māngere Ōtāhuhu Arts (Māngere Ōtāhuhu Local Board) and the Creative Communities Scheme.
Delivered 11 workshops in the new Vunilagi Vou Studio with 18 more planned for the first half of 2020
Enjoyed coverage and reviews from mainstream and Pacific media platforms, which can be found on our Media page
Collaborated and invested in local and Pacific businesses to deliver events, including Malosi Pictures Ltd, 37Hz Ltd, SAY Money Transfer, FranCharLeni Diner & Café, Kingdom Design, Star Hotel, Ōtāhuhu Rovers Rugby League Club, Ōtāhuhu Māngere Youth Group (OMYG) and CMYK Signs & Digital Printing Ltd, East Tamaki
And put literally thousands of dollars in the pockets of Māori and Pacific makers through the Vunilagi Vou shop!
We are incredibly grateful for the support we’ve received in 2019; every share, like, retweet, every visit and every endorsement we’ve received has helped us deliver a bumper programme and invested significantly in our local creative ecology.
Our exhibitions and workshops programme has been enriched by the vision and support from Māngere Ōtāhuhu Arts, the arm of Māngere Ōtāhuhu Local Board (Auckland Council) that invests in the arts ecology of our local area. We’re grateful that our Local Board has put a value on the creative potential of our communities, and excited to continue this work into 2020.
Our current exhibition, Finding Emory: A Poster Show runs until 25 January and features limited edition posters by Cypris Afakasi, Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake, Sean Kerrigan, Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho and Rebecca Ann Hobbs, Siliga David Setoga and Tokerau Wilson. Our usual business hours resume from Wednesday 8 January.
“Mother Vaka” (2019) by Siliga David Setoga
Throughout the year, we have relied heavily on our social media channels to communicate our programme and announcements but recognise this isn’t ideal for some of our audiences. In 2020, we endeavour to get our mailing list fully functioning and look forward to connecting with those who don’t use social media on the daily!
So, as the year winds to a close, we recognise and pay respect to our artist community – we couldn’t do any of this without you. To our 30+ exhibitors, and to our wonderful network of suppliers who have stocked our shop full to the brim with wonderful products, titles and small works – thank you so, so much. Thank you for trusting us with your work and ideas, and for allowing us to share them with the world.
Our 2020 programme is massive. We have a mix of monthly and two-monthly exhibitions, residencies and workshops galore. In two weeks we’ll be announcing our February programme, which is a deep dive into the word fat and we’re building up to a really special exhibition in March for the Auckland Arts Festival. It’s all go!
Wishing you all love and light for the festive season from warm and balmy South Auckland!
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.
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!