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
Vunilagi Vou is re-opening on 10 October, 2020 with a solo exhibition by South Auckland-based filmmaker and visual artist, Vea Mafile’o. Fofola Koloa – Unfolding my Koloais a new body of experimental works produced with support from Creative New Zealand’s Arts Continuity Grant programme, an initiative established in response to the global pandemic and pause in production for the creative community.
Vea’s practice as a filmmaker and screen industry professional started in the Visual Arts with an undergraduate degree in Sculpture from Manukau School of Visual Arts (MSVA). Minoring in Moving Image, Vea honed her practice in video installation, leading her to work in art direction and camera operation for television after graduating, and later directing and producing, working extensively on content for TVNZ shows Fresh, Tagata Pasifika and for the web portal TheCoconet.tv. Her production company, Malosi Pictures, run with partner and filmmaker, Jeremiah Tauamiti, was established in 2015 and last year, their first feature-length documentary, For My Father’s Kingdomwas premiered at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival.
Having established a practice of video documentation during her undergraduate studies, Vea’s archive of collected footage now spans 17 years. The COVID-19 global pandemic offered an opportunity to step back from the hyper productivity of Malosi Pictures’ normal hustle, creating time to think and reflect, focus and play.
Fofola Koloa – Unfolding my Koloa is a continuation from Vea’s 2018 solo exhibition, Digital Launima at ST PAUL St Gallery, where archival footage presented as the patterned grids of ngatu launima (decorated barkcloth) formed an impressive three-channel video projection over the full length of the gallery space. Of that body of work, Vea commented,
As a young Tongan woman I am expected to have koloa faka-Tonga, to make them or gather them by buying them. Koloa faka-Tonga are fine mats, woven mats, Ta’ovala (mats worn round the waist), kie kie (worn by women round the waist), baskets and different sized tapa cloths. Koloa faka-Tonga is something I don’t have the skills to make properly. I could learn but I have realised my strengths are in gathering moving images. This is my digital koloa, my contribution to my family’s koloa… Being hafikasi and living in New Zealand means we have to make new ways to keep our koloa and koloa faka-Tonga alive and adapt it to how we live in the world today.
Two years on, and with even more footage digitised with help from the Creative New Zealand Arts Continuity Grant programme, Fofola Koloa – Unfolding my Koloa is not only a further refined analysis of personal archives and journeys between Tonga and Aotearoa New Zealand, but produced at a time of global resetting and reflecting on the ways our pre-pandemic modes were shaping us and the environments we inhabit. This experimental body of work is an ‘airing out’ of Vea’s digital koloa, an opportunity to recalibrate and re-contextualise its value and meaning.
For Vea, the site of Vunilagi Vou 2.0 is also familiar territory. As undergraduate students at MSVA, this garage was a place of meeting, making and sharing, thinking and planning. With the recent closure of Manukau Institute of Technology’s creative arts programme, the era of MSVA and its special context for making art here in Manukau / South Auckland, has inspired important reflections on the unique trajectories of establishing a creative practice here.
For Vunilagi Vou, this first exhibition in the new site is an opportunity to re-think the contexts and terms of engagement for the presentation of contemporary Pacific art. The space is no longer bound by the capitalism of a commercial setting, and the home and suburban context for presenting Pacific art is new terrain being negotiated with care and attention.
Fofola Koloa – Unfolding my Koloa runs from 10 October – 21 November 2020. Viewing by appointment only.
Learn more about Vea Mafile’o, her production company Malosi Pictures and their first feature film, For My Father’s Kingdom (2019) here:
Image credit: Detail, Vea in the backyard (2003) by Emily Mafile’o
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!
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.
For more information on artworks and artists, please send us an enquiry here:
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!
February is dedicated to FAT at Vunilagi Vou! We’re unpacking the word, the stigma, celebrating fat body experience and calling out fat phobia in all its forms! We’re hosting a massive programme around our first exhibition for 2020 entitled, FAT, including a new series of body positivity workshops supported by Auckland’s Creative Communities Scheme, and producing an exciting signature event with local artist and fat activist, Lissy Cole, in the form of the Fat Babe Pool Party!
Get amongst Vunilagi Vou’s season of radical fat positivity!
FAT curated by Ema Tavola
Featuring Louisa Afoa, Riki Tipu Anderson, Lissy Cole, Jessicoco Hansell, Infamy Apparel, Meagan Kerr and Elyssia Wilson-Heti
Opening Night: 6 – 8pm, Tuesday 4 February Exhibition Dates: 5 – 29 February 2020
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!
By chance, seven signed Emory Douglas prints found their way to Vunilagi Vou last month and inspired our last exhibition for 2019!
Emory Douglas’ iconic aesthetic and important contribution to the art of revolution has been a starting point for eight Auckland-based artists who have been invited to create a poster about an issue that has moved their heads and hearts in 2019. From arming South Auckland’s Police, to re-criminalising homosexuality in the Cook Islands, seven new works speak directly to the shifts and changes that affect the lives of indigenous people in the South Pacific / Moana Oceania.
The limited edition poster prints will be for sale and hung alongside Emory’s work in an exhibition that packs a powerful political punch.
Finding Emory – A Poster Show features new work by Cypris Afakasi, Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake, Sean Kerrigan, Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho & Rebecca Hobbs, Siliga David Setoga and Tokerau Wilson.
Vunilagi Vou’s latest poster (above) designed by Director – Curator, Ema Tavola, is also for sale along with new stock from the Marshall Islands, Eastern Highlands in Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
Finding Emory – A Poster Show
Featuring Cypris Afakasi, Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake, Sean Kerrigan, Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho & Rebecca Hobbs, Siliga David Setoga and Tokerau Wilson. Opening 6-8pm, Tuesday 3 December Exhibition Dates 4 December 2019 – 25 January 2020