Wailoku Matakau, Kaiviti Series (2023) Print


In this work, the central figure is a Fijian matakau – a carved female ancestor figure, featuring tattooed hips, loins and mouth. It is from central Viti Levu, and is the “property” of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The civavonovono (breastplate) featured is the “property” of Auckland War Memorial Museum. This digital collage is a form of repatriation, positioning both the matakau and civavonovono within a backdrop of the Fijian garden of our family home in Wailoku, Suva, Fiji. The moon, stars, flora and fauna reference the ecological wisdom inherent in indigenous knowledge and belief systems that guided life before Christian indoctrination.

This print series was produced for, and inspired by, the Melanesian Festival Aotearoa and the profound visibility it has created for Auckland’s Melanesian community.

Kaiviti and Vanua are terms in Fijian language related to the ways we connect, identify and ground ourselves as Fijians. Kaiviti refers to someone from Fiji, and Vanua is defined as “interconnectedness inclusive of culture, chiefs, knowledge systems, relationships, values, land and spiritualities” (Fijian Vanue Research Framework).

This print series uses digital collage to create compositions that draw on popular imagery of Fijian identity, beliefs and spirituality, totems and cultural value systems. Sourced from the artist’s own photographic archives and the Internet, they stand as exuberant declarations and ownership of the complex world of Fiji and Fijians.

Ema Tavola (b.1982) is a Fijian-Pākehā artist-curator currently based in South Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. Having established her painting practice in Suva, Fiji at the Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies at the University of the South Pacific, Tavola went on to study Sculpture at Manukau School of Visual Arts and later Arts Management at AUT University.

In 2019, she established an independent gallery and consultancy called Vunilagi Vou which continues to shapeshift in the post-pandemic climate. Whilst curating is an external, social practice for Tavola, artmaking and painting particularly is Tavola’s internal process of intellectual enquiry and creative meditation.

Tavola’s work is in private and public collections including Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.

In late 2023, Tavola began using her Fijian name, Vasemaca.


Epson Ultrachrome K3 archival inks on acid-free 210gsm Epson Enhanced Matte, 297x420mm.

Produced in Auckland, October 2023.