VV x Alexander: Shapeshifting, new exhibitions and Ōtara

In June 2021, Vunilagi Vou will celebrate our second anniversary and shapeshift once again to operate from The Alexander Café, a new locally-owned eatery and cultural enterprise located on Alexander Crescent in Ōtara, South Auckland.

Having operated Vunilagi Vou 2.0 from the residential context of suburban Papatoetoe since October 2020, the opportunity arose to partner with The Alexander Café and create space for another local enterprise, Celebrate Aotearoa – a retail operation driven by local Tongan creative entrepreneur, Czarina Wilson.

Located in a refurbished semi-industrial warehouse, The Alexander Café has built a strong community and customer base from around the Auckland region; it is a hub of Māori and Pacific professionals, locals, gym goers and creatives, always abuzz with talanoa. For Vunilagi Vou, the café offers an opportunity to integrate excellent art into the South Auckland space, quietly informing our lives and discussions and enabling artwork to create interventions in the public consciousness, rather than asking the public to engage with arts environments.

Local Tongan creative entrepreneur, Czarina Wilson, has been part of the Vunilagi Vou mission since the beginning, offering retail guidance for our first premises in Ōtāhuhu, and partnering on a pop-up shop at the Ōtara Kai Village in September to raise funds for Vunilagi Vou’s post-Covid re-launch. Czarina has been operating her enterprise, Celebrate Aotearoa out of the Ōtara Kai Village Boutique since October 2020 and is excited to relocate just a stones throw away to The Alexander Café to partner with Vunilagi Vou once more!

From Saturday 12 June 2021, The Alexander Café’s mezzanine floor will house both Celebrate Aotearoa and the Vunilagi Vou office, and a suite of three new exhibitions will be on show throughout the building.

Video still from Put Some Respect On My Name interview with Samson Vaotu’ua; animation still by India Taberner

Put Some Respect on My Name is an exhibition project by Papatoetoe-based Sāmoan filmmaker Jeremiah Tauamiti (Malosi Pictures) produced with support from Creative New Zealand. At the centre of the work are nine individual stories exploring the meaning and mana of Pacific Island surnames, and the importance of correct pronunciation as an act of respect. The project incorporates interviews with Elizabeth Koroivulaono, Tanya Muagututi’a, Vela Manusaute, Te Amohaere Ngata-aerengamate, Raymond Sagapolutele, Benjamin Tamanikaiyaroi, Ema Tavola, Essendon Tu’itupou and Samson Vaotu’ua. The project also incorporates animation work by India Taberner and graphic design by Antonio Filipo.

Becoming is a body of recent work by Peatree, a mixed media artist currently based in Melbourne, Australia where they work predominantly across the mediums of illustration and sculpture. Completing undergraduate studies at Manukau School of Visual Arts in Ōtara in 2005, Peatree’s practice has absorbed influences from around the world informing their own evolving positionality in relation to gender, ethnicity and sexuality. Becoming is an exhibition of small paintings exploring the artist’s constantly evolving sense of self and commitment to “the inherent existential search”.

Killer of a Time is a body of work by Manurewa-based Tongan photographer Emily Mafile’o made in 2013/14. This body of work is part of the artist’s two decade-long documentary practice exploring the diversity of Tongan lives and experience in Aotearoa and Tonga. This vérité style sepia-toned series focuses on ‘Killer’, whose life at the time was deeply embedded in gang culture; it is an intimate observation of the freedoms, ties and violence that framed his life, woven together with glimpses of anga fakatonga (Tongan way). This work presents a challenging perspective of Tongan experience but actively broadens awareness of the ways Tongan identities evolve and adapt in response their environments.

All three exhibitions are open from Saturday 12 June and run until the end of July.

VV x Alexander is the beginning of a new chapter. A return to Ōtara, a cultural hotspot for Moana Oceania creative innovation, where Vunilagi Vou Curator-Director, Ema Tavola established her practice at Manukau School of Visual Arts and later as founding manager of Fresh Gallery Ōtara. As the third ‘re-birth’ of Vunilagi Vou, it is an evolved business model, shapeshifting from a commercial premise in Ōtāhuhu, to a residential setting in Papatoetoe, to a shared entrepreneurial hub in Ōtara. Third time lucky?!

Help us celebrate the launch of VV x Alexander

Come along and celebrate The Alexander Cafe’s newest tenants, Vunilagi Vou and Celebrate Aotearoa, and the opening of three exciting exhibitions, Put Some Respect On My Name, Becoming and Killer of a Time on Friday 11 June from 6pm.

We’re also launching Vunilagi Vou’s first publication, VV:Dua The Story of Vunilagi Vou’s First Year, produced with support from Creative New Zealand. Copies will be available on the night and later stocked at Celebrate Aotearoa!

The Alexander Café is located at 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara, South Auckland; it is 5 minute drive from the Highbrook Drive or East Tamaki Road exits on State Highway 1 or a short walk from the Ōtara Bus Interchange (notably featuring design work by Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi).

The Alexander Café ground floor is wheelchair accessible with disability carparks directly outside the main entrance, the venue also has a wheelchair accessible toilet. Assistance dogs are also allowed onsite.

After the VV x Alexander launch, opening hours are as follows:

Monday – Friday: 7am – 3pm
Saturday: 8am – 2pm

Appointments can still be made to view and discuss the artwork on show, get in touch via the Appointments page here.


Follow Vunilagi Vou on Instagram for the latest updates!

Water + focus

Two new exhibitions are opening next week – one at Vunilagi Vou, and one at The Alexander Cafe in Otara. Located less than three kilometres apart, the two sites are hosting twin solo exhibitions by local artist Antonio Filipo and Christchurch-based mapmaker, David Garcia.

Coined as two water shows, the joint solos both depict personal relationships with water. David Garcia’s stunning maps show us the world below the Pacific Ocean, a landscape of mountains and ravines, gullies and deep trenches. Their consciously decolonising approach to mapmaking represents a challenge to the power inherent in creating man-made boundaries and territories, and the role of mapping within the forces of imperialism.

Ōtara-based artist Antonio Filipo is a graduate of Manukau School of Visual Arts and has remained connected to its site where his family home backs on to Ngāti Ōtara Park, the largest public park in Ōtara. Antonio started making aerial photography in and around Ngāti Ōtara Park in 2017 and grew a fast appreciation for the beauty of the landscape from a bird eye view, tracking the waterways from the creek behind his home to the Ōtara Lake and on to the Tāmaki Estuary.

From David Garcia’s work in big islands deep oceans and Antonio Filipo’s exhibition, Ngāti Ōtara, we are offered an opportunity to adjust our perspectives from the seafloor to the skies above and consider our lives as what lies between them, wholly dependent and surrounded by water.

Both exhibitions run from 29 March – 12 May 2021 and have been produced with support from Vunilagi Vou’s 2020 BoostedxMoana crowdfunding campaign – much gratitude to our 118 wonderful donors who have made these exhibitions possible.

Viewing big islands deep oceans by David Garcia at Vunilagi Vou is via appointment only, and Ngāti Ōtara by Antonio Filipo is viewable during The Alexander Cafe’s business hours: Monday – Friday, 7am-3pm and Saturdays, 8am-2pm. The cafe is located at 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara.

Both exhibitions will open with a Private View / Opening Reception at Vunilagi Vou on Monday 29 March at 6pm.

Next week, we also launch a new programme of Yoga & Meditation classes with South Auckland-based Sāmoan yoga and meditation teacher, Gamo Farani Tomlin. Classes have been programmed to encourage participation from local Māori and Pacific communities, particularly mums, stressed out artists and freelancers, and anyone who wants to take small steps towards being better, sharper, more flexible and connected.

This new programme starts on Wednesday 31 March with classes delivered on a weekly basis at:

  • 5.30pm on Mondays
  • 10.30am on Wednesdays

With a limited class size, booking is essential via texting Gamo on 021 1001448. Participants need to bring their own yoga or exercise mat, towel and water bottle and each class costs just $5.

The first three months of 2021 have been a great quarter for art sales – grateful to our buyers whose purchases have actively invested into the practices of Māori and Pacific artists. So much of the work sold at Vunilagi Vou goes into South Auckland-based collections and Māori and Pacific homes, which means the value of this work keeps circulating and benefiting our lives and communities.

Our VV Online Shop has been busy too – more products are added all the time and it’s great to see new appreciation for products we held and loved selling at our Ōtāhuhu site.

As always, Instagram and Twitter are the bulletin board for Vunilagi Vou activity – check out the ebbs and flows of Vunilagi Vou through artists, connections and archives of Moana Oceania art history in Manukau City / South Auckland.

vinaka vakalevu