“Flying a drone is like being a bird” ~ Antonio Filipo on his first solo // #twowatershows

Ōtara-based artist, Antonio Filipo is currently showing as part of two water shows, Vunilagi Vou’s 2021 Autumn season. His first solo exhibition, Ngāti Ōtara is currently showing at The Alexander Cafe, a new start-up enterprise in a converted warehouse in Ōtara, South Auckland. The exhibition is a love letter to Ōtara, where the artist was born and raised, a place he is proud to call home. I asked Antonio some questions about his work…

What do you enjoy about these photographs?

These photographs are images of home and my surroundings. I have lived in Ōtara, South Auckland all my life and Ngāti Ōtara park is a beautiful place. It’s a place where I like to walk and run, and to be out in nature. There are times when I’m out in the park, and I wonder what the landscape must have looked like 30, 60 or even 100 years ago. These photographs show a sense of connection to the land and water that surrounds me and I enjoy and respect that connection.

What is your relationship to the land and waterways depicted in this body of work?

Behind my family home, we have a small channel of water. My siblings, who are much older than I am, played in this waterway with the other kids who lived on our street during the 70s. I played in that waterway as well, feeding the eels bread, climbing trees and just doing what little boys do.

These are just a few memories I have growing up about the land my family house is built on, and the waterway in our backyard. This waterway is one of many channels that run behind houses in Ōtara; they all connect to a larger body of water, and run into the Ōtara Lake. The lake sits next to the Ōtāhuhu power station, and flows into the Tāmaki River or Tāmaki Estuary. So, I like to think that I’m part of, and connected to the waters and the land that have been part of my life all these years.

The photographs show how a small waterway behind my house connects to me, and all of us in Ōtara, through the water, land and sky. I want to portray how beautiful Ōtara really is and share that perspective with our community.

What do you enjoy about the perspective of drone photography?

In 2017, a good mate of mine purchased a drone and would go on and on about how much fun he was having shooting aerial shots and clips from above. Eventually, I caved and purchased a drone too. My mate wasn’t wrong. This became a new hobby and almost everyday I would be out at the park or taking it on my travels shooting aerial shots and just trying to be a better pilot.

Flying a drone is like being a bird. It’s the bird’s eye perspective from the sky that I enjoy the most. The view of the waters and landscape is amazing and I’ve grown such a strong appreciation of what surrounds me, and for living in Ōtara. There are times I really don’t believe Ōtara looks like this when I’m flying across our skies. Especially during sunset – it is really beautiful.

The Waterway (2020)
About Antonio Filipo…

Of Tokelau and Portuguese descent, New Zealand-born artist Antonio Filipo (b.1980) resides today where he was born and raised, in Ōtara, South Auckland. Taught by renowned Moana Oceania educators Mr Palalagitoa Manetoa and the late Mr Ian George in his senior years at Hillary College, Antonio was encouraged to further his arts education and went on to study Graphic Design at Manukau School of Visual Arts, graduating in 2003.

Antonio started making drone photography in 2017 and quickly grew a deep appreciation for the Ōtara landscape from the sky. Whilst Ngāti Ōtara Park was familiar terrain on foot, the park’s waterways, bridges and surrounding industry and neighbourhoods uncover how nature and humans quietly co-exist in the hood.

Instagram @ubucanfly

Ngāti Ōtara is on until 12 May 2021 at The Alexander Cafe, 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara, South Auckland. Opening hours: Monday – Friday, 7am-3pm, Saturday, 8am-2pm.

two water shows is part of Vunilagi Vou’s 2021 exhibitions programme produced with support from our 2020 BoostedxMoana crowdfunding campaign and the generosity of 118 wonderful donors – vinaka vakalevu!

Photo credit (above): Instagram user, @kaiwith_mata


Sales & Exhibition Enquiries

All work in Ngāti Ōtara is for sale; send us a message to enquire.

Crowdfunding for a post-pandemic restart

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 November 2020, 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

Launching Southside Talanoa Series

We’re excited to be to launching a new event programme, the Southside Talanoa Series, produced with support from Auckland Council as part of the Pacific Arts programme.

The events have been designed to engage local communities, whilst bringing in wider creative and cultural industries audiences to South Auckland spaces to broaden understanding of key issues that affect Pacific visual culture.

The series consists of three events:

  • Dissecting Diversity – a panel discussion featuring five perspectives on working in and around the diversity space, featuring Nigel Borell, Kolokesa Uafā Māhina-Tuai and Barbara Makuati-Afitu (Lagimaama Consultancy), Guled Mire and Seuta’afili Dr Patrick Thomsen, 4-6pm, Saturday 24 August at Ōtāhuhu Youth Space, 12-16 High Street, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland
  • For My Father’s Kingdom: For The Community – a film screening of For My Father’s Kingdom (Dir. Vea Mafile’o and Jeremiah Tauamiti, Malosi Pictures) and panel discussion with Vea Mafile’o, Sarah McRobie and Siniva Vaitohi (SAY Money Transfer), 4-8pm, Saturday 21 September at Ōtāhuhu Rovers Rugby League Clubrooms, 645 Mount Wellington Highway, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland
  • Southside Quiz Night – a quiz night centralising Pacific and South Auckland urban knowledge sets with Quiz Master Yolande Ah Chong, 4-7pm, Saturday 26 October at Star Hotel, 392 Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland

The Southside Talanoa Series events are free and open to the public. The first two events are family friendly and have ample free car parking. The third event venue is R18 and car parking is available across the road on the corner of Atkinson Avenue and High Street.

The series is a partnership with South Auckland-based sound artist and producer, Faiumu Matthew Salapu aka Anonymouz, who is producing a podcast / sound record of each event, which will be available here. Event speakers are also sharing a list of further reading and inspiring content, which will be available on the Southside Talanoa Series website.

Our event branding has been carefully hand-drawn by Auckland-based illustrator / graphic designer, Nicole Lim.

Enquiries

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

A new contemporary Pacific art gallery opens in South Auckland on Queen’s Birthday Weekend

Media release: 21 May 2019

A new art gallery in Ōtāhuhu has contemporary Pacific art and audiences at its core. Vunilagi Vou, opening on Queen’s Birthday weekend, will show a new exhibition each month, sell art works and objects and provide a communal space for creatives to come together.

Gallery Director Ema Tavola (Fiji, Pākehā) says that a dedicated space for contemporary Pacific art, that recognises the importance of historical context and community connections, is much needed.

“Our exhibitions programme will highlight important social commentary on issues that affect our lives as Pacific people; expanding the idea and potential of what contemporary Pacific art is and can be.”

Ema says there is a particular focus for the gallery on local artists from the wider Ōtāhuhu and Māngere area and women artists. “We’ll be supporting emerging artists into their exhibition experiences as well as showing work by senior artists who exhibit in central Auckland and internationally.”

Making buying and collecting art more accessible is another important aim of the gallery. “We know there are plenty of people, particularly young professionals, who are interested in original art and supporting artists, and we want to empower and enable that.”

Vunilagi Vou’s opening exhibition, WWJD:2 is a vibrant snapshot of the breadth and depth of contemporary Pacific art, from a South Auckland perspective generally, and specifically Ema’s perspective. “This is my first local exhibition in a long time that speaks directly to my art ecology; the networks and energies that sustain me.”

WWJD:2 featured artists draw heritage from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Sāmoa and Tonga as well as New Zealand (Māori and Pākeha) and Australia.  They range from emerging to established, nodding to the intergenerational connections within Aotearoa’s contemporary Pacific art history. Works take diverse forms including textiles, photography, painting, film and paper.

The exhibition, which is supported by Creative NZ’s Creative Communities programme, is the second in the ‘What Would Jim Do’ series paying homage to the renowned late Cook Islands curator, Jim Vivieaere, who passed away on June 3, 2011.

ENDS

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Ema Tavola // hello@vunilagivou.com // 0275 779 369


Notes to editors

Vunilagi Vou

  • South Auckland’s new gallery centralising contemporary Pacific Art and audiences.
  • Where: 4/256 Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu (down arcade)
  • Opening hours: Opens to public Saturday 1 June, then open Tuesday – Thursday from 10am – 5pm, Friday 10am – 6pm, Saturday 11am – 4pm
  • Contact: Ema Tavola, email:  hello@vunilagivou.com, mobile: 027 5779369
  • Vunilagi in Fijian language commonly refers to the horizon, but can be broken down as vu- meaning trunk, as in the trunk of a tree, and -lagi the abbreviated version of lomalagi, heaven. Ni serves to connect the two, so vunilagi is that which holds up the heavens. Vou means new.
  • Vunilagi Vou is also an umbrella for Tavola’s consultancy work, producing events and community engagement initiatives in the South Auckland area
  • Vunilagi Vou retail: As well as the works in most exhibitions, Vunilagi Vou will sell a small range of art objects by local creatives, including:
    • Tyla Vaeau Ta’ufo’ou – Prints
    • Lissy Cole Design – Textile works
    • Kingdom Design – Homeware and accessories
    • Aolele Adornment – Jewellery
    • Molly Pihigia – Jewellery

WWJD:2 Exhibiting Artists

  • Margaret Aull (Tuwharetoa / Te Rarawa, Fiji)
  • Melissa Cole (Ngati Hine, Ngati Kahu)
  • Tanu Gago (Sāmoa, NZ)
  • Julia Mage’au Gray (Papua New Guinea, Australia)
  • Leilani Kake (Ngapuhi / Tainui, Cook Islands)
  • Andy Leleisi’uao (Sāmoa, NZ)
  • Niutuiatua Lemalu (Sāmoa, NZ)
  • Sinia Malua (Tonga, NZ)
  • Vea Mafile’o (Tonga, NZ)
  • Molly Pihigia (Niue, NZ)
  • ‘Ahota’e’iloa Toetu’u (Tonga, NZ)
  • Vaimaila Urale (Sāmoa, NZ)
  • Daniel Weetman (Fiji, NZ)

About the Gallery Director

Gallery Director Ema Tavola, born in Suva, Fiji, and based in Papatoetoe, has spent almost 20 years working within the South Auckland creative sector as a curator, producer, researcher, teacher and artist.

Her curatorial practice is a mechanism for social inclusion, centralising Pacific ways of seeing, decolonisation and exhibition making as a form of activism. She was the founding curator of Fresh Gallery Ōtara and has produced close to 80 exhibitions foregrounding work by Pacific artists to be shown both locally and internationally, most recently including 2018’s ‘A Maternal Lens’, shown at the 4th International Biennial of Casablanca in Morocco.

Image credits

  • SAVAGE IN THE GARDEN series (2018) by Tanu Gago
  • Portrait of Vunilagi Vou Director, Ema Tavola / Photo by Pati Solomona Tyrell
  • Mate Ma’a Tonga flag by Czarina Wilson for Kingdom Design

Vunilagi Vou: A fresh start

Vunilagi Vou is a new venture dedicated to exploring the potential of contemporary Pacific art, artists and audiences through curatorial projects, community engagement and creative events.

As a professional curator and Pacific arts consultant, Ema Tavola has spent 15 years working predominantly in South Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand in the fields of community arts development, arts funding and investment strategy, events, public programming and gallery management.

Having worked from the platform of Pacific Island Management, Production + Ideas (PIMPI) since 2012, Vunilagi Vou is a fresh start, a new beginning.

Vunilagi in Fijian language commonly refers to the horizon, but can be broken down as vu- meaning trunk, as in the trunk of a tree, and -lagi being the abbreviated version of lomalagi, meaning heaven. Ni serves to connect the two, so vunilagi is that which holds up the heavens. Vou means new.

For Ema, the vunilagi is a space of infinite potential, a space of dreaming and transformation; it is a connection between the known and the unknown, the tangible and intangible. As the vision for a new professional platform to work from, Vunilagi Vou reflects the potential of contemporary Pacific art and approaches to connect communities, enabling histories, social narratives and relationships to be revealed and renewed.

Vunilagi Vou is a concept originally developed in partnership with Fiji-based designer and consultant, Mereia Carling, whose professional background is in child rights, social policy and youth participation in the Pacific.