In the last solo exhibition of this year’s ‘Season of Solos’, Ōtara-based artist Genevieve Pini presents a body of new work that has been on a slow-boil for two decades.
Muscle Memory is the outcome of Vunilagi Vou’s BoostedxMoana crowdfunding effort from late 2022. The project saw two South Auckland artists – Niu Lemalu and Genevieve Pini – develop solo exhibition exhibitions throughout 2023, and show for the first time at the Aotearoa Art Fair.
Genevieve Pini’s visual arts practice draws on training in photography, jewellery, print and textiles. Whilst studying at Manukau School of Visual Arts in Ōtara, Pini received her malu (customary Sāmoan female tattoo), an experience and visual vocabulary that has had an enduring impact on her life and work. Blood, bloodlines and genealogical connection have carried through much of her making, often employing the colour red and in some works, the actual material used to wipe blood and ink from her tattoos.
Interested in meditative processes, adornment and making as a mode of cultural transmission, Pini has exhibited in group exhibitions since 2004, often reflecting on the idea of protection, strength and the everyday ways that Sāmoa is present in people, ritual, time and space.
Muscle Memory is Pini’s first solo exhibition, a significant and daunting project. The process of development has involved lengthy talanoa about what experiences in our lives form memory, and how those memories are held in our bodies, actions and behaviours. The title also speaks to Pini’s active dedication to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a wellbeing practice that conditions her body and mind.
Vunilagi Vou is proud to present Muscle Memory to close out the 2023 programme.
Please join us for the Muscle Memory exhibition opening from 6-9pm on Wednesday 25 October 2023.
As we approach our 4th anniversary, remembering every anniversary has in fact been within the Covid-19 pandemic and aftermath, it’s a pleasure to present the 2023 programme for Vunilagi Vou x East Tāmaki.
This fourth site of Vunilagi Vou, officially opened in August 2022, has been a flexible, evolving space. It has taken time to work out how to operate here and what this gallery space needs… it has taken time to recalibrate after a period of spacelessness in early 2022, and it has taken time to find resource from contestable funding programmes. There have been some hits, some misses, but each time, the needle has shifted again on what is possible here.
In late 2022, a grant was secured from Creative New Zealand to research and develop a solo exhibition – my own! It was the first time I have applied for and secured investment for my individual art practice. My project started with the concept of vanua from a Fijian perspective – “Fijian interconnectedness inclusive of culture, chiefs, knowledge systems, relationships, values, land, and spiritualities” (Fijian Vanua Research Framework definition, here). I was and continue to be interested in the shifting dynamics of being Tangata Moana / Tangata Tiriti in Aotearoa and the comfort/discomfort of being an indigenous settler on land violated by ongoing colonial violence.
Through extensive talanoa with Kaliopate Tavola, my father and Head of Mataqali Navusalevu, the second Mataqali in Dravuni Village in Kadavu, Fiji, the project became anchored in a visual exploration of what is known as Lapita pottery. Like footprints of ancestors, this pottery practice maps time, space and connections across Oceania, its decorative patterning a kind of DNA for visual vocabularies we use to this day. This early exploration of Lapita pottery also coincided with a chance reconnection with Tonga-based artist Serene Tay; conversations about pottery, healing, gallery building and spirituality with Serene between Wellington and South Auckland were pivotal – I’m so thankful our paths crossed like they did.
The grant from Creative New Zealand offered me time and space to dive deeper and expand my thinking and experimental making. The gallery became a shared studio space, I returned to working with textiles and painting on loose canvas – approaches I had used as a young artist moving from Suva, Fiji to South Auckland. I’ve loved making work again, finding resolutions through assembling and mark-making, arriving at understanding through quiet contemplation.
I use the title ‘artist-curator’ as a nod to the Cook Islands curator, Jim Vivieaere (1947-2011), who was a mentor and groundbreaker for Moana Pacific curatorial practice. I’ve long asserted that my curatorial work is an extension of my visual arts practice, but this exhibition project has reminded me that curating is a collective, outward practice, creating an identity statement with many parts, and facilitating the ways and means that statement is delivered and received. Being an artist is, in my experience, deeply introspective, a practice of trying to understand where individual experience fits within a wider collective experience.
I’ve so enjoyed remembering the ‘artist’ part of being an artist-curator.
My solo exhibition, BACKBONE is a body of new paintings and textile assemblages.
BACKBONE kicks off a season of solo shows at Vunilagi Vou here in East Tāmaki.
In late June, Papatoetoe-based painter, Niu Lemalu presents his second solo exhibition, Let’s Play Outide and in August, Ōtara-based interdisciplinary artist, Genevieve Pini presents her highly anticipated first solo, Muscle Memory.
Please help us to kick off a season of solos!
BACKBONE opens with a Private View / Opening on Thursday 27 April from 6-9pm and then runs until 10 June 2023.
Vunilagi Vou is open Thursday – Saturday from 10am – 2pm, and by appointment. Parking is available outside the main gate.
Vunilagi Vou is located at 14/15 Bishop Lenihan Place, East Tāmaki, South Auckland.
In a gentle start to the year, Vunilagi Vou’s first VV First Fridays event is on Friday 3 February and tackles the topic of courage.
The VV First Fridays event series was supported in 2022 by Creative New Zealand as a means to build community amongst Moana Pacific artists and the wider creative ecology here in South Auckland. The series of 10 events take place on the first Friday of the month from February to November, a low-key creative social club to get inspired, motivated and thoughtful at the start of each month.
In February, Vunilagi Vou invites anyone interested to come and listen to two inspiring Fijian creative thinkers talking story about their experiences of courage; when it’s needed, how to harness it and where it comes from.
Mereia Carling and Gina Cole have both had careers that have moved between creative pursuits and high-level professional roles in the fields of regional development and law. Courage is something they’ve both discussed, encouraged and inspired in those they’ve worked with and served, but like everyone, it has also been something they’ve had to understand and harness in their personal lives.
This conversation about courage is less a TED-talk and more a story sharing space; how does a Fijian lawyer become a Taekwondo practising sci-fi writer dreaming of worlds of Pasifikafuturism? How does a graduate of a fashion and textiles design training in Bristol, England end up working in child rights across the Pacific, and painting portraits of ancestors in Wellington?
Sometimes, being around a conversation about courage is enough to shape, inspire and mobilise courageous acts.
Vunilagi Vou is proud to welcome guests for the first time in 2023 to meet two inspiring and courageous women, break bread, kick back and enjoy a hazy summer evening at VVxET in East Tāmaki on Friday 3 February – doors open at 6pm, all welcome!
Vunilagi Vou is located at Suite 14, 15 Bishop Lenihan Place, East Tāmaki, South Auckland – more details here.
Public parking is available outside the main gate; entrance to the compound is via pedestrian gates.
The venue is wheelchair accessible, please get in touch to make special arrangements.
Mereia Carling is a Fijian with i-Taukei and Pākeha ancestry. Born in Aotearoa New Zealand, she has only lived in this country for three years, moving just before the pandemic – a journey of courage that took her to the sheer edge of sanity. Not the first one however, moving countries and changing careers – finding and following her destined path – has been and continues to be a journey of self-discovery, finding faith and the ancestors, and depths of courage she did not know she had. While she works a paid job that advances human rights for children and youth across Aotearoa New Zealand’s international development cooperation, she is an artist at heart. Qualified as a designer of fashion and textiles, she previously worked as an artist and designer before venturing into the development world. She has been writing her ‘story’ for the last 14 years to document her journey of courage, and has recently found enough life/work balance to start painting again.
Gina Cole (Fijian, Pakeha) MNZM, writer, lives in Tāmaki Makaurau. She won Best First Book Award at the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards for her collection Black Ice Matter. Her work has been widely anthologized and has appeared in numerous publications. She has appeared at many writing festivals, conferences and residencies including Auckland Writers Festival, Same Same but Different LGBTQIA+ Writers Festival, CoNZealand World Science Fiction Online Conference, Brisbane Writers Festival, Michael King Writers Centre Established Pasifika Writer’s Residency, Iowa International Writers Residency, Sitka Island Institute Alaska Residency and Varuna Writers House Residency, Katoomba, Blue Mountains, Australia. She is a qualified barrister & solicitor and practised law for many years. She holds a Masters of Creative writing and PhD in Creative Writing and is an Honorary Fellow in Writing at the University of Iowa. Gina has written two short film scripts for PISA Screen Fit. She also works as a background extra and has appeared in multiple film and television productions including The Rings of Power, One of Us is Lying, Sweet Tooth, The Wilds, Whina, Our Flag Means Death, Shortland Street, Brokenwood Mysteries and many others. Her science fiction fantasy novel Na Viro (Huia) is a work of Pasifikafuturism.
On Saturday 27 August2022, Vunilagi Vou’s newest site – VVxET – opens in East Tāmaki, South Auckland!
Instead of a traditional night time opening, VVxET will launch with an Open Day inviting the public to check out the new site, including the gorgeous stockroom and retail area, exhibition space and north-facing verandah!
Tucked away at the back of the Botany South Business Estate at 15 Bishop Lenihan Place, East Tāmaki, the new Vunilagi Vou premises has a pretty fascinating whakapapa of art dealing and appreciation. Built in 2004, the owner of the building established the ground floor as a small art dealership called I Like Gallery. Run on an appointment-only basis, gallerist Richard Jeffery ONZM, designed a perfectly formed exhibition space with high spec lighting and clean sight lines. It was immediately obvious how good parties would have been in this space!
Of all the commercial leases in all of Manukau / South Auckland, it seems somewhat divinely guided that Vunilagi Vou has ended up here, in a ready-made gallery, on the edge of the Ōtara Stream just 3 kilometres away from Fresh Gallery Ōtara, where it all began 16 years ago!
To launch the new exhibition space and ease back into exhibition-making after a 12 month hiatus, a collection of work has been assembled to represent Vunilagi Vou’s Moana Pacific arts community and two decades of professional practice and loving investment into Manukau / South Auckland art history.
The exhibition features recent and archival works by Nigel Borell, Ercan Cairns, Chris van Doren, Dr Sione Faletau, Antonio Filipo, Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake and Niutuiatua Lemalu.
The Vunilagi Vou stockroom is also full with works by Cypris Afakasi, David Garcia, Julia Mage’au Gray, Marcus Hipa, Rebecca Ann Hobbs & Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho, Sara Moana, Siliga David Setoga, Pati Solomona Tyrell, Manuha’apai Vaeatangitau and more!
The children’s book, The Legend of Tanovo and Tautaumolauby Kaliopate Tavola and Ema Tavola, in both English and Fijian, is now back in stock, alongside an eclectic collection of accessories, publications, patches and posters!
After this weekend’s Open Day, VVxET will be open Thursday to Saturday from 10am – 2pm, and by appointment.
VVxET Open Day is open to the public this Saturday 27 August from 10am until 6pm – all welcome!
2021 has been perhaps the most challenging year of my professional career, but pandemic pivots, shapeshifting and cold hard lockdown reality checks sat alongside some pretty amazing and uplifting moments. In the spirit of the season, here are some of 2021’s most wonderful highlights:
This year, FATFEB was produced under the creative leadership of South Auckland designer, Amy Lautogo, who developed an ambitious programme that added to and honoured the inaugural programme developed in 2020 in partnership with Ōtāhuhu-based artist and designer, Lissy Cole.
>>> Check out last year’s Fat Babe Pool Party here.
The 2021 programme activated the Vunilagi Vou 2.0 space beautifully, fully utilising the fale for the Talanoa and life-drawing events, and what would have been a site-specific performance work by Ria Hiroki and Elyssia Wilson-Heti, were it not for a Covid-19 community outbreak situation and snap lockdown in Auckland in mid-February.
It was a privilege to produce the second manifestation of the FATFEB kaupapa; the 2021 programme attracted significant funding from Creative New Zealand’s Pacific Arts funding programme and engaged audiences and raised awareness all over Aotearoa. Whilst Vunilagi Vou won’t be producing a 2022 programme, it has always felt like a platform to amplify and make visible conversations about BBIPOC fat liberation and build community without a sense of ownership; since FATFEB 2020, it has been lovely to see fat babe pool parties happening in Pōneke and Ōtautahi. It’s also always a pleasure to see events like FATFEB play a small part in the exciting careers of young artists like Sara Moana and social media creator slash cultural commentator MahMah Timoteo.
two water shows
two water shows was Ngati Ōtara by Antonio Filipo and big islands deep oceans by David Garcia, twin solo exhibitions that ran concurrently at two sites in Ōtara and Papatoetoe from 29 March until 12 May 2021.
The concept of two water shows was a public/private approach to exhibition making in South Auckland, locating one exhibition in a community space, and one at Vunilagi Vou 2.0 in residential Papatoetoe. Thematically connected, each independent exhibition was made site specifically for their unique settings.
At The Alexander Café, Ngati Ōtara was the first solo exhibition by Ōtara-based artist, Antonio Filipo; his eight recent aerial photographs offered a birds eye view on Ngāti Ōtara Park, its waterways and surroundings, and a necessary shift in perspective of Ōtara and its natural beauty.
At Vunilagi Vou, big islands deep oceans was a suite of new works by Ōtautahi-based mapmaker, David Garcia, depicting the majestic Pacific ocean floor made up of submarine structures and habitats that evolve with the water and atmosphere over time.
two water shows was part of Vunilagi Vou’s 2021 exhibitions programme produced with support from our 2020 BoostedxMoana crowdfunding campaign and the generosity of 118 wonderful donors.
>>> Read a short interview with Antonio Filipo here >>> For artworks still available from these exhibitions, get in touch.
The Alexander Cafe, Ōtara
The Alexander Cafe was a great space to flex some new ideas in 2021. Finally a spot in Ōtara to get decent coffee and to present site-specific exhibitions in good light with local audiences. Whilst we moved out formally from the mezzanine floor space in November, fellow creative entrepreneur Czarina Wilson has stayed on with her beautiful boutique retail operation, Celebrate Aotearoa.
Portraiture in South Auckland
The last exhibition produced in 2021, and perhaps for the foreseeable future was Picture Me Rollin’ – Portraiture in the Southside at The Alexander Cafe. The new work by Genevieve Leitu Pini, Marcus Hipa and Niutuiatua Lemalu was so good and whilst the exhibition was cut short by another lockdown, I’m excited to see where these artists will show and go in the future.
Yoga & Meditation at Vunilagi Vou 2.0
One of the most rewarding parts of 2021 was the season of Yoga & Meditation classes at Vunilagi Vou 2.0 led by Gamo Farani Tomlin. Bringing together small and eclectic groups of locals, Gamo’s classes made a big impact for everyone who attended. For me, these classes were critical in managing the cyclonic energies of 2021 – so much gratitude for Gamo!
Whilst from the back-end of being an event and exhibition producer, the amount of Covid cancellations, rescheduling and pivoting 2021 required was exhausting and often disheartening, this year was also a great year to start selling online, grow a new community on Twitter, make artwork again during lockdowns, and publish Vunilagi Vou’s first title, VV:Dua.
In 2022, Vunilagi Vou won’t be producing an events and exhibitions programme for the first time, but some exciting projects currently underway will be coming to life, including:
>>> Producing new work for Volume: Bodies of Knowledge curated by Torika Bolatagici for Metro Arts, Brisbane and Bus Projects, Melbourne.
>>>VV: Southside Swan Song – A second publication about Vunilagi Vou’s growth, output and philosophy, produced with support from Creative New Zealand Pacific Arts programme.
>>> Supporting a small group of Moana Pacific artists on inspiring independent research and exhibition projects – good things take time and talanoa, love it!
And a relocation from South Auckland to Wellington! So open to what will come from this major cultural shake-up and recalibration of time and space!
To everyone who has bought artwork and merch and supported a year of stop and start programming, across two locations, online and offline – thank you, sincerely, vinaka vakalevu.
All the best for a restful and safe festive season!
Down Renton Road in Māngere, on Ihumātao whenua, pōhutakawa trees cling to the edges of the land that meets the sea. Half way between up and down, these weathered beings endure, roots exposed, horizontally resilient. Their gnarly reaching branches grow low to the ground, as if to confuse and cradle passers-by. Or me, at least.
The rugged beach down Renton Road has been a place of escape, solitude and reflection for almost 20 years. I’ve marvelled at these rule-breaking trees, sat in them and listened to kōtare, walked face-first into branches and become disoriented by their upside-down-sideways perspective-bending finesse.
During Auckland’s longest lockdown that started in mid-August 2021, I made regular trips down to Renton Road, daughter and dog in tow. These visits, our only outings, were and continue to be opportunities to recharge, and for the three of us in our bubble, time to look outwards and not at each other for a change.
I often take a heavy heart down Renton Road. The impetus to drive there, a 30 kilometre round trip, often comes from a point of mental messiness, reduced clarity. Whatever is happening with the tide, the wind, the other activities that often happen down Renton Road, or the state of the beach or carpark, just being there soothes the wairua. I used to watch planes taking off and landing at Auckland Airport from Renton Road beach and think the peace of this space for me was maybe the feeling of being close to the exit at all times.
On my last trip down Renton Road, I was trying to work out how to articulate where Vunilagi Vou is at. How to share more decisions made out of necessity and principles, stretching further, digging deeper to survive in a climate of chronic crisis. How would I be able to articulate resilience, and offer confidence, whilst watching a pre-pandemic business model crack and creak, bend and breach…
I sat in a pōhutakawa tree and listened to the kōtare. I was reminded that Vunilagi Vou was born on the walls of my parents’ downstairs room in 2018 when I initially left South Auckland to reverse migrate to my hometown of Suva, Fiji. I was on a high that year, producing talks, exhibitions and projects in Casablanca, London, Berlin and Melbourne. I ended up reverse reverse migrating back to South Auckland in 2019 determined that Southside was where Vunilagi Vou needed to be.
I do a lot of #ThrowbackThursday across social media channels to this period and Vunilagi Vou’s first nine months of operation, which included more inspiring opportunities in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kinshasa and Adelaide. It wasn’t until the middle of 2020 that the prospect of having no international travel within the scope of Vunilagi Vou, hit home, and in reality, I’ve been mourning this loss deeply ever since.
The pōhutakawa trees down Renton Road feel like a pretty good visual for where Vunilagi Vou is at right now. The roots have always been strong, even as the ground that initially facilitated her growth has been eroded. Vunilagi Vou has now been in operation for longer during the pandemic than before it. The pandemic projects and pivots, collaborations and commissions, the shapeshifting… everything has added to Vunilagi Vou’s growth, but it’s just growing… a bit weird now.
Apparently it takes 90 days to break a habit. By this time, its daily control over our lives has diminished or disappeared, or become manageable. We adapt and recalibrate with new habits whilst our relationship with the old habit is repeatedly analysed and deconstructed, opening up the potential for quiet existential dread, on a daily basis. I quit smoking and drinking alcohol 97 days ago.
Next week it’ll be 90 days since Vunilagi Vou operated full-time onsite at The Alexander Cafe in Ōtara. Like last year’s long lockdown, this period has been time for transformation and re-shaping born from frustration, endless domestic labour and deep reflection on the precarious sustainability, ethics and financial insecurity inherent within Aotearoa’s creative and cultural sector.
It feels like no two days of Vunilagi Vou’s existence since late 2018 have been the same. Massive upheavals, tremendous highs and lows, and the constant, non-stop hustle required to craft an independent creative work plan fuelled on mad ideas and confidence, calculated hype, and the trade and exchange of pictures and stories.
It has taken 90 days, most of this time with no childcare and no family support, to think about where Vunilagi Vou is today, and to come face-to-face with a niggling disappointment, a sadness, and commit again to re-thinking and re-strategising where things can go from here.
In the interest of survival:
Vunilagi Vou will no longer be in the business of producing events.
Vunilagi Vou is moving out of the custom-designed mezzanine office space at The Alexander Cafe as of this month. Celebrate Aotearoa will remain in the space and is super excited to open up to customers as soon as The Alexander Cafe is able to open for in-house service.
Vunilagi Vou 2.0 no longer has the capacity to offer Yoga & Meditation class due to heavy construction and disruption on the housing development site next door.
Commissioned writing, consultancy and the VV Online Shop will be the key focus areas until further notice.
The Auckland region has been in Alert Level 4 lockdown for now over 30 days. An outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19 has the potential to cause disproportionate havoc in South Auckland, where there are high concentrations of systemically disadvantaged communities, deprivation and overcrowded households. With daily reported numbers of positive cases now going down (ish) and vaccination numbers reportedly going up, there is some light at the end of this new tunnel that we all now live in.
As Aotearoa moved into snap lockdown in mid-August, Vunilagi Vou was on the verge of rolling out a Creative New Zealand-funded event series at The Alexander Cafe. The project itself was a pivoted concept developed to salvage a 2019 funded project that became pandemic unviable. The VVxAlexander Talanoa Series was intended to be four monthly talanoa events dedicated to unpacking some of the sector’s most urgent, problematic and pressing conditions, with a collective of incredibly inspiring Moana Oceania arts managers, thinkers and change-makers. With two of the proposed events in the series absorbed into and thus cancelled by Level 4 lockdown, and the proposed dates for the third and fourth events potentially impacted by heavy restrictions on gathering numbers and general and perceived risk of community transmission, it’s fair to say that the VVxAlexander Talanoa Series, in its current form, is a yet another pandemic casualty.
Resilience is a condition that can grow from this culture of producing. Events are more vulnerable than ever to being impacted by postponement, cancellations and often conceptual pivots; producing in the unpredictability of the pandemic climate requires a deep commitment, strong support systems and lot of gumption.
Vunilagi Vou was built with full reserves of those things back in 2019, but as a largely one-woman-led independent operation that exists in balance with the demands of solo parenting, the culture and climate of producing in 2021, has drained the tanks. Learning of the New Zealand Government’s investment in the creative and cultural sectors through the Ministry for Culture & Heritage Arts and Culture COVID Recovery Programme was at first encouraging, but seeing such vast quantities of that investment funnelled into already well-funded organisations, has been incredibly dispiriting.
There have been ways that some of those well-funded organisations have engaged independent practitioners and producers, like Vunilagi Vou, to effectively share resource and perform resilience collectively, but within the complexity of this power dynamic, there is unfortunately always room for exploitation.
The third event in the VVxAlexander Talanoa Series was entitled, The State of Art: Culture Shifts & the Pandemic and was scheduled to include celebrated curator Nigel Borell, and myself, alongside South Auckland-based analyst and commentator Shane Ta’ala. I was personally really looking forward to an evening of hot takes and real talk about the ways the pandemic climate has allowed our sector to breathe in conversations about race and inequality, sit with that discomfort, and try to breathe out old, tired norms. But like change itself, this conversation, complicated and difficult, will take a longer-term vision to manifest in real time.
Being in lockdown in the site of Vunilagi Vou 2.0 – the master pivot – it has become increasingly evident how taxing this climate of producing creative and cultural content and events has been over the past 18 months. Vunilagi Vou 2.0 was built in 2020 as a safe haven from the unknowns of the world outside of our homes. The dream of this space was born out of lockdown, when life outside was on pause. It was a way to create stability when nothing else seemed secure. But when the neighbouring land was sold earlier this year (along with two other single house lots recently sold), development of six two-storey townhouses began next door and the literal stability of this pandemic oasis was disrupted; a third Vunilagi Vou shapeshift was put in motion.
Vunilagi Vou’s partnership with Celebrate Aotearoa and The Alexander Cafe has been joyful and challenging, empowering and rewarding. This third shapeshift from a commercial shop in Ōtāhuhu to a converted garage in Papatoetoe, to a mezzanine floor in an Ōtara cafe, has been in so many ways, the best version of Vunilagi Vou.
As this small organisation grows and evolves, its business plan shifts and adjusts to the time and space it finds itself in. This constant flux is an exercise of detachment and strategy, survival and renewal. This mode is largely exhilarating, but requires a level of focus and commitment that is entirely dependent, in my experience, on childcare! As a solo parent, lockdown, unfortunately, has not presented the time and space to perform resilience and resourcefulness as an independent creative entity.
Whilst most projects and commitments have been extended, pushed out and evolved, some have been necessarily axed. One of the more disappointing outcomes of this has been the cancellation of our scheduled exhibition, The Spatial Expression of Economic Inequality for Artweek Auckland and the full withdrawal from the regional programme.
The future is still so frustratingly unknown; in the short-term, it’s whether Auckland will be able to go down in alert levels to ease at least some of the region’s economic, social, spiritual, cultural and culinary frustration. In the mid-term, whether start-up businesses like The Alexander Cafe, Celebrate Aotearoa and Vunilagi Vou are able to bounce back (again) from such an economic hiding. And in the long-term, it’s whether Vunilagi Vou, an audacious idea born in a pre-pandemic time and space, is sustainable or even viable, within both South Auckland’s rapidly shifting cultural landscape, and a pandemic.
During the past 30 days however, some things have been spirit lifting…
Hidden in Plain Sight curated by Julia Albrecht and Stephanie Endter closed at Frankfurt’s Weltkulturen Museum on 5 September featuring a body of work made in response to Vunilagi Vou’s 2019 exhibition, Lain Blo Yu Mi – Our People Our Lines and featuring a painting made for FATFEB(2021) which will soon be part of the museum’s permanent collection.
Sales have been trickling through from the VV Online Shop even though deliveries won’t be made until Auckland moves to Alert Level 3. Deep gratitude for these small gestures of support and investment. Vinaka vakalevu.
Work is currently in development for a deeply inspiring curatorial project led by Dr Torika Bolatagici entitled, Volume: Bodies of Knowledge. This research-based curatorial project emerges from a feminist phenomenological framework centering the lived experience of Indigenous, bla(c)k, brown, women-of-colour artists whose experiential knowledge through the body, informs their creative practice. To produce work for such a relevant and meaningful kaupapa, and to work within the realm of understanding of motherhood, is game-changing.
The lockdown re-alignment has offered an opportunity to reflect on the time and space that Vunilagi Vou’s first publication, VV:Duawas first conceived in 2020. The publication documenting Vunilagi Vou’s first year of operation was funded with support from Creative New Zealand’s Arts Continuity Grants programme and launched on Vunilagi Vou’s second anniversary in June of this year at The Alexander Cafe. The project presented steep learning curves but produced an important document about independent arts management and South Auckland. Although producing this book was a massive challenge, writing about Vunilagi Vou’s next chapter – shapeshifting and creative survival in chronic crisis – seems essential. Watch this space.
This month we launch a new series of talanoa events at Vunilagi Vou’s shared premises at The Alexander Cafe in Ōtara, South Auckland.
The series centralises the exchange of ideas, and the time and space for talking story, brokering collective understanding and building networks amongst the creative community. Four thematic approaches have been developed to draw out conversation on issues that are shaping the landscape for artists, cultural producers and arts workers currently engaged in the creative and cultural sector in Auckland and throughout Aotearoa.
The VVxAlexander Talanoa Series builds on the successful 2019 Southside Talanoa Series delivered in Ōtāhuhu in partnership with Auckland Council’s Pacific arts programme. This year’s series has been supported by Creative New Zealand’s Pacific arts programme and is proudly Moana (Pacific)-led, delivered in partnership with Moana (Pacific) and indigenous-owned and operated businesses.
The Alexander Cafe is located at 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara, South Auckland – free parking is available outside the venue and on Alexander Crescent. The venue is wheelchair accessible and light refreshments will be available.
Whilst these talanoa events will not be recorded or live streamed, a programme of in-depth conversations with select speakers from the four events will be developed as online content – more details to come.
The first of four monthly talanoa events invites three local creative producers to unpack the drivers for creating films, events and activations that benefit, make visible and serve communities they are part of.
Jep Savali (Manatua Promotions & Consultancy), Vea Mafile’o (Malosi Pictures Ltd) and Tanu Gago (FAFSWAG) will share insights and stories in conversation with Ema Tavola (Vunilagi Vou) drawing on a broad spectrum of professional experience in the fields of event production and programming, film and television, visual arts and storytelling.
The VVxAlexander Talanoa Series foregrounds arts management and leadership as an area of critical importance for the development of the Moana (Pacific) arts sector. These talanoa events are an opportunity for arts managers to share their experiences, the challenges they have overcome and offer ideas for the future for audiences of locals, artists, stakeholders and change makers. All welcome!
WHEN: Doors open 6pm, Friday 27 August WHERE: The Alexander Cafe, 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara, South Auckland COST: Free
Vunilagi Vou is proud to present a new exhibition developed site-specifically for The Alexander Cafe in Ōtara, South Auckland.
Picture Me Rollin – Portraiture in the Southsideis a collection of painted portraits that have been either made in South Auckland or ended up here, as in the case of this striking oil painting of former New Zealand Prime Minister Norman Kirk painted in 1975 by Dutch painter, Johanna Van Massop. It was this large-scale portrait, bought to Vunilagi Vou in 2020 by its owner, that re-ignited an interest in both portraiture and the discipline of painting.
Johanna Van Massop (1932-2015) was a self-taught painter whose last documented exhibition was in 2009 at Nathan Homestead in Manurewa. Her later years were spent at Edmund Hillary Retirement Village in Remuera where she grew a close bond with her caregiver, Annie Young. Van Massop left a number of her replica and original oil paintings to Ms Young with the intention that the funds raised from selling them could help her to have the quality of care Van Massop received in her final years. In November 2020, Ms Young found her way to Vunilagi Vou 2.0, shared her story and started a conversation about opportunities to show and sell the works.
Whilst historical portraiture, and the work of Pākehā artists, doesn’t fall clearly in line with Vunilagi Vou’s position in the creative sector, the portrait of Norman Kirk has demanded attention and inspired deeper awareness of Kirk’s role in Aotearoa history and politics. The 46-year-old oil painting was completed the year following Kirk’s death whilst in office, and the year after Manukau City Council named their new public pools in Ōtara, the Norman Kirk Memorial Pools.
Picture Me Rollin – Portraiture in the Southside features work by eight Moana Oceania / Pacific artists alongside Van Massop’s Norman Kirk, inviting reflection on the meaning and craft of portraiture as markers in time, people as culture, painting as archive.
The artists featured represent a mix of self-taught and art school trained practitioners, with practices that have ebbed and flowed less with exhibitions and art world pursuits, and more with the grassroots economy of commissions, birthday banners, murals and apparel. Many of these practices have grown in garages and live on in homes and local collections, creating archives of Pacific peoples made by Pacific painters.
Picture Me Rollin is the name of a song by Tupac Shakur (1971-1996) released in 1996; an iconic, g-funk era classic reflecting curator Ema Tavola’s own time marker and drawing connections across generations, lived realities, geographies and creative expression.
Picture Me Rollin – Portraiture in the Southside
Featuring Apelu John Crouch, Marcus Hipa, Niutuiatua Lemalu, Genevieve Leitu Pini, Ema Tavola, Jade White, Czarina Wilson & Finer, and Johanna Van Massop.
26 July – 4 September 2021
The Alexander Cafe, 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara, South Auckland