Painting and portraiture in the Southside #VVxAlexander

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 Southside is 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

Public programme to be announced soon!

Winter Update: VV x Ōtara

Our first month of Vunilagi Vou operations being located at The Alexander Cafe in Ōtara and it has been a busy, rewarding and uplifting time!

The new exhibitions that launched VVxAlexander have felt so perfectly placed as a quiet intervention into public Southside space.

Jeremiah Tauamiti’s Creative New Zealand-funded exhibition project, Put Some Respect on My Name has made a strong start to utilising the main wall of the cafe. The exhibition expands on a video project initially started during lockdown in 2020, interviewing Pacific Islanders about the meaning and mana of their surnames, and the experiences they have encountered with mispronunciation and mockery. The video component of the exhibition holds the stories of nine individuals with care, and humour, interspersing clever customised animation by India Taberner.

On Saturday 10 July, we co-hosted an Artist Talk about Jeremiah Tauamiti work with the Pacific Islands Screen Artists network, our first artist talanoa event here at The Alexander Cafe. Thank you everyone who came out on a wintery night, to our wonderful barista Claudia Chan, and Czarina Wilson who opened up her beautiful retail space, Celebrate Aotearoa for the event. The public programming that creates space to talanoa and understand art and artists is so special when the stars align and the space is right.

The second of three bodies of work that has launched Vunilagi Vou’s new presence at The Alexander Cafe is Killer of a Time by Emily Mafile’o. Whilst it was envisaged that 10 large-scale Lambda c-type mounted prints from this series could be shown, the install team settled on five. Working with the cafe space presents some challenges, but these five insights into Emily’s 2012-13 series, sit beautifully, and centrally, on the cafe’s main and highest wall, glowing gold in the afternoon sun.

Two of Emily’s images from this show feature in a write-up on South Auckland arts and culture in the current issue of Verve magazine, thanks to Ōtāhuhu-based arts writer and advocate, Aimee Ralfini. Check out the July issue of Verve here.

The third body of work currently on show is a series of new and recent illustrative paintings by Melbourne-based interdisciplinary artist, Peatree, who visited Aotearoa earlier this year to re-connect after 14 years away. Peatree, aka Tirelle Peter, was born in South Africa, raised in East Auckland, went on to study at Manukau School of Visual Arts, graduating in 2005 with a Bachelor of Visual Arts majoring in Sculpture. This beautiful little body of work reflects the influences on Peatree’s practice absorbed from global adventures, and their evolving positionality in relation to gender, ethnicity and sexuality.

Whilst we encountered some tedious technical issues, we did an Instagram Live artist talk with Peatree on Friday 2 July, which offers some beautiful insights to the works on display and the emotional and spiritual significance of the symbolism within Peatree’s visual vocabulary.

This first suite of exhibitions runs until Saturday 24 July at The Alexander Cafe. The cafe is open six days a week from 7am – 2/3pm (closed Sunday), and is located at 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara, South Auckland.

Vunilagi Vou is thrilled to be partnering again with South Auckland-based entrepreneur Czarina Wilson, who helped develop the retail arm of Vunilagi Vou in Ōtāhuhu. Czarina’s boutique retail space, Celebrate Aotearoa, is now located on the mezzanine floor of The Alexander Cafe and stocks a beautiful range of Māori, Pasifika and New Zealand-made gifts, homeware and accessories. The space is open Monday – Saturday from 9am – 2pm.

Celebrate Aotearoa and Moana Fresh are also the exclusive stockists of VV:Dua – Vunilagi Vou’s first publication produced with support from Creative New Zealand.

A new exhibition – Picture Me Rollin’ – Portraiture in the Southside opens to the public on Monday 26 July – more details coming soon!

Youth Talanoa x The Alexander Cafe, #Ōtara, #SouthAuckland

Next Thursday, Vunilagi Vou is excited to be hosting a talanoa for Māori and Pacific youth in South Auckland to share insights about the issues, challenges and joys of living here, and hear about what some of the issues, challenges and joys are being a young person in the Pacific Region.

Our guest is Mereia Carling, who recently relocated from Suva, Fiji to work at the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade where she is the Senior Advisor Inclusive Development – Child and Youth Wellbeing.

Mereia will also share some pathways to a career in Foreign Affairs and how she is intrinsically connected to Vunilagi Vou as Ema’s big sister and forever advisor and supporter ✨🌺✨

WHEN: 6pm, Thursday 1 July 2021
WHERE: The Alexander Café, 4/100 Alexander Crescent, Ōtara, South Auckland

⚡️ No registration necessary
⚡️ Light refreshments provided

Questions about the event? Send Ema an email: hello@vunilagivou.com

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

Kava + Hustle: Updates from the South

This is a long overdue update!

As we shift and flex to the constant unknowns of our pandemic reality, Vunilagi Vou continues to adapt and evolve in its new environs here in Papatoetoe, Manukau City / South Auckland.

Collectors and collections in South Auckland

Our VV Stock Room sale was an excellent way to close 2020, selling a number of works that had been part of Vunilagi Vou exhibitions since opening in 2019. In early 2021, we found a new location for the ever-expanding ‘stock room’ collection in the new cafe and social enterprise, The Alexander Cafe in Ōtara, South Auckland.

The Alexander Cafe has offered locals a space for meetings, healthy kai, talanoa and now an opportunity to enjoy works by local artists, largely made in and about the South Auckland environment and social landscape. Located in a semi-industrial site, filled with natural light and centrally located a stone’s throw from the Ōtara Town Centre, the high stud and crisp white walls offer an exciting opportunity for artwork to be seen and appreciated by largely local audiences. As such, a series of exhibitions is in the pipeline, to activate the space and create a dialogue between Vunilagi Vou’s exhibition programme and the more public setting of the cafe.

The first exhibition pairing between The Alexander Cafe and Vunilagi Vou is two bodies of work by David Garcia, an Ōtautahi-based doctoral student and cartographer committed to decolonising map making, and Antonio Filipo, an Ōtara-based former student of Manukau School of Visual Arts now honing his skills in aerial drone photography. The exhibitions are due to open at the end of March, Covid-pending!

The Alexander Cafe has already proven to be an exciting site to move more locally produced work into local collections, one of Vunilagi Vou’s driving principles.

Features + Research

Late last year, we enjoyed being part of the new look and feel Metro magazine in an article written with care and nuance by Lana Lopesi profiling both Vunilagi Vou and Avondale-based creative enterprise, Moana Fresh. It was also a privilege to be mentioned in Rosabel Tan’s excellent overview of the health of the local creative economy in the age of coronovirus. Tan’s article for Metro entitled, Flip the Switch was a refined version of a larger piece of research commissioned by Te Taumata Toi-a-Iwi, which can be read here.

Tū Tonu: a community of Southside practice

In December, Vunilagi Vou invited a group of South Auckland-based arts managers, curators and advocates together to break bread and reflect on year of significant change. Whilst all living in and significantly connected to the South Auckland area, everyone present represented an emerging community of qualified arts professionals who have exited mainstream arts and cultural institutions where they had been heavily involved in strategic social inclusion and high quality community engagement-driven programming.

A decision was made at this gathering to form a collective called Tū Tonu, to channel collective skills and institutional knowledge back into the South Auckland creative ecology to promote investment and generate more arts and culture activity driven by and for our local communities. Including Nigel Borell, Tanu Gago (FAFSWAG), Leilani Kake, Iokapeta Magele-Suamasi, Kolokesa Uafā Māhina-Tuai and Toluma’anave Barbara Makuati-Afitu (Lagi-Maama Academy and Consultancy), Jep Savali (Manatua) and Ema Tavola (Vunilagi Vou), Tū Tonu is committed to meeting regularly to offer collective support, critique, knowledge and network sharing.

This badge was produced to show solidarity for curator Nigel Borell when he chose to resign from his senior curatorial role at Auckland Art Gallery at the end of 2020 after producing the landmark exhibition, Toi Tū Toi Ora. Proceeds from the sale of these badges go towards the work of Tū Tonu; buy one here!

In February, some members of Tū Tonu participated in a Zoom hui with ruangrupa, a Jakarta-based interdisciplinary arts collective represented by member, Farid Rakun. The conversation was facilitated by Artspace Aotearoa as part of The Drift-Kōrewa: ruangrupa Podcast Series. Listen here:

Exhibitions, revisions and gratitude

Our Vunilagi Vou 2021 programme has been supported in large part by a crowdfunding effort via Boosted late last year. To 118 generous donors, and everyone who helped amplify and share the campaign – thank you so, so much. Our first exhibition this year, Pussy Fat, was part of the FATFEB programme and whilst it encountered a few revisions in the artist line-up, it has ended up being a sweet joint show.

Kava + Hustle

A new development for Vunilagi Vou has been the importation of premium grade Fijian kava, a high quality organic product and significant ingredient in the act and practice of talanoa, an event format and approach that has been increasingly part of Vunilagi Vou’s programme.

Whilst the traditional communal practice of drinking kava needs certain revisions in the age of coronavirus, the effects and benefits are unchanged. With mildly hallucinogenic qualities, kava is said to have a similar effect on the brain as alcohol, promoting calm, relaxation and reflection. Outside of the Pacific region where it is used in both ceremonial and informal settings, kava or Piper methysticum has been researched as a natural stress-reliever, reducing anxiety and even relieving pain.

Importing Fijian kava also reflects a concerted effort to support Fiji’s economy which has been severely impacted from the global recession bought on by the pandemic.

We are developing some resources to guide first-time kava drinkers to mix and reflect on the protocols of drinking kava in Fijian contexts, but there are also excellent sources available online. Check out the two varieties we currently stock from the regions of Saqani in the north of Fiji, and Kadavu in the south here.

Kava is one of a small range of products now available via our Vunilagi Vou online shop, one way to keep this creative enterprise ticking when lockdowns create frustrating pauses in activity. The shop represents a curated collection of limited edition and hard-to-find art products that made up much of our retail range when the commercial premises of Vunilagi Vou in Ōtāhuhu was closed last year. Although limited to New Zealand shipping options at the moment, it is envisioned that international shipping will be possible in the near future.

Apologies for a long break in updates! More coming soon!