Vunilagi Vou is re-opening on 10 October, 2020 with a solo exhibition by South Auckland-based filmmaker and visual artist, Vea Mafile’o. Fofola Koloa – Unfolding my Koloa is a new body of experimental works produced with support from Creative New Zealand’s Arts Continuity Grant programme, an initiative established in response to the global pandemic and pause in production for the creative community.
Vea’s practice as a filmmaker and screen industry professional started in the Visual Arts with an undergraduate degree in Sculpture from Manukau School of Visual Arts (MSVA). Minoring in Moving Image, Vea honed her practice in video installation, leading her to work in art direction and camera operation for television after graduating, and later directing and producing, working extensively on content for TVNZ shows Fresh, Tagata Pasifika and for the web portal TheCoconet.tv. Her production company, Malosi Pictures, run with partner and filmmaker, Jeremiah Tauamiti, was established in 2015 and last year, their first feature-length documentary, For My Father’s Kingdom was premiered at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival.
Having established a practice of video documentation during her undergraduate studies, Vea’s archive of collected footage now spans 17 years. The COVID-19 global pandemic offered an opportunity to step back from the hyper productivity of Malosi Pictures’ normal hustle, creating time to think and reflect, focus and play.
Fofola Koloa – Unfolding my Koloa is a continuation from Vea’s 2018 solo exhibition, Digital Launima at ST PAUL St Gallery, where archival footage presented as the patterned grids of ngatu launima (decorated barkcloth) formed an impressive three-channel video projection over the full length of the gallery space. Of that body of work, Vea commented,
As a young Tongan woman I am expected to have koloa faka-Tonga, to make them or gather them by buying them. Koloa faka-Tonga are fine mats, woven mats, Ta’ovala (mats worn round the waist), kie kie (worn by women round the waist), baskets and different sized tapa cloths. Koloa faka-Tonga is something I don’t have the skills to make properly. I could learn but I have realised my strengths are in gathering moving images. This is my digital koloa, my contribution to my family’s koloa… Being hafikasi and living in New Zealand means we have to make new ways to keep our koloa and koloa faka-Tonga alive and adapt it to how we live in the world today.
Two years on, and with even more footage digitised with help from the Creative New Zealand Arts Continuity Grant programme, Fofola Koloa – Unfolding my Koloa is not only a further refined analysis of personal archives and journeys between Tonga and Aotearoa New Zealand, but produced at a time of global resetting and reflecting on the ways our pre-pandemic modes were shaping us and the environments we inhabit. This experimental body of work is an ‘airing out’ of Vea’s digital koloa, an opportunity to recalibrate and re-contextualise its value and meaning.
For Vea, the site of Vunilagi Vou 2.0 is also familiar territory. As undergraduate students at MSVA, this garage was a place of meeting, making and sharing, thinking and planning. With the recent closure of Manukau Institute of Technology’s creative arts programme, the era of MSVA and its special context for making art here in Manukau / South Auckland, has inspired important reflections on the unique trajectories of establishing a creative practice here.
For Vunilagi Vou, this first exhibition in the new site is an opportunity to re-think the contexts and terms of engagement for the presentation of contemporary Pacific art. The space is no longer bound by the capitalism of a commercial setting, and the home and suburban context for presenting Pacific art is new terrain being negotiated with care and attention.
Fofola Koloa – Unfolding my Koloa runs from 10 October – 21 November 2020. Viewing by appointment only.
Learn more about Vea Mafile’o, her production company Malosi Pictures and their first feature film, For My Father’s Kingdom (2019) here:
Image credit: Detail, Vea in the backyard (2003) by Emily Mafile’o