#VVFirstFridays – A beginning…

On the first Friday of September, we gently launched a new event series called VV First Fridays, a very relaxed approach to bringing together folx interested in Moana Pacific art and ideas here in South Auckland.

Vunilagi Vou’s new site in East Tāmaki is situated a stone’s throw from Ōtara and Dr Sione Faletau is one of three Ōtara-based artists currently showing in our VVxET launch exhibition. Having completed his postgraduate studies at Elam School of Fine Arts, Sione’s work has carved an impressive pathway into the Auckland art world. In 2021, he was commissioned to produce a new work for The Lightship, a new contemporary art site launched by the Ports of Auckland consisting of a 110m-long, 13m-high light wall that wraps around the western façade of the port’s car handling building. His work was entitled, Kupesi Sisi Huelo ‘oe Taulanga Waitematā moe Funga Tāmaki MakaurauThe Garland of patterned Lights of the Watematā Harbour and Auckland City.

This VV First Fridays event sat within what is widely celebrated as Tongan Language Week in part to acknowledge Sione’s work as a Tongan creative practitioner who consistently uses Lea faka-Tonga / Tongan language in the naming of his work. Reflecting on interviews and media coverage about his practice, it is significant to see Tongan language and concepts being discussed in places and spaces where it is rarely seen.

Artists Benjamin Work + Clinton Hewett

From Sione’s research into Tongan masculinity, his upbringing and experiences going to Tangaroa College and Ōtāhuhu College, the pathways and pillars of knowledge within academic and cultural spaces, Vunilagi Vou’s first ‘First Fridays’ talanoa delved into the murky waters of colonial body politics, where domestic violence sits within the traditional measures of masculinity and the time, space and ephemerality of making video art.

(L-R) Ema Tavola, Sione Faletau, Benjamin Work, Clinton Hewett and Leilani Kake

Vunilagi Vou sits in a creative ecology here in South Auckland that weaves countless lives, arts practice and experience together. At this first VV First Fridays talanoa, we realised that fellow Ōtara-based artist, Leilani Kake, was working at Ōtāhuhu College when Sione was there and coordinated a pretty spectacular school trip that he went on in 2008 to the Festival of Pacific Arts in Pago Pago, American Sāmoa. Clinton Hewett was a student at Manukau Institute of Technology in 2013 when I was teaching a paper called Pacific Art Histories: An Eccentric View (and was an awesome student!) and went on to be the Gallery Coordinator of Fresh Gallery Ōtara. Benjamin Work had his first exhibition proper at Fresh Gallery Ōtara in 2012 in my outgoing show there, WWJD: What Would Jim Do? and ten years on, has just opened a significant solo show at Bergman Gallery in central Auckland entitled, To’a Motu, the title of his first work shown at Fresh Gallery Ōtara.

Gratitude to Davina from Koleta Pacific Boutique for skill sharing and talanoa whilst mixing Vunilagi Vou’s first bowl in East Tāmaki!

Vinaka vakalevu to our neighbouring business, Koleta Pacific Boutique, whose owner-operator, Davina, kindly came by to share some tips on mixing kava and with a lot of laughter, helped christen Vunilagi Vou East Tāmaki with our first bowl!

Our VV First Fridays programme is an evolving currently unfunded kaupapa; there are some exciting ideas in the pipeline including film screenings, skill-sharing exchanges and talks inspired by the environmental context of the Ōtara waterways and wetlands. In this new time-space of East Tāmaki, it’s great to feel grounded again in the energy of the greater Ōtara area, and the creative ecology, community and networks, that Vunilagi Vou was born from and continues to serve.

Watch this space!

#VVFirstFridays: Dr Sione Faletau

This month Vunilagi Vou kicks off a new event programme at the new East Tāmaki site called VV First Fridays!

On the first Friday of every month, Vunilagi Vou will host an artist talk, thematic talanoa, film screening or workshop centring Moana Pacific art and ideas. Friday nights on Bishop Lenihan Place are abuzz with eateries and bubble tea rooms – a perfect chaser after what promises to be inspiring, sometimes challenging and always thought-provoking talanoa!

This Friday 9 September is the first of the event series acknowledging Tongan Language Week (4-10 September) with local Ōtara-based interdisciplinary artist and researcher, Dr Sione Faletau.

Come and learn about how Sione’s research in Tongan values and the semiotics of sound and design shapes and informs his impressive interdisciplinary practice.

🌺 Doors open at 6pm, Friday 9 September 2022
🌺 #VVFirstFridays is proudly an alcohol-free kaupapa – kava, tea and coffee available
🌺 Koha is welcome! #VVFirstFridays is currently unfunded
🌺 Parking is available outside the main gate of 15 Bishop Lenihan Place
🌺 Vunilagi Vou is located at Suite 14, 15 Bishop Lenihan Place, East Tāmaki, South Auckland

Artwork credit: “Ongo Ongo” (still), 2022, digital video by Dr Sione Faletau

#VVxET Open Day and South Auckland art history

On Saturday 27 August 2022, 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!

VVxET is located on the edge of the Ōtara Stream

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!

Maka (2022), a mauri stone by Niuean artist, Chris van Doren

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.

Putiputi (2022) video still by Leilani Kake

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 Tautaumolau by 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!

Keep up to date on Vunilagi Vou activity via Instagram and Twitter.

#VVxET Open Day – Postponed until 27.08.22 – New Moon, New Space!

Vunilagi Vou’s beautiful fourth site was almost ready to open to the public on Wednesday 17 August 2022 from 10am until 6pm but then I caught Covid!

Having opened three sites since 2019 with boozy evening events, this new site calls in a new era, so appropriately, Saturday 27 August offers the lunar energies of a New Moon!

The open day now taking place on Saturday 27 August 2022 is an open invite to the public to check out VVxET between 10am – 6pm. For anyone still around at 6pm, Bishop Lenihan Place in East Tāmaki is abuzz on Saturday nights; multiple Korean barbecue spots, Bubble tea houses (Hulucat and Wucha), Love Asia, 100 Spicy, Mui Japanese Restaurant all offer excellent options for cheap eats on a weekend in the Southside!

More details to come on an opening exhibition that eases Vunilagi Vou back into exhibition-making mode after a year out of the game, and more details on finding this unassuming little secret spot in semi-industrial East Tāmaki, South Auckland heartland!

What: Open Day for VVxET – Vunilagi Vou’s new East Tāmaki site

Where: Unit 14, Botany South Business Estate, 15 Bishop Lenihan Place, East Tāmaki, South Auckland

When: 10am – 6pm, Saturday 27 August 2022

#VVxET & Celebrate Aotearoa Glen Innes – The Rebound!

On 17 August 2021, Vunilagi Vou in partnership with Celebrate Aotearoa (led by Tongan designer, Czarina Wilson) were operating in partnership out of The Alexander Cafe in Ōtara, South Auckland. Having built on several opportunities to collaborate, the partnership was pretty dreamy: Vunilagi Vou was making shows in the cafe space, Celebrate Aotearoa had built an awe-inspiring maximalist retail environment on the cafe’s mezzanine floor, and the Māori-Pacific owned cafe was an exciting hub for locals and professionals working in the area.

Visiting artists Aimee Ratana, Iokapeta Magele-Suamasi and Nigel Borell with resident artist-entrepreneurs Ema Tavola & Czarina Wilson, The Alexander Cafe, June 2021

Recently, the outgoing Covid-19 minister, Chris Hipkins, noted that Auckland’s last lockdown in 2021, “may have gone on too long” – a sentiment that hit hard. That lockdown, which started on 17 August 2021, was a dealbreaker. Aucklanders were already fatigued, the pandemic was wearing resilience levels down; so many were suffering in different ways, and parents home-schooling and managing parental demands and expected to work with office-level productivity, were put under tremendous strain.

For Vunilagi Vou, the lockdown meant cancelling events with no known timeframe for re-scheduling, returning grant money and watching the delicate momentum of our third site weaken every day. Whilst government subsidies allowed many small businesses to keep afloat during lockdown, it was the mental and spiritual hit that was perhaps the most debilitating for Vunilagi Vou.

In late 2021, the decision was made to pack down operations at The Alexander Cafe and work with the ebbs and flows of the Covid climate by withdrawing entirely from producing exhibitions and events. Focus was put instead on consultancy work, writing projects and pop-ups, whilst reflecting heavily on what was even possible for small scale creative enterprises in the age of Covid.

Celebrate Aotearoa continued to operate at The Alexander Cafe, but was strategising next steps to keep building on the strong customer base and longer term agenda to find space for not only retail but for making and producing.

Whilst much of Vunilagi Vou’s gallery-based assets had been stored, redistributed and sold, a TradeMe search reminder for commercial leases in the Manukau City and Ōtāhuhu areas kept the idea of a new space quietly alive.

Eastside calling

Earlier this year, working in partnership with long-time friend and colleague, Kiri Nathan, Czarina Wilson started to plant seeds to shift Celebrate Aotearoa operations from South Auckland back to the Eastside – Glen Innes, where both Kiri and Czarina grew up and have deep roots.

After operating from a converted shipping container at The Ōtara Kai Village (2020) and the mezzanine floor in a refurbished factory at The Alexander Cafe (2021-2022), this month Celebrate Aotearoa is re-opening in an amazing new retail space smack bang in the middle of Glen Innes at 3/260 Apirana Avenue, across the road from the Glen Innes train station!

Creative entrepreneurs who do all the things!

After securing Creative New Zealand investment from the Pacific Creative Enterprise initiative, a new pathway emerged for Vunilagi Vou. A property became available that could not have been more perfect: built in 2004, the ground floor commercial space had only ever functioned as a small dealer gallery, fitted out with high spec lighting and a hanging system. Amazingly, the north-facing property is located in East Tāmaki, a stone’s throw from Ōtara, and positioned on the edge of environmentally protected wetlands surrounding the Ōtara Stream.

Another year, another fit-out!

VVxET, Vunilagi Vou’s fourth iteration, is going to re-open symbolically, alongside Celebrate Aotearoa on Wednesday 17 August, marking one year since the start of Auckland’s longest lockdown in 2021. This important milestone also represents the strength of conviction, mental, spiritual and physical labour that both these operations have honed being led by independent, Moana Pacific creatives striving to hold space and create economic growth for the communities we are part of.

It has taken a year of heavy energies, soul searching, a few breaking points, some big sacrifices and a few attempted exit strategies (Wellington, Waiheke, the Far North…), and amazingly not catching Covid, but Celebrate Aotearoa and Vunilagi Vou are on the rebound.

We are both re-opening for business on Wednesday 17 August in our new respective locations:

Celebrate Aotearoa x Glen Innes

3/260 Apirana Avenue, Glen Innes, Auckland
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Friday, 9am – 5pm, Saturday 9am – 1pm
For updates + info: Instagram | Facebook

Vunilagi Vou x East Tāmaki

Suite 14, 15 Bishop Lenihan Place, East Tāmaki, Auckland
Opening Day Drop-in Hours: 10am – 6pm
Usual Opening Hours: Thursday – Saturday, 10am – 2pm
Appointments available outside of opening hours get in touch here.

Whilst not working in the same site anymore, Vunilagi Vou and Celebrate Aotearoa will always have each other’s backs!

Support Moana Pacific small businesses! Support women in business! Support mothers who make! And help tautoko two mates who have gotten up after every knock back, cackled, and started again!

Wishing Celebrate Aotearoa a massive opening season! Get along to check out what a master visual merchandiser working back her hood can do!

Finding Emory – A Poster Show

By chance, seven signed Emory Douglas prints found their way to Vunilagi Vou last month and inspired our last exhibition for 2019!

Emory Douglas’ iconic aesthetic and important contribution to the art of revolution has been a starting point for eight Auckland-based artists who have been invited to create a poster about an issue that has moved their heads and hearts in 2019. From arming South Auckland’s Police, to re-criminalising homosexuality in the Cook Islands, seven new works speak directly to the shifts and changes that affect the lives of indigenous people in the South Pacific / Moana Oceania.

The limited edition poster prints will be for sale and hung alongside Emory’s work in an exhibition that packs a powerful political punch.

Finding Emory – A Poster Show features new work by Cypris Afakasi, Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake, Sean Kerrigan, Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho & Rebecca Hobbs, Siliga David Setoga and Tokerau Wilson.

Vunilagi Vou’s latest poster (above) designed by Director – Curator, Ema Tavola, is also for sale along with new stock from the Marshall Islands, Eastern Highlands in Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Finding Emory – A Poster Show

Featuring Cypris Afakasi, Tanu Gago, Leilani Kake, Sean Kerrigan, Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho & Rebecca Hobbs, Siliga David Setoga and Tokerau Wilson.
Opening 6-8pm, Tuesday 3 December
Exhibition Dates 4 December 2019 – 25 January 2020


Enquiries

Open for business in Ōtāhuhu!

 

Vunilagi Vou formally opened on Friday 31 May 2019, a stormy night in South Auckland! Through driving rain and a hail storm, a beautiful mob of Pacific arts supporters came out to celebrate South Auckland’s newest little art space.

A huge thank you to those who supported with wine and food, thank you to Lissy Cole for the amazing catering, and Rudi Robinson for providing an excellent bar man service! Thank you to Vaimaila Urale for a generous koha of bubbles, and Nicole Lim for the cake!

The combined energies of everyone who came out to support and celebrate our launch were hugely uplifting and will undoubtedly set us on a good course, serving and growing the Vunilagi Vou community.

Our inaugural exhibition, WWJD:2 was well received – thank you to all the artists who helped launch Vunilagi Vou’s dynamic and fast turnover exhibition programme; we’ll be opening a new exhibition on the first Tuesday of every month!

Of the 15 works on display, most are for sale in line with Vunilagi Vou’s intention to make contemporary Pacific art accessible to new collectors. Notably, two beautiful paintings by Andy Leleisi’uao, one our sector’s most productive and successful practitioners, still based here in Māngere, South Auckland.

Cryptid Arytipidal (2013)
Acrylic on canvas, 457x910mm
Andy Leleisi’uao NZ1900

Andy Leleisi’uao has an outstanding survey show called Kamoan Mine on at Pah Homestead in Auckland’s Hillsborough until July 14. The exhibition is the artist’s most significant survey of more than 20 years of practice. It is such a privilege to have these two works, along with a series of print works in the Vunilagi Vou retail area, on show at the same time.

We opened the gallery with a fully stocked retail range including locally produced repurposed textile accessories and homeware by Lissy Cole Designs, hand-made organic coconut soaps by Mananuanua – the mother and daughter home-based small business of artist, Vaimaila Urale, a range of beautiful bilum bags from Papua New Guinea, small paintings by ‘Ahota’e’iloa Toetu’u, a custom range of earrings by Aolele Adornment and accessories and homeware by South Auckland-based mother and son small business, Kingdom Design Store driven by Tongan designer, Czarina Wilson.

Vunilagi Vou’s retail range is constantly evolving and also include a range of framed and unframed limited edition prints by Andy Leleisi’uao, Pati Solomona Tyrell and former Fresh Gallery Ōtara Gallery Coordinator and designer, Nicole Lim, who has contributed a very special edition (50) of her illustration work, Grassroots. The work speaks to both early Fresh Gallery Ōtara and Vunilagi Vou’s dedication to the power of engaging grassroots audiences, and enabling artists to be heard and seen. Thank you Nicole, it’s wonderful to be collaborating again!

ccs-logo-auckland-council

The launch of Vunilagi Vou was made possible with support from Creative Communities Scheme – vinaka vakalevu!

Vunilagi Vou is open Tuesday to Thursday from 10am to 5pm, Friday from 10am to 6pm and Saturday from 11am – 4pm. Find advice for getting to the space here.

Our next exhibition opens on Tuesday 2 July – watch this space for details, or follow Vunilagi Vou on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

vinaka vakalevu

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.