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!