Aotearoa Chronicles Week Two: Pasifika Artists You Should Know

"Island time" is a concept in the islands that things get done whenever they get done, aka this posting about my second week in Auckland is getting posted late but all with the greatness of the Pasifika artists that have been inspiring me this last week.

In almost all the different high schools I attended in all the different districts, I was the only Samoan kid in the whole school. I've been to pretty much all(in very broad terms) majority schools, black, latino, asian, and white majority schools. There is one memorable moment I had that shifted my whole thinking. This moment was discovered by my new teacher "the internet",  I discovered that Pasifika artists existed. One of those artists was Shigeyuki Kihara, a Samoan fa'afafine artist in Auckland. Finding her meant, for me that I wasn't the weird child I always thought I was, enjoying things others didn't. Moments that make me feel normal again. And so, why this story is crucial to my last weeks musing? On Monday I met Yuki, and hung out with her the whole night. Even had one of her fans buy me a drink. All in all, in a week here are some of the great Pasifika artists I've had the privileged to spend time with.

Ralph Hotere, is one of the artists that I was hoping to meet but passed away early in the week. He was a Maori artists and probably one of the most important artists in the Pasifika art scene.

 Shigeyuki Kihara is a Samoan contemporary artist and the first New Zealander to hold a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

One of her works "Fa’a fafine: in the manner of a woman" that was showcased in Sydney, Australia.

Yuki took me to a Pasifika filmmakers forum where I met Victor Rodger, (whom I went to see his play "Black Faggot") and  Oscar Knightley, an actor who've I've watched before. Both of them, continuily are doing great work in the film insustry on issues in the Pasifika community.

At Tongan Sculptor, Filipe Tohi's art show, "Hau Kihe Poini: Come To A Point".

I saw Filipe's piece "Aotea: The Long White Cloud" the second day I was here outside of The Auckland Gallery.


This is one of Maori/Nieuan artist's Cora Allan's works. She's really cool and invited me to her studio to check out some of her pieces.

These large pieces were made with embroidery on canvas. They're famous old photos of Maori people that she re-creates and tries to give them life. My favorite of hers, is this piece shown above of this famous photo (to the right) of Dame Whina Cooper. The history behind this photo is at 80 years of age she led about 5000 marchers into parliament grounds on October 13, 1975. She presented a memorial of rights from 200 Maori elders and a petition supporting the objectives of the march signed by 60,000 people to the then Prime Minister, Bill Rowling.

Siliga David Setoga is an artist I knew of before coming out here. Here he is doing a traditional welcoming outside of Tautai, the Pacific Arts Trust Im in residency with.

Siliga, is well known for his shirt design and challenging ideas of decolonizing the migration to New Zealand in Samoan culture/customs through symbolism and asking questions. He's one of my favorite artists out here.

I haven't met this filmmaker yet but hoping to in the next few weeks. Sima Urale is a Samoan director who made the above film "O'Tamaiti", a film shot in black and white based off the first generation children in New Zealand. It's been around for almost 10 years and I just saw it, already I am a fan of hers. It is such a powerful short film and honest storytelling of being the first generation Samoan in a new country.

(Read more of Jean Melesaine's Aotearoa Chronicles by clicking here.)

About Jean Melesaine

Jean Melesaine is a queer Samoan community activist, documentary photographer and editor with Silicon Valley De-Bug. 

This article is part of the categories: Aotearoa Chronicles  / Arts & Culture  / Community  / Design  / Economy  / Education  / The Aotearoa Chronicles: Life in the "Land of the Long White Cloud" 
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