Pasifika art gallery gains popularity in Christchurch

South Island Samoan carver Amosa Tualamali'i inside his workshop at Fibre Gallery. Photo: Supplied

South Island Samoan carver Amosa Tualamali'i inside his workshop at Fibre Gallery. Photo: Supplied

A Christchurch art gallery that displays exclusively Pasifika art has brought in nearly 8000 Pacific visitors since opening in July.

Samoan craftsman Amosa Tualamali’i has his sculptures on display for the first time in Fibre Gallery’s ‘To Make’ exhibition.

Tualamali’i has been living in Christchurch for over 30 years and came to Aotearoa from Samoa when he was 17, when he only knew the basics of drawing and carving that he learnt from his older brother.

But over the years he would practice, often using firewood.

“I started going from the garage using whatever wood I could find,” Tualamali’i said.

“I remembered things that I learnt back in Samoa and tried to put that back into the carving, in a piece of wood or sticks or whatever material that I could find.”

Executive Director of the Tagata Moana Trust that owns the gallery, Nina Oberg Humphries said the ‘To Make’ exhibition was unique because it was only for carvers from Ōtautahi.

Humphries said Fibre Gallery was a place for all levels of experience.

“We have had internationally renowned artistes like Filipe Tohi, Stone Maka; people who have had ginormous careers; and people who have shown something for the first time like Amosa Tualamali’i.”

On the opening week of the exhibition, Humphries said a group of high school students visited the gallery and saw for the first time their heritage on display.

“All Pacific girls, I guess wanting to see themselves, but also wanting to learn more about their heritage and their culture,” she said.

“That is the beauty of this show, that is the beauty of this place.”

All other displays put on by the gallery showcase at least 50 percent of work from South Island artists.

Humphries said there were few opportunities for South Island Pacific artists to display their work and this was a place for them to do that.

“Pacific peoples in arts…it truly is the one place we are not in the deficit,” she said.

“[We have] poor health, no money, low skills, all these things but when it comes to the arts, we are incredibly empowered.

You can go to go to any family group and say, ‘sing a song, do a dance, come up with a play, make something’ and they will,” she added.

For debut artist Tualamali’i he now hopes his work will get sold.

“It is good in a way that finally my work is out there to show it but at the same time you don’t know what’s tomorrow, you just don’t know,” he said.

The ‘To Make’ exhibition will continue running until June 15 and will display the work of Tualamali’I, Jon Jeet, and Rapheal Stowers.