Tautai Trust opens up first Pacific art gallery in NZ

Photo: RNZ Pacific / Sela Jane Hopgood

A charitable trust championing Pacific art and artists in Oceania has now expanded their premises to include the first Pacific art gallery in New Zealand.

Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust was formed in the 1980s by leading Samoan artist Fatu Feu’u, and with his peers they came together with a shared goal to support and promote Pacific visual artists.

In the years since, Tautai has grown to become New Zealand’s premiere Pacific arts organisation with a multidisciplinary focus.

Tautai has been an office space for the last 34 years and this month has made history as there is no other space like this in New Zealand dedicated to showcasing the works of contemporary Pacific creatives all year round.

In addition, Tautai’s full programme of activities and events include live-streamed artist talks and performances, a brand-new international strategy, workshops, internships and partnership initiatives that encourage growth in the sector.

Director of Tautai Courtney Sina Meredith said the main gallery space will also be a multi-purpose room.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

“I would love to host screenings, poetry readings, dance rehearsals, a lot of creative works of different forms in the gallery,” she said.

The art gallery expands to a back room, which Ms Meredith describes as a “whānau space, where people can come together, talanoa and eat, as there is also a kitchenette.”

She said there are big plans for one section of the art gallery to become a community arts hub.

Community Arts Hub at Tautai Art Gallery Photo: RNZ Pacific / Sela Jane Hopgood

“In the next six months, we will be developing the hub and that’s where people can work on different projects, have meetings and come together and just think into the future.

“It’s a bit of a spaceship, especially for Moana-Oceania creatives.

“We’ve never had a space like this before. There isn’t a space like this in the country and we are deserving of a space like this now for decades,” she said.

“This is a gift that’s been a long time coming and it’s the benefits of having amazing senior Pacific artists before us, thinkers before us, leaders before us and politicians who have pushed for this.”

Tautai draws on the Samoan word for navigator and illustrates the organisation’s commitment to guiding moana arts in New Zealand.

“We have always been a little satellite organisation. We’ve always been the small fish partnering up with the big fish, but not anymore. We are producing the work, creating the work,” Ms Meredith explains.

“We’re not just that Pacific newsletter anymore. We’re not just that poster girl out there letting everyone know about that one Pacific artist. We’re spearheading our own work, telling our own stories, in our own way.

“It’s a place where people can come and be themselves and mainstream artists have so many spaces like this and you can see what it does when you have spaces that are your own.”

Moana Legacy is the first art exhibition to take place at the Tautai art gallery.

Artwork by Naawie Tutugoro at the Moana Legacy exhibition in the newly opened Tautai art gallery Photo: RNZ Pacific / Sela Jane Hopgood

The artists in this exhibition investigate the idea of legacy in regard to their work and their link to the moana. It features photography, installation, video, sculpture, hiapo or Niuean tapa cloth and painting.

Ms Meredith shares that Moana Legacy promises to be a celebration of our own legacies and what it means to be an artist of the Pacific.

“Māori artist Gina Ropiha made a kete or bag out of her own hair. I love the meaning behind that, that as an artist, you really have to put your blood, sweat and tears into your craft, so I’m immensely proud to have that work here at Tautai.

Kete [bag] made out of artist Gina Ropiha’s hair Photo: RNZ Pacific / Sela Jane Hopgood

“We have a beautiful hiapo or Niuean tapa cloth on display by Cora-Allan Wickliffe and her sister Kelly Lafaiki and the work resembles family. There is so much contemporary joy achieved in this work,” she said.

Hiapo (Niuean barkcloth) by Cora-Allan Wickliffe and Kelly Lafaiki Photo: RNZ Pacific / Sela Jane Hopgood

Source: RNZ