29 Jun 2017
South Auckland artist Ema Tavola will be the University of Canterbury Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies Artist in Residence for 2017.
The artist in residency program is supported by Creative New Zealand and is aimed at supporting Pacific artists and promoting the vibrancy and verity of art from the region.
Born in Suva, Fiji, Tavola has lived and worked within the creative sector in South Auckland since 2002. Her research is practice-based and concerned with curating as a mechanism for social inclusion, centralising Pacific ways of seeing, decolonisation and exhibition making as activism. She was the founding curator of Fresh Gallery Ōtara and now talks and blogs frequently on grassroots curating and community engagement.
Tavola is set to bring her wide-ranging knowledge and skills to the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies (MBC).
“I’m thrilled to have been awarded this opportunity to dedicate time and space, and a new perspective to writing and reflecting on Pacific curatorial practice. I’m excited that this residency will give me the chance to discuss exhibition making and contemporary art with new audiences, and gain insights into the New Zealand Pacific experience outside of Auckland,” she says.
“I intend to produce a body of work including essays/texts, photography and digital content. As an artist-curator, I’d like to investigate the role of making, recording and idea visualisation in the act of curating.”
MBC director Professor Steven Ratuva says that because of the high quality of applicants, selecting the next artist in residence was a highly competitive process.
“What caught the attention of the selection committee was Ema’s unique skills, expertise and innovation. One strength which set her apart from other applicants was her multi-disciplinary approach covering diverse areas such as painting, film-making, curating, tattooing, project management, teaching, art research, creative entrepreneurship and writing,” he says.
“Ema also has an extensive network across the region, which can be used to promote Pacific art. Based on her academic discourse of decolonising Pacific Studies, she will be a great asset to the MBC’s multidisciplinary approach to Pacific research and learning.”
Tavola will start her artist’s residency in August and during her three-month tenure with MBC she aims to weave some of these multiple discourses into her work by being involved in a variety of activities.
Maternally, Tavola is fifth generation Pākehā with Irish and English ancestry, and paternally from Dravuni, Kadavu in the southern Fiji group.
“I’m pursuing the residency as a parent – coming down with my three-year-old daughter, Lanuola, and staying with family. Bringing ‘home’ with me!” she says.
Tavola has lectured on Pacific art history at Manukau Institute of Technology, and advised on exhibitions including Auckland Museum’s Taku Tāmaki: Auckland Stories South (2016) and Home AKL (2012) at Auckland Art Gallery. She holds a Master of Arts Management and a Bachelor of Visual Arts.
Last year’s Pacific artist in residence, John Ioane, carved eleven miniature canoes from around the Pacific. The MBC is producing a publication about the project.