10 October 2022

"Together, We Are Unstoppable" - Creatives Refuse To Be Held Down

Artists are taking advantage of their moment in the spotlight to bring important issues to the fore - see what the latest creative success stories have to say.


It’s been a big week for Pasifika practitioners - with acknowledgement and financial opportunities coming thick and fast.


The annual Creative New Zealand (CNZ) Arts Pasifika Awards have been handed out, with both established and emerging practitioners recognised across a range of disciplines and media - including the use of smoke and real spider-webs.


It’s in fact a record cohort this year - usually seven creatives receive awards but the class of 2022 features eight, with two winners in the Special Recognition Award category, which acknowledges a notable contribution to Pacific arts, nationally or internationally.


Caren Rangi, Chair of the Arts Council states “it's difficult to measure the significant, intangible impact that the work of our Pacific creatives has on the cultural tapestry in Aotearoa. So every year it is a joy and an honour to acknowledge the work of the winners of these awards, whose talents have contributed enormously to our creative ecosystem over the past 12 months.”


The top award of Senior Pacific Artist Award - which comes with $25,000 - went to internationally renowned artist Fatu Feu’u for his commitment to his practice and ‘mana’ within the community.


Born in the Western Samoan village of Poutasi, before immigrating to New Zealand in 1966, Feu’u’s paintings, woodcut prints, bronze and wooden sculptures are now held in public and private collections around the world.


"I am very pleased to win this award,” he told The Lowdown. “Contributing to the Pasifika arts community in Aotearoa is very important to me. I am passionate about sharing creative resources with families and communities”.

Fatu Feu'u with works Ocean Treasure Abundance. Photo: Artis Gallery.

Feu’u was crucial in the formation of the Tautai Art Trust, something he considers one of his great achievements.

“I am passionate about nurturing Pacific creators and helping to make them proud of their culture. It’s important that Pacific creatives can also use their arts practice to feed their families and lead positive, fulfilled lives.”

At the other end of the experience spectrum, Dahlia Malaeulu has received the $7,500 Emerging Pacific Artist Award for her role as a writer, publisher and educator.

She told The Lowdown “I feel grateful to be acknowledged alongside other amazing Pasifika creatives. This acknowledgement fills me with so much hope for our future at Mila's Books, while letting us know that we are on the right track with the work that we do.”

Malaeulu (below) points out the success of her publishing dream “stems from the fact that it has, and will always be more than books for us.”

She continues “Mila's Books has proven what is possible for us as Pasifika writers and publishers of our own stories through independent publishing.


“We created the only all Pasifika publishing team of children's books in the world - in the space of 2 and a half years, we have continuously published quality and accessible stories across all schooling levels and shown that there is a real hunger and need for stories by us and for all of us, through great book sales and the positive feedback we continue to receive across Aotearoa and abroad.”


Barriers to entry for Pasifika into the realms of published works have been brought to the fore already - The Coalition of Books has just put on a series of talanoa to address this.


Malaeulu adds “although there has been progress in the traditional book world, there are still inequitable systems and gatekeepers in place who are in need of developing their own cultural competencies when it comes to diverse stories and writers.


She remarks that instead of waiting for that to happen, “we as Pasifika have the chance to rewrite the stories we have been told our whole lives - that who we are and what we are is not enough. We can show the world the power of our stories and with the right guidance combined with our Pasifika values, we can create sustainable industries that better support and meet our needs as Pasifika creatives and innovators.


“I truly believe independent publishing is the key to having more Pasifika writers and stories in the world.


“There is a Pasifika revolution happening where we are realising our own value and that our stories have the power to change the world for us and future Pasifika generations of tamaiti, creators and entrepreneurs.


“What is also important to note is that we are everywhere. I am only one of many and there is a whole village of creatives who are creating more brown spaces for us to shine in a world that has kept us in the dark for so long. But when we unite, connect and shine together we are capable of creating our own opportunities and succeeding as ourselves. Like Mila's Books, together we can be unstoppable.”


The other emerging creative award of $7,500 went to Joshua Pearson for the Iosefa Enari Memorial Award, which supports the career development of a Pasifika singer, musician or composer.


Other winners at the CNZ Pasifika Arts Awards (with a $10,000 prize each) include Daren Kamali claiming the Pacific Heritage Arts Award, Ululau Ama named as the Pacific Toa Award recipient for an artist with a lived experience of disability, abstract artist Kulimoe’anga “Stone” Maka  for the Pacific Contemporary Artist Award, Fa’amoana John Luafutu and Troy Tu’ua sharing the Special Recognition Award.


Feu’u would have been doubly proud this week - with his own accomplishment followed quickly by his beloved Tautai announcing their annual Fale-ship Residency recipients.

Tautai Fale-ship recipient Ooshcon. Photo: Supplied.


The two-week residency for ten Tagata Moana creatives living in Aotearoa is designed to offer support to all forms of creative expression, selected by a panel of industry leaders. It includes a $2,000 grant for the development of new or existing projects, as we;; as having their work shared across online platforms.


The 2022 Fale-ship intake consists of Dru Douglas (fashion); Jonita Faletagoai (visual arts); Siah Fina’i (sculpture/visual arts); Jeffery Kalauta (music/sound art); Ooshcon (dance); Sheldon Rua (writer/poet); Keciano Tufuga (visual arts); Sefa Tunupopo (dance); Linda Va’aelua (visual arts); and Eliza Vawdrey-Roy (visual arts).

Vawdrey-Roy (above) told The Lowdown “I feel deeply grateful and honoured for the opportunity to share my art, expressions and experience as a queer person of Pacific descent, living with an invisible illness.


“Receiving funding from Tautai has shown me how powerful and necessary it is for independent creatives to receive the correct support and resources to further explore their gifts and create what is needed in today’s society.


“I hope to inspire other creatives and healers to continue channelling energy toward their passions and purpose, and that regardless of our stories, journeys and circumstances we are all deserving and capable of fulfilling our dreams and calling.”

Kalauta (above) adds “The Tautai Fale-ship presented a new and engaging proposition to connect and showcase my creativity within our ‘fale’.


He told The Lowdown the process has “focused my attention”, with the requirement of the two-week window requiring artists to work at pace, “which suits my practice.”


It’s already proven useful, not just to his creative process. “I took the opportunity to create a business plan which shaped my Fale-ship proposal. Developing and practising business skills is becoming more relevant and necessary to sustainable and resilient arts careers, particularly emerging careers."


Going on a funding hunt (and we're not scared)

CNZ’s crowded funding calendar has seen some much needed support for many creatives, but an alarming number left out in the cold.


As we’ve previously covered in The Lowdown, there has been plenty of anguish and concerns raised about organisations on the knife’s edge after being defunded - or unsuccessful in their applications - from the Toi Uru Kahikatea (three-year funding) and Annual Arts Grants process in recent weeks.


That has funnelled unprecedented focus on the latest of the four Arts Grants for 2022-23 - which opened on Monday (3 October) and is already close to reaching its capacity of 250 applications.


The Big Idea covers this in detail with reactions from both an exhausted and frustrated contingent of potential applicants and CNZ itself.


While the pressure is immense and what the flow-on effect will be is yet to be seen - the creative community is also clearly trying to rally.


The Lowdown is hearing reports of other funders proactively seeking out those who have missed the boat with CNZ to see what support can be offered, as well as new funding sources and solutions being sought.


One such example is innovative theatremakers Nightsong kicking off a Boosted campaign that launched overnight - already receiving some support from seed donors. Those under the pump are not just sitting on their hands.


The Arts Foundation General Manager Jessica Palalagi told The Lowdown “we are aware that the funding climate is very challenging at the moment and we know that Boosted can provide another option via the crowdfunding platform.


“We have a constant pipeline of projects, and we wait for the owners of these to advise us when they are ready to register to ensure the greatest success  – we do have a large campaign starting in mid-October with Creative NZ – the third iteration of Boosted x Moana.”


So if you’re in a position to support - or have a wealthy relative who wants to be a hero to the arts - now’s a good time.


Words of WOW-sdom

Kate MacKenzie in studio. Photo: Supplied.


What do you do when you get the spotlight?


It’s something many creatives crave - but being prepared for it is another story.


When Kate MacKenzie was named the Supreme Winner at the World of WearableArt (WOW) Awards on Friday, she knew she had to make the most of it.


That’s because she’s been there before - the overall winner of the 2014 event.


She told The Lowdown “Winning this award twice is like dejavu on steroids - as I still don’t believe it actually happened the first time let alone the second.


“Naturally I am ecstatic which is an understatement, and incredibly proud.   This award is meaningful because it is validating and hugely important for an artist like me – despite my successes I still suffer from imposter syndrome from time to time.


“The tangible benefits of winning WOW are there for the taking, but I believe I can either open myself up and move toward them, or hide away and expect everything to come to me. There is always work to do and a wave to stay on, and only I can make that happen.


“The first time I won WOW, I was not in the right headspace - being totally unexpected and I don’t even think I had a website for my paintings.


“The confidence that came from that first win made me work harder and I started to enter reputable art competitions for my surrealist oil on canvas works - being my main art practice for more than two decades.


"I have been fortunate enough to be a finalist in the NZ Adam Portraiture Award twice and the Parkin Drawing Prize.  I have also been invited to be head judge at the Hastings Edible Fashion Awards since 2015 which is such an honour and joy to be involved with,  as it nurtures young designers from primary school up to adulthood.


“From here, I have a solo exhibition planned on the 27th October at Muse Gallery in Havelock North.  The media hype this time around for WOW has been much bigger probably due to the 3 year wait and relaunch, so I am definitely making the most of that. I guess there are tangible benefits from branding and being more visible and identifiable as a New Zealand artist.

MacKenzie's winning WOW entry, Wanton Widow, modelled by Catherine Cater. Photo: Supplied.


When asked what advice she’d give to those hoping to follow in her footsteps, MacKenzie muses “the key to a successful entry is a hard question because the rules I conjure up for myself may not be suitable for others - and I think it is important every designer follows their own instincts and unwritten rules because that is what defines being an artist.


“But here are my rules that work for me…First and foremost, I strive to be confident in my design and concept before starting - so make sure I love the idea for a long time before committing.


“I don’t believe any judge should tell me what they are looking for - because it’s the designers job to show the judges ‘this is what you are looking for’ - a garment that is unexpected and innovative, yet restraint is also key as throwing the kitchen sink at it (although tempting) can detract from its form.


“Detail up close is just as important as from a distance so I think about the silhouette, and developing a story around the garment helps with the overall visual impact but equally gives the garment purpose and context. The garment has to be well made and practical for wearing, and dressing.


“The comfort of the model is important and something I have struggled to nail at times. But I do my best to strike a balance between pushing boundaries and keeping the model comfortable and safe.”