Spirit of the People – New Melanesian Art

okaioceanikart and The Corban Estate Arts Centre proudly present ‘Spirit of the People – New Melanesian Art’ from August 14th – September 27th 2009.


The first Contemporary Melanesian art exhibition in New Zealand with a region wide focus.

Melanesia is the least known area of the Pacific to many New Zealanders and, perhaps more than any other region of the Pacific, is experiencing great change.  One of the reasons it is unfamiliar to many is that the colonisers were, for the most part not British.  But it is also a region of great diversity and cultural richness.

This exhibition is historically significant as it is the first exhibition of Contemporary Melanesian art with a regional wide focus to show in Auckland, New Zealand.  In this show okaioceanikart is building on the success of their exhibition of Papua New Guinean and Solomon Island art “Taim Bilong Melanesia 2008” which was presented in both Auckland and Wellington last year.  “Spirit of the People” features contemporary art from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, as well as work by artists from the Melanesian diasporic Pacific communities in Australia and New Zealand.  The appeal will be to all those interested in Pacific art and culture.

The work expresses the many complexities of what it means to be a Melanesian Pacific Islander today, the Island and the Urban, the Local and the Globalised, – identity and identification, cultural and religious intolerance/freedom, spirituality, the land, language, gender, sexuality, politics and survival.

“Each artist seeks to make links with day to day life in the context of the changing world view of Melanesia and its indigenous peoples.  All the artists chosen create challenging and moving work that speaks to all age groups “, says Curator Giles Peterson.

The exhibition features 18 artists working at the interface of customary and contemporary practice including contemporary music composition and performance, painting and sculpture, photography and moving image, and textile and installation.

The exhibition SPIRIT OF THE PEOPLE features work by some of the best Melanesian heritage artists practicing today – stunning canvases by Papua New Guinea artists Daniel Waswas, Larry Santana, Alexander Mebri, Joe Nalo  and  Elizabet Kauage, textile work by billum artist Bertha Peni and Fijian Fibre artist Filani Filina Macassey and work by artists operating out of the Red Wave Collective at the Oceania Centre at University of South Pacific, Fiji. The exhibition also includes new paintings by senior Kanak artists Yvette Bouquet and Paula Gony Boi, who are in many public art collections and have represented their country New Caledonia in international exhibitions such as the Asia Pacific Triennial and in Biennales in Europe. There is also work by up and coming artists like Ellie Fa’amauri, Jon Jay and David Ambong including some striking paintings from the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

A highlight is a new photographic series of work exploring Pacific masculinity in post – coup Fiji by Torika Bolatagici and superb paintings by members of Papua New Guinea’s Kauage family, all of which are available for sale. The moving image work by internationally acclaimed  Papuan jazz composer and musician Aaron Choulai including his performance with  a 16 voice choir from the Papuan Village of Tatana, direct from the Queensland Music Festival, Melbourne International Arts festival will also feature.

NFI5mel2Another coup of the exhibition is the first New Zealand screening of Dr Michael Mel’s performance Il Iamb Nai? Pombral Molga Kundul Al? Who Is This Person? Black or White? filmed at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.

“ Melanesian artists are already on the map”, says  Curator Giles Peterson, a lecturer in Pacific art and design at Whitecliffe College, Auckland. “ It’s just that the New Zealand art world and elsewhere on the Pacific Rim hasn’t seen a lot of work of cutting edge artists from Melanesian island nations in the last couple of years., It is  not because the art isn’t being made. It’s a matter of international opportunities for artists, exposure, access to markets and the sheer difficulty of obtaining materials to make art .  This  exhibition’s intent is  to  change that and is the second in a series planned by  okaioceanikart in New Zealand and internationally over the next couple of years.

There is very significant international interest in contemporary art from this region with works gaining attention from International Collectors and Museums are who are recognising the importance of these artists voices. The work we are presenting in SPIRIT OF THE PEOPLE is exciting and dazzling”.

The exhibition is curated by Giles Peterson for okaioceanikart and is being shown in  association with the Going West  Book Writers Festival.


SPIRIT of the PEOPLE – New Melanesian Art
Curated by Giles Peterson
in association with okaioceanikart

14th August – 27th September
Opening; Thursday 13th August 2009

An exhibition of contemporary art from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands & Vanuatu.

Fiji: Torika Bolatagici, Ben Fong, Abraham Lagi and Filani Filina Macassey, Papua New Guinea: Dr Michael Mel, Daniel Waswas, Aaron Choulai, Chris Kauage, Elisabet Kauage, Joe Nalo, Bertha Peni and Larry Santana, Alexander Mebri
New Caledonia: Paula Gony Boi, Yvette Bouquet,
Solomon Islands: Ellie Fa’amauri, Jon Jay,
Vanuatu: David Ambong

In association with the Going West Books and Writers Festival 2009 at Corbans Estate Art Centre

Poetry and other readings in response to the art by Waitakere City Samoan Artists including Dr. Selina Tusitala Marsh, Serie Barford and Doug Poole

September 16th 7pm.  Free Entry

For more information contact ph 3799051  people@okaioceanikart.com

About the curator:

Born in Papua New Guinea and based in Manukau, Giles Peterson has curated over 40 exhibitions and devoted the last 15 years to bringing the work of Pacific artists and designers to a wider public (see www.pacificart.co.nz). He is considered a leading international authority on contemporary Pacific art and contributes to journals such as Art New Zealand, and the Art Asia Pacific Quarterly (New York). Curated exhibitions include Island Crossings(2000) – the first exhibition of Contemporary Maori and Pacific Art to tour to Australia, Out of the Blue (2001), and Urban Pacific (2007) – all of national and international significance. Giles lectures in New Zealand and Pacific Art and Design History at Whitecliffe College of Art and Design in Auckland. He has also run workshops and given lectures and papers to various organisations throughout the Pacific including the Cook Island Artist Association, the National University of Samoa, Fresh Gallery in Otara and recently in 2009- the University of Hawaii, the De Young Museum in San Francisco, the University of California Santa Cruz and the Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatan, Mexico. In August 2009 he will curate for okaioceanikart, Spirit of the People the first Contemporary Melanesian art exhibition in Auckland, at Corbans Estate Arts Centre, Waitiakere City.  In 2010, he will curate an exhibition on New Contemporary Pacific Art as part of the Pacific Arts Association International Conference in the Cook Islands.

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