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Source: Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust

Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust presents Voyagers: The Niu World, a new exhibition by New Zealand-based, Tongan artists Tui Emma Gillies and Sulieti Fieme’a Burrows, opening Saturday 20 February.

Sulieti and Tui are a mother/daughter duo who specialise in ngatu or tapa art. They explore contemporary issues through their practice of tapa painting, which is embedded in the roots of the medium and ancestors who practiced before them. For Voyagers: The Niu World, they present a collection of tapa created during and after the COVID-19 lockdown in Aotearoa New Zealand and reflect on the idea of navigating a changed world that is in the midst of a pandemic.

Tui Emma Gillies says, “During lockdown, my mum, Sulieti, came up from Auckland and stayed with me at my home in Kawakawa. We used the opportunity to reflect on lockdown – on the ‘Niu World’ we found ourselves in. We worked everyday making tapa in my studio, often accompanied by the sound of my son Pele playing on the piano. How did Pacific Islanders deal with isolation? The answer is simple: Fāmili.”

“That’s why we’ve asked my son Pele to play at the exhibition opening. He has only been playing for just over a year, but his practice was a constant and inspirational soundtrack while we worked on these pieces. He also represents a third generation of our family involved in this exhibition. Pele has composed a new work specially for the opening and we are transporting his baby grand piano from Kawakawa to Auckland so he can play it at Tautai,” says Tui.

Voyagers: The Niu World will include work depicting faces wearing tapa-patterned masks, families together in lockdown, three new 1.8-metre-wide paintings that present images of navigation and journey and two larger ngatu.

Sulieti Fieme’a Burrows says, “The waves have never been bigger or more threatening, the storms have never been so savage, the fires have never been so close and hot. And we are expressing this in the medium we were brought up in, tapa painting, which has been passed down from generation to generation by those people who made the original voyages and their ancestors before them. This exhibition is dedicated to all us Voyagers who are navigating the ‘Niu World.’”

Tautai Director, Courtney Sina Meredith says, “We are beginning 2021 at Tautai by looking back at the year that has been through the work and experiences of two amazing artists, Sulieti Fieme’a Burrows and Tui Emma Gillies. Sulieti and Tui create unique, collaborative works that embody the connection between generations, and with ancestors, through a medium with a rich history.”

Exhibition details:

Voyagers: The Niu World

Exhibition Preview: Friday 19 February at 6.00pm
Exhibition Runs: Saturday 20 February – Saturday 24 April 2021

Tautai Gallery, Level 1, 300 Karangahape Road, Auckland Central
Open 11am–4pm, Tuesday–Saturday

About Tautai

“Great art feeds a family for generations.” – Tautai Founding Patron, Fatu Feu’u

Located in Tamaki Makaurau, Aotearoa New Zealand – Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust is a charitable trust dedicated to championing Pacific arts and artists. Tautai was formed in the 1980s when leading Samoan artist Fatu Feu’u and his peers came together with a shared aspiration to support and promote Pacific visual artists. In the years since, Tautai has grown to become Aotearoa’s premiere Pacific arts organisation with a multidisciplinary focus. The Trust brings artists and the wider Tautai aiga together through a range of events and activities locally and globally.

Proudly supported by Creative New Zealand, Foundation North and Fetu Ta‘i Patrons, Tautai is able to provide unique opportunities for the Oceanic arts community. Situated in the heart of Auckland’s CBD on Karangahape Road, Tautai’s newly expanded premises now includes a gallery space 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.

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