Nearly 20 years ago, a small group of Pacific artists under the guidance of arts advocate Mary Ama began meeting regularly to share, revive, learn and grow Pacific arts and culture.
Despite the fact that they had no official base at that time, they continued tirelessly in their efforts to develop arts in the region. Their efforts and contributions did not go unnoticed, and soon they were given a space at the Corban Estate (formerly a winery) in Henderson, Auckland, to develop their work.
On Tuesday, the Pacifica Mamas – Mary Ama Tiana Epati, Teuke Malaga and Soia Tatu – were welcomed by Governor-General of New Zealand Dame Patsy Reddy, for the start of their 2019 Pacific Artist in Residence at Government House.
The new artists have settled in and are already hard at work on their installations for Government House, which will include traditional materials such as pandanus, as well as recycled strapping material.
Plants in the surrounding garden have also received some artistic attention – watch this space for further updates in the upcoming weeks!
The 6-week Matarangi Mahi Toi residency programme is a partnership between Massey University’s College of Creative Arts and Office of the Governor General, with an aim of encouraging and supporting creative arts in Aotearoa.
The Pacifica Mamas (and Papas) are a collective of respected Pacific heritage artists and cultural leaders, brought together by a shared passion for the arts and culture of their homelands.
Formed in the late 1980s, the Pacifica Mamas are all first-generation pacific immigrants to New Zealand, originally from island nations including the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tuvalu, Tonga, Tokelau, Kiribati and Niue.
They comprise weavers, tivaevae makers, carvers, tapa artists, orators, performing artists and more, who meet regularly to exchange stories, and strengthen their arts skills and knowledge.
They were awarded the Creative New Zealand Pacific Heritage Arts Award in 2012, and the Aotearoa Arts Access Corrections Community Award 2015 and are recognised world-wide for contributions to Pacifica Arts both in New Zealand and abroad.
The centre has grown from the energy of a few passionate and committed people; the active support of the Auckland Council; the Waitakere Pacific Board (formerly Pacific Islands Advisory Board); and The Pacifica Mamas, who are its heart and soul, taking weaving classes, showing school children and adults how to make Pacific arts and creating a studio space for selling and showcasing art pieces.