Showcasing Pacific art

Ema Tavola at a Pacific Arts Summit. Picture: FACEBOOK

THERE is always more to do and Ema Tavola is committed to breaking down the ideas that heritage art is not equal to what is seen as contemporary art.

Ema Tavola is a Pacific curator who holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Sculpture) and Master of Arts Management and she is also the youngest child of former Foreign Affairs Minister Kaliopate Tavola and Helen Tavola of New Zealand.

Ema strongly believes that heritage art and contemporary art are both part of the same continuum and that heritage artists are masters of fine art who deserve recognition.

“I’m committed to the revival of veiqia as a language that was created to empower and uplift Fijian women and I believe in the power of our traditional markings even though today, the cultural memory and contexts have changed,” she said.

“To be marked is to bring importance back to our bodies as women. And I’m very committed to taking Fijian and wider Pacific art and artists to the world through high quality curating and representation. Art practices don’t flourish on sales alone, artists need to be written about, discussed, promoted appropriately and framed within a global art world lens.

“I find inspiration in a lot of different places and that is the beauty and privilege of being a creative person.”

She said in secondary school she excelled in art more than anything else. “After two years of working mostly in minimum wage jobs, I went to University in Auckland to study Visual Arts,” she said.

“It’s a dream to be able to generate an income from creative work. For a lot of creative, it’s living our best lives, even though it can be financially unpredictable.

“My specialisation as a curator is Pacific art and artists. I’m interested in this area exclusively because creativity and our arts are intrinsic in Pacific Island cultures and identities.

“Our arts reflect who we are, where we’re going and our inextricable connections to the past. Our creative expression is empowering and uplifting, allows us to see ourselves and opens up important conversations about the shifts and changes happening all the time in our Oceanic here and now.”

She said after finishing her undergraduate studies she secured a job with the local council in South Auckland and worked as the Pacific Arts Coordinator for more than six years.

“In that capacity I led the establishment and curatorial programming of the arts facility, Fresh Gallery tara, produced an annual multi-event Pacific Arts Summit and produced 66 stand-alone exhibitions during my tenure as Fresh Gallery tara manager,” she said.

“With that role I travelled a lot advocating for Pacific art and artists from South Auckland. My favourite trip was a lecture tour I undertook with the artist and educator Leilani Kake to California and Hawaii.

“I did a lot of advisory work during that time too and learned a lot about funding structures and opportunities available to artists.

“Since 2012, I’ve worked as a freelance curator, but a creative career is necessarily multi-dimensional, so whilst being a freelance curator, I’ve done a lot of project management, research and writing, teaching and lecturing. “I’ve also been a content creator for a health organisation and a funding advisor for New Zealand’s national arts investment agency.”

Ema uses her PIMPI platform to get her ideas across to artist and art enthusiasts out there.

“PIMPI is a cheeky acronym for Pacific Island Management, Production and Ideas.

My website and social media handles are PIMPIknows because my profession, curating is about asserting your ideas and position in relation to issues in the art world and in wider global and local discourse,” she said.

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