28 May 2012

Starting a Movement: Local artists in Tonga

At 6:02PM on Friday night at the exhibition opening of the local arts exhibition Movement, there were exactly two people looking at the art. The exhibition had officially opened at 6PM. As one of the organizers of the event, I was racked with nerves. I again went over in my mind the multiple notices I'd sent out, the invitations delivered, even the TV crew that showed up during the hanging of the work earlier that day. What if no one came? At 6:23PM, the room was so packed that I could hardly push through the masses of people! Cars clogged the street outside, and more and more just kept coming in.

The exhibition was packed full
It was an exhibition we'd come up with to welcome the Kermadec Exhibition artists and build on the momentum that their exhibition at the NZ High Commission had created throughout the previous week. Acting in a personal capacity, I worked with a team of four to organize a show entitled Movement, celebrating local artists in Tonga at the Waterfront Lodge, the same venue in which we'd welcomed the Kermadec artists last year as they ended their voyage in Tonga.

Three of the organizing team: myself, Ebonie, and G.P.
Throughout the week, the Kermadec artists had met many of the local artists showing in the Movement exhibition during a series of evening workshops. Particularly meaningful was Tuesday night's event, in which each artist told us briefly about her or his life: how they grew up, how their work developed, and what they'd learnt along the way. The audience members listened with the intensity of a sports fanatic at a soccer game. And the clapping at the end was almost as cacophanous.

The artists tell their stories in front of two large John Pule paintings
 Wednesday brought a delightful poetry reading session by John Pule and Gregory O'Brien at local cafe Coffee Post, lit by candlelight from the centres of the tables. On Thursday, we gave the Kermadec artists a bit of a break, finishing the workshop series with fascinating lectures on Tongan cultural resources by Dr. Seu'ula Johansson Fua, Siua Lotaki, and artists Uasi La'a and Sitiveni Fehoko.
Sitiveni Fehoko is an internationally recognized carver and president of the Tonga Handicrafts Association
Friday was the Kermadec artists' last day in Tonga, and they were invited as the guests of honour to the Movement Exhibition. And so the night progressed. People passionately discussed the work, conversation flowed, and many of the works were bought by the end of the night.

We enjoyed the Tevita Latu works at Movement
I was touched by the public affirmation of the event, not only the amount of people that came, but also those that helped pull it together. It couldn't have been done without many people's support - we did it with a budget of $0, thanks to GP Orbassano, owner of the Waterfront and established artist himself, offering the venue, as well as several other businesses who donated our coffee and juice drinks for the evening.

It can be done. Now for the next exhibition!

1 comment:

  1. I would love to see more pictures of the work in the exhibit. Would it be possible to post an album containing pics of all the works? And, where is Coffee Post? New name for a cafe we might know?

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