Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki brings new breadth to pacific feminism. Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda brings together 12 artists from across the Pacific who give back a radical base to the most pressing issues of our time: Climate change and resilience, tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty) activism and social justice.
The collection is curated by Ane Tonga, the first Curator of Pacific Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Tuākana mentor, and UoA alumni. The exhibition reignites a certain radical base brought on by the Pacific feminist movements of the 1970s. Before this, feminist movements within New Zealand focused mostly on issues that affected Pākehā women. Some within these groups noticed that the movement had lost its radical edge. This was brought back by the Pacific feminist movement of the 1970s. Declaration captures this same radical edge.
The exhibit is a mix of commissioned and pre-existing artworks, some being shown for the first time. These pieces offer an opportunity to learn about indigenous frameworks that have been hidden from mainstream New Zealand. They speak to the potential within Pacific wāhine who have been and continue to be at the intersections of so much adversity. Beautiful decolonising imagery with a feminine aspect that displays the resilience of pacific and indigenous wāhine.
These artists draw upon the power of matrilineal knowledge, their identities, and cultural collectivism to amplify the voices of Pacific women, but in a way that empowers the agency of all genders who decide to visit the exhibit. During my visit to the exhibition with my partner, we related to the pieces’ indigenous and Pacific aspects. The feminine aspect of the art was not lost on me, but it was through my partner that I was truly able to grasp how powerful and influential those Pacific feminist movements were and how indigenous Pacific women continue to be.
A Pacific Feminist Agenda offers a cultural and feminine collection of artists. Something that contributes to the exhibit’s uniform strength. The way all pieces are given the space to operate together makes for a proudly Pacific exhibition.
A relevance exists in the exhibit with the release of the IPCC reports on carbon emissions and their effects on our Pacific Islands. Many Pacific female rangatahi are at the forefront of this movement, such as India Logan-Riley and Brianna Fruean. Climate change is a “threat multiplier”, which escalates social, political, and economic tensions in fragile and conflict-affected settings. Climate change drives conflict and increases the vulnerabilities of women and girls, especially in the form of gender-based violence. Through the lens of intersection feminism, climate change risks are acute for indigenous, elder, and LGBTIQ+ women. Therefore, we must listen to female voices in this crisis, and this exhibition is a great opportunity for that.
The exhibition includes works by Jasmine Togo-Brisby, Marti Friedlander, Jessicoco Hansell, Taloi Havini, Lonnie Hutchinson, Ioane Ioane, Sione Monū, Suzanne Tamaki, Latai Taumoepeau, Molly Rangiwai-McHale and Luisa Tora, and Kalisolaite’ Uhila.
Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda can be seen at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki’s until Sunday 31 July 2022.
Photo: Jessicoco Hansell, Aunti FM: To be of Secret Service (Psychic Frequency Unknown). Installation. Commissioned by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 2022.