'Ata-Mai Pasifika Collective announced as new artists in residence

Published on 04 July 2024

Ata Mai Pasifika Collective.

Palmerston North City Council, in partnership with Creative New Zealand Pacific Arts, is excited to announce the 'Ata-Mai Pasifika Collective as the new Pasifika artists-in-residence.  

This vibrant and talented group, comprised of Epenesa Tavita Faaiuaso, Tiana Fauolo, Jodie Haitana-Sturm, Malutamalii Tise Fauolo, Soosemea Aiiloilo, and Ana Tuimana, will begin their residency from mid-July to mid-October. 

The residency is an initiative under Creative New Zealand’s Pacific Arts Strategy to support Pasifika creative communities in the regions. It has been offered again this year following the successful inaugural residency in 2023 with local visual artist Tilomai So'otaga Jennifer Tonumaipe'a Farrell-Taylor.

Based out of the Square Edge Community Arts Centre, each artist will design and create two wearable art garments inspired by the Pacific and Aotearoa. These unique creations will be showcased at the end of their residency in a wearable arts fashion show. 

The residency will highlight the individual creativity and cultural heritage of these six women, who are of Samoan, Cook Island, and Tongan descent. Their shared passion for the arts is complemented by their professional backgrounds in Early Childhood Education and their passion to help youth treasure their culture and heritage.  

Mrs Aiiloilo says she is excited to join this project and continue teaching her children and the community the value of traditional art forms. She believes that 'talanoa ma fa’asaoa' (talking and sharing) is key to cultural awareness for the next generation. 

Mrs Fauolo believes this project will allow her to grow her artistic identity as a New Zealand-born Samoan woman and create alongside other Pasifika women.  

“Women often play a central role in maintaining traditional practices, and I see this project a way to ensure cultural heritage is kept alive while evolving as artists through sharing and developing new storytelling methods.” 

She believes that Pasifika people are natural artists and storytellers in various mediums, which reflects her own story. 

Community Development Manager Amy Viles says that the second residency provides the time and support for six very busy women to pursue their passion and develop their artistic and cultural identity.

“We appreciate our partnership with Creative NZ to enable the Pacific Artist in Residence and encourage a Pacific Artist network to grow in our region, creating pathways for our Pasifika artists to a full-time career in the arts industry. We’re excited to see their contribution to the Pasifika art scene.”

The group will also host a luncheon at the end of their residency to raise money for cancer. For Ms Faaiuaso, both her mother and best friend have passed away from cancer last year and says her mother always had a smile and was a big inspiration in her life and the reason for the name ‘Ata-Mai (which means smile in Samoan).  

She says the residency allows us to have a space to create, play, learn, share, and explore with a Pacific lens through their art.   

“We all lead in different aspects and have very busy lives but understand the importance (for us all) to take time and space to do the things you love.  As we have been inspired by others, we hope to do the same in the Pasifika residency space.” 

Erolia Ifopo, Mana Pasifika Navigator at Creative New Zealand says they are thrilled to partner with Palmy Council again to co-invest in strategic opportunities for Pasifika creatives to develop their artist work and skills.

“This will strengthen cultural, social economic outcomes for our regional communities. It’s exciting for ‘Ata-Mai with potential for exhibitions and other opportunities around Aotearoa, and globally.”

This 12-week residency aims to provide a platform for upcoming and established Pasifika artists from the Manawatū-Whanganui region to express their unique artistry and cultural heritage.  

The group will receive $20,000 in funding from Creative NZ. This funding will support them in various ways, including encouraging innovation in their artistic practice, facilitating community engagement, and creating opportunities for mentorship or collaboration with local Palmy artists and spaces.   

Artist profiles

Epenesa Tavita Faaiuaso: Epenesa holds a degree in Fashion Design and has participated in numerous competitions, and attended the World of Wearable Art (WOW) in Wellington. She has been part of the Pasifika Fusion team and currently serves as the Secretary of Pasifika Fusion. Epenesa’s past experiences include showcasing garments at Style Pasifika in Auckland and winning a wearable arts competition. 

Ana Tuimana: Ana loves creating and performing songs and poetry and hopes this opportunity will enable her to explore her artistic side. Ana enjoys creating Tongan arts and crafts, especially Heilala necklaces. She is the Centre Manager at Lalanga Mo’ui Tongan Early Childhood Education Centre and is the Cultural Co-ordinator and Pacific speeches coordinator. 

Soosemea Aiiloilo: Like many Pasifika working mothers, Sose expresses her passion for the arts through creating traditional headdresses (Tuiga) and decorating fine mats (ie toga) for traditional performances. She is an expert in Samoan traditional art forms such as siapo (tapa cloth), weaving (lalaga), dance (siva), and making traditional costumes. Sose is a proud wearer of the 'malu,' a Samoan traditional tattoo for women.  

Malutamalii Tise Fauolo: Tise's extensive art experience includes traditional siapo making in Poutasi, Falealili, and weaving of ie toga in Fusi, Savaii. She has been involved in an Art Rehabilitation Programme in a Samoan prison, served as a curator for the Pacific Climate Photography Competition Exhibition, and worked as an Assistant Director for a Samoa Schools Rugby World Cup video. Additionally, Tise has produced 'O Tusitala – Tellers of Tales' by Sia Figiel, participated in the Pasifika Fusion Festival as a performer and komiti member, competed in wearable arts competitions, and was a Silver CREST finalist in Fashion and Design. 

Jodie Haitana-Sturm: Jodie works as the Central District Pacific Liaison Coordinator for the New Zealand Police and has a passion for all modalities of art, with experience in the performing arts. As an artist of Cook Island descent, she is dedicated to fostering a love for diverse cultural and artistic expressions within her Māori/Pasifika family. Her son is also an exceptionally talented artist, showcasing the family’s deep connection to art and culture. 

Tiana Fauolo: Tiana's experience includes learning the trade of elei, screen printing, embroidery, crochet, Tivaevae, weaving, painting, and pottery. Born in New Zealand but having lived in Samoa to learn traditional crafts, she has created seti pulela’a (pulpit sets) and carved traditional elei boards for printing. Tiana is passionate about designing her own clothes, influenced by Samoan patterns and flora, each carrying its own story. 

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