Making history: First Palmerston North Pacific Artist in Residence

Published on 02 February 2024

Portrait of the artist.

You now get the chance to see the exhibition of our city’s first ever Pacific Artist in Residence Scheme. Tilomai So'otaga Jennifer Tonumaipe'a Farrell-Taylor will open her exhibition at Square Edge Community Arts this Saturday, 3 February. 

Mrs Farrell-Taylor says she is humbled to be chosen as the recipient of the residency but says it has not been without its challenges.  

She lost her father suddenly just before the residency started but through her grief, she channeled her pain into her creativity and expressed it through her art with the help of her mentors, her cousin Lydia Pei and artist Albert McCarthy from the Te Awahou Art Collective.   

Her exhibition Nafanua, A Savage Star Seed is a heartfelt dedication to her late father Mike Farrell and to her late sister Selina which weaves in both her Samoan and Irish heritage into 30 pieces of art. 

She uses both a fusion of traditional and contemporary practices. This is to respect the sacred spaces of her ancestors and uphold the mana of her people while taking inspiration from the strength, service and humility of both her ancestor, Nafanua, the strongest warrior goddess in all of Polynesia through her Tonumaipe’a bloodline and her late father Michael Farrell.    

“The exhibition is about alchemy. The ability to transmute pain to power the embodiment of all things in life, death and everything in between. A celebration of my father's life and legacy of love. I aim to represent not only my Pasifika culture but also my community and love of life.” 

Growing up mixed descent, her culture was not always shared with her, she says. This was not always easy to navigate so art provided her with a pathway and safe space to fully embrace her culture, particularly the ancient artforms of Siapo (Tapa/bark cloth) and Tatau (Tattoo), which have been constants throughout her life. 

Palmerston North City Council Community Services Group Manager Anton Carter says having this opportunity to support an artist in residency programme in partnership with Creative New Zealand helps support a local Pacific artist and contributes to the ongoing vibrancy of the Palmy arts community. 

“Jenn provided a compelling application with a strong focus on embracing community and culture by cultivating a creative space that inspires other Pasifika artists (and other cultures) to pursue their own creative journey.” 

Through her exhibition, Mrs Farrell-Taylor says she would love to create conversations around inclusiveness, self-worth and fa'atasiaga (unity). 

“It feels good to finally have a space that acknowledges me as a Pasifika artist. It feels like the beginning of something huge and is a response to a need there was for a space like this.” 

For new and emerging artists, she acknowledges being a professional artist is a challenging career but is also liberating and a way to share your magic with the world.  

“I find strength in knowing that my dad was aware of this [residency] and proud of me. In fact he was my number one supporter in life, especially with my art.”  

The exhibition is open until 24 February.