Big plans for newly-opened gallery

Tuesday 8 January 2019 | Published in Culture


Artist and writer Mike Tavioni has big plans for his Tavioni Gallery and Vananga at Atupa.

The sizeable building, fronted by the space where he and wife Awhitia can be seen at work every day producing wooden carvings, paintings, stone sculptures and a host of other objects, will soon be even bigger.

In fact, Tavioni says, it will be doubled in size.

“Some of the poles are in, so we have already made a start.”

While stage one of the project still needs a few finishing touches in the form of permanent interior lighting and some concreting work, he’s aiming to stage exhibitions there every second month. The next one will feature the work of children aged 14 and under, followed by another featuring the photographs of the late Papa Dan Kamana, who Tavioni says produced some beautiful work featuring Aitutaki sunsets.

On Saturday, the gallery hosted what he says was its first “official” exhibition, featuring the work of 11 painters, carvers, “strategists”, photographers and film makers, each of them with a special connection to Rarotonga.

Pre-publicity for the event, called “Native of 2020” said it would offer “new solutions to what it means to be local to the future.’

Participating artists included Josh Baker, Fe’ena Syme-Buchanan, Croc, Numangatini F Mackenzie,

Ani O’Neill, Sebastian Paoa, Tangi Taime, Pouarii Tanner, Awhitia and Mike Tavioni and Sam Thomas.

The diverse and thought-provoking work attracted a sizeable group of guests and the informal setting soon took on the atmosphere of a family picnic, with refreshments provided by Rarotonga Brewery and Raro Iced Coffee. There was also plenty of fresh fruit on hand – and a vaka in progress in the workshop served as an impromptu bar.

A karakia performed by George Ngapere preceded the official opening by Pouarii Tanner – and guests filed inside to check out the show, which includes an interesting video by Josh Baker featuring his father, Nooroa, speaking about traditional medicine.

More people trickled in over the afternoon, by which time Tavioni and his friend, local entertainer Rudy Aquino were seated outside, in full flight on their favourite songs.

Yesterday, as Awhitia quietly worked on finishing off an intricately-carved paddle that is in the exhibition, Tavioni said he was very happy with the opening and observed that everyone seemed to have enjoyed the event.

“It wasn’t like some of the earlier shows we had, when the gallery didn’t even have a roof. We put on a show of work by some New Zealand Maori students and there wasn’t a roof.”

Commenting on the relative brevity of the official part of the afternoon’s proceedings Tavioni said: “We’re not into long speeches to open our exhibitions – I think the art should be the one doing all the talking.”

“Native of 2020” will continue at Tavioni Gallery and Vananga on the Atupa back road until January 11.